In the island where I live—Java Island—there are various traditional puppet shows. You might have heard some or you might not, but if you haven’t than here is a post for starters . Besides passing down legends through storytelling, puppet shows—pertunjukan wayang—are also a way to do this.
There are different puppet shows in Indonesia; Wayang Kulit, Wayang Golek, Wayang Beber, etc. I on purpose searched the internet for different info about wayang and found out a lot of things even I didn’t know before! So I’m thankful of that . Literature about Wayang is definitely among the stuff in my list of things to pass on to my children.
Information about different wayangs I put bellow are only a little-tiny-itsy-bitsy part about this traditional entertainment–like I said, they are for starters—so if you want to know more, better read more about it from other sources .
Warning: If you can’t see the images here, click open the original sources and see the images from there !
History of Wayang Kulit
Wayang is a generic term denoting traditional theatre in Indonesia. There is no evidence that wayang existed before Hinduism came to Southeast Asia sometime in the first century CE. However, there very well may have been indigenous storytelling traditions that had a profound impact on the development of the traditional puppet theatre. The first record of a wayang performance is from an inscription dated 930 CE which says “si Galigi mawayang,” or “Sir Galigi played wayang”. From that time till today it seems certain features of traditional puppet theatre have remained. Galigi was an itinerant performer who was requested to perform for a special royal occasion. At that event he performed a story about the hero Bhim from the Mahabharata.
Hinduism arrived in Indonesia from India even before the Christian era, and was slowly adopted as the local belief system. Sanskrit became the literary and court language of Java and later of Bali. The Hindus changed the Wayang (as did the Muslims, later) to spread their religion, mostly by stories from the Mahabharata or the Ramayana. Later this mixture of religion and wayang play was praised as harmony between Hinduism and traditional Indonesian culture. On Java, the western part of Sumatra and some smaller islands traditionalists continued to play the old stories for some time, but the influence of Hinduism prevailed and the traditional stories either fell into oblivion or were integrated into the Hinduistic plays.
The figures of the wayang are also present in the paintings of that time, for example, the roof murals of the courtroom in Klungkung, Bali. They are still present in traditional Balinese painting today.
When Islam began spreading in Indonesia, the display of God or gods in human form was prohibited, and thus this style of painting and shadow play was suppressed. King Raden Patah of Demak, Java, wanted to see the wayang in its traditional form, but failed to obtain permission from the Muslim religious leaders. As an alternative, the religious leaders converted the wayang golek into wayang purwa made from leather, and displayed only the shadow instead of the figures itself. Instead of the forbidden figures only their shadow picture was displayed, the birth of the wayang kulit.
The figures are painted, flat woodcarvings (a maximum of 5 to 15 mm thick — barely half an inch) with movable arms. The head is solidly attached to the body. Wayang klitik can be used to perform puppet plays either during the day or at night. This type of wayang is relatively rare.
Wayang today is both the most ancient and most popular form of puppet theatre in the world. Hundreds of people will stay up all night long to watch the superstar performers, dalang, who command extravagant fees and are international celebrities. Some of the most famous dalang in recent history are Ki Nartosabdho, Ki Anom Suroto, Ki Asep Sunarya, Ki Sugino, and Ki Manteb Sudarsono.
Short History of Wayang Beber
Wayang beber is the cloth scrolled puppet picture . It is older than leather puppet (wayang kulit). It is narrated picture stated as the origin of the shadow theater. It had existed in 939 AD in of the era of the hinduism King Jayabaya Order of the Jenggala Kingdom. He asked the kingdom artists to draw his anchestor figures on the palm leave. In the early 20th century it was painted on 1 x 4 meter-sized cloth depicting four acts. It is based on the Panji story telling about Jenggala/Kediri kingdom’s anchestor. Till now we can know artefacts of wayang beber at Pacitan (East Java Province) and Gunungkidul town (Central Java Province).
The way to play it is by scrolling the wayang beber pictured cloth. The dalang (story teller) uses a stick to point at picture he wants to tell. He is in front of the scrolling cloth. Another man is at the back of it to scroll the act-to-act moving. The dalang used to be the Jawa Tengahan language, a old Javanese language used in Majapahit Kingdom era in the 15th century. Wayang beber performing were to honor the anchestor, then then to be for purification ritual.
Again: If you can’t see the pictures, click open the original source of this writing (http://asiarecipe.com/indogoleng.html).
The painted wooden puppets on the preceding page are old examples from the still thriving and important folk art puppet theater of Java in Indonesia. Although tourist shops now sell imitations of wayang golekpuppets, the puppets illustrated on these pages were actually used for many years in theater productions–in presentations of Hindu epics, Javanese history plays and the Islamic Menak cycles. Theseperformances were given in towns and villages on holidays and for a variety of festivals, as were the distinctive shadow-puppet plays. Adalang, or puppet master, manipulated the puppets, spoke their parts, and coordinated the puppets’ actions with music from a gamelan orchestra.
Anne Richter has described the stories as follows: “The most frequently performed narratives derive from the Hindu epics. TheArjuna Sasra Bahu and Ramayanacycles concern the affairs of the noble Rama himself and his ancestors. Favorite stories concern Rama’s marriage to Sinta; their banishment to the forest together with his brother Laksmana; Sinta’s abduction by the monster king Rahwana; and her subsequent rescue, with the aid of the monkey king and after numerous battles, from the kingdom of Sri Lanka. The Ramayanacontains many episodes from the lives of these characters which are emphasized in varying degrees to form separate plays in their own right.
The Mahabharata tells of the conflict between the superior Pandewa brothers (Judistra, Bima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sadewa) and their hundred jealous and mendacious cousins, the Kurewas, who drive them away from their home at the court of Astina, to wander in the wild. In the forest the Pandewas build the lovely and idealized kingdom of Amarta where the majority of the plays are set. The heroic quests, battles with vile ogres and scenes of romantic love are made all the more poignant by the knowledge that the glory and beauty are fleeting. Events are presented as taking place in Java rather than India, and the heroic Pandewas, descendants of Vishnu, are the ancestors of the Javanese kings. Many episodes have simply been invented by puppeteers over generations.
The court scenes also allow scope for the comic misadventures and intrigue of the Pandewas’ clown servants, the Punakawans: Semar the wise, whose identity is thought to have evolved from that of the pre-Hindu Javanese god Ismaya and his sons. The inane and melancholic Gareng, with his round drooping nose, is the butt of jokes and tricks played by the sharp Petruk. Philosophical and mystical speculations made by the refined characters provide an intellectual and spiritual dimension for members of the audience with a taste for high seriousness.”
Richter describes the puppet making itself: “Like so many other crafts in Indonesia, making wayang golek is a skill handed down through families. The master puppet-maker usually makes the head because it expresses the personality of the puppet. Ceremonies are performed before commencing a deity or a demon. A piece of light, local softwood, which is easy to carve and not too heavy to hold up during a performance, is sawed or chopped down to the right size, and the main features are roughly chiseled. After sanding, fine decorations such as the parts of a crown are carved in with more care and sanded. The smooth surface receives a coat of glue-based paint, which will enable subsequent coats to adhere well. Lips, flowers and some bits of jewelry are painted red, as are the irises of angry characters. Blue is also used for eyes and sapphire jewelry. Fine black lines are painted for eyes, eyebrows, moustaches and wisps of hair….Bodies are often made by younger members of the family, and arms are attached at the elbow and shoulders with string so that they move easily. The shapes of hands also express character and role; those of nobles stretch out gracefully, but servants and commoners have large open palms. A rod passes from a hole in the base of the puppet’s head and down through the body to form a handle. Costumes are usually made by wives. …Since the stories portray historical and human rather than divine affairs, the puppets, like those used for history plays, are always fully clothed in Central Javanese traditional dress with batik sarongs.
Puppet body types can be identified across a spectrum which ranges from alus (extremely refined) to kasar(extremely rough and crude). Refined, virtuous characters have small dainty bodies, slitted oval eyes with pupils shaped like rice grains, pointed noses and a modest downward gaze… Vigorous or turbulent characters have a more direct and confrontational stare. As the personality of the puppet becomes less refined, there is an increase in size; the nose becomes heavier and blunter; eyes and pupils become larger and rounder and the gaze more aggressive; teeth and gums may be exposed in a snarl or a foolish sneer. The more refined middle-sized puppets may represent courageous but impetuous kings and heroes; the coarser ones suggest an uncontrolled or evil nature. The largest puppets are used for those whose greatest attribute is physical strength.”
Richter concludes, “It is the mixture of courtly, mystical and popular elements that allows traditional theatre to be so loved by so many people.”
For more information on the wayang golek traditions in Indonesia see the publications below. We do not sell books; they are listed here for your information.
Are there any traditional entertainment in your area? Tell me ^_^!
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