From Academic Kids

Wayang is the Indonesian term for puppet, and the term refers to any and all of the numerous varieties of puppetry found in the archipelago. "Wayang", the Javanese word for puppet, also connotes "spirit." Performances are typically accompanied by gamelan music.


History of Wayang

Missing image
Wayang shadow-puppet (Bali, early 20th century)

Even before Hinduism came to Indonesia, the original inhabitants of Indonesia already had puppet plays, heavily bound up with their traditional beliefs about the spirits of their ancestors. According to their animist beliefs, ancestors' spirits could affect the lives of the living, either as protectors or to do harm. The adherents of these beliefs performed rituals and ceremonies in the form of puppet plays to ask their ancestors for assistance. The figures in these puppet plays were wayang golek (normally a head assembly connected by a straight stick to a trunk, allowing the head to swivel. Arms were attached to a separate staff, allowing hand motions), carved, painted and dressed figures, manipulated via threads or strings, painted dioramas or sanctified and dressed humans.

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 Klunkung, 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 wayangs golek into wayangs 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.

In the non-Islamic parts of Indonesia, one can still find wayang golek performances, and wayang klitik is a transitional form between wayang golek and wayang kulit. The wayang klitik 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. With these, it is possible to do puppet plays either by day or by night. This type of wayang is relatively rare. Wayang kulit, nowadays made from water buffalo hide, (sometimes painted or dyed) are known throughout Indonesia simply as wayang. In modern Indonesia, they remain a beloved entertainment, second only televised football (soccer) matches.

In modern Bali, one also finds a form known as sendratari (invented in the 1960s), in which living persons dance and pantomime to gamelan music, wearing masks known as wayang topeng.

Wayang kulit

Wayang kulit, the shadow puppets prevalent in Java and Bali, is without a doubt the best known of the Indonesian wayangs. The stories are usually drawn from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata or the Serat Menak. The island of Lombok has developed its own style of Serat Menak, so that the term Serat Menak Lombok is also common. Another form is the Punakawan with the figures of Semar, Bagong, Petruk and Gareng. Semar is the father of Gareng (oldest son), Petruk, and Bagong (youngest son). Instead of being based in the great epics, it is more of a political cabaret, dealing with gossip and contemporary affairs.

The figures themselves vary from place to place. Central Java (Yogyakarta) produces expensively constructed figures with a high degree of abstraction, for example thin, fine-limbed figures with almond-shaped eyes and tapered, pointy noses to represent the good nobility. Bali produces more compact figures, and Lombok has figures representing real people and such real-world objects as automobiles, airplanes and ships.

Historically, the visual portion of the performance consisted of shadows cast on a cotton screen by an oil lamp. Today, the source of light is more likely to be a spotlight.

The handwork involved in making a wayang kulit figure that is suitable for a performance takes several weeks, with the artists working together in groups. They start from master models (typically on paper) which are traced out onto kulit (skin or parchment), providing the figures with an outline and with indications of any holes that will need to be cut (such as for the mouth or eyes). The figures are then smoothed, usually with a glass bottle, and primed. The structure is inspected and eventually the details are worked through. A further smoothing follows before individual painting, which is undertaken by yet another craftsman. Finally, the movable parts (upper arms, lower arms with hands and the associated sticks for manipulation) mounted on the body, which has a central staff by which it is held. A crew makes up to ten figures at a time, typically completing that number over the course of a week.

The painting of less expensive puppets is handled expediently with a spray technique, using templates, and with a different person handling each color. After painting, the parts are put together to journey in a basket to the souvenir shops.

Wayang topeng or wayang gedog or wayang wong

Wayang wong is a type of theatrical performance with themes from the kingdom of Jenggala, in which the players wear masks known as wayang topeng or wayang gedog. The word "gedog" comes from "kedok", which, like "topeng" means "mask". The main theme is the story of Raden Panji and Candra. This is a love story about princess Candra Kirana of Kediri and Raden Panji Asmarabangun, the crown prince of Jenggala. Candra Kirana was the incarnation of Dewi Ratih (goddess of love) and Panji was an incarnation of Kamajaya (god of love). Kirana's story was given the title "Smaradahana" ("The fire of love"). At the end of the complicated story they finally can marry and bring forth a son, named Raja Putra. Panji Asmarabangun ruled Jenggala under the official names "Sri Kameswara", "Prabu Suryowiseso", and "Hino Kertapati". Originally, wayang wong was performed only as an aristocratic entertainment in four palaces of Yogyakarta and Surakarta. In the course of time, it spread to become a popular and folk form as well.

Wayang wong has fixed patterns of movement and costume:

For male performers:

1. Alus: very slow, elegant and smooth movement. For example, the dance of Arjuna, Puntadewa and all other slimly built Kshatriyas. There are two types of movement, lanyap and luruh.

2. Gagah:
a) Kambeng: a more athletic dance, used for the roles of Bima, Antareja and Gatotjaca.
b) Bapang: gagah and kasar for the warriors of Kaurawa.
c) Kalang kinantang: falls somewhere between alus and gagah, danced by tall, slim dancers in the roles of Kresno or Suteja.

3. Kasar: a coarse style, used in portraying ogres and demons.

4. Gecul: ponokawan and cantrik
a) Kambeng dengklik: for ape warriors, such as Hanuman.
b) Kalang kinantang dengklik: for ape warriors, such as Sugriwa and Subali.

For female performers:

The movements know as nggruda or ngenceng encot in the classical, high style of dance consist of nine basic movements (joged pokok) and twelve other movements (joged gubahan and joged wirogo) and are used in portraying Bedoyo and Srimpi.

Today, the wayang wong, following the Gagrak style of Surakarta, is danced by women. They follow the alus movements associated with a Kshatriya, resembling Arjuna. Following the Gagkra style from Yogyakarta a male dancer uses these same Alus movements to depict Kshatriya noblemen. Costumes and props distinguish kings, Kshatriyas, monks, princesses, princes and generals. There are about 45 distinct character types.

Wayang golek or stick puppets

Wayang golek or stick puppets can be used for the same plays as wayang kulit, either performed in the daytime or with some sufficient source of lighting to allow the audience to see the puppets. The audience does not sit before a white screen, as in a cinema, but in front of an elevated stage with a wall or curtain, which conceals the dalang or puppeteer. In front of the dalang is a plangkan (a type of table with holes punched in its surface), on which the necessary puppets sit ready for use.

In central and eastern Java, wayang kulit tells stories of Menak, also known as Amir Hamzah, uncle of the Prophet Muhammad; this is sometimes referred to in short as wayang Menak. In western Java, where wayang golek predominates, stories are drawn from the Mahabharata and Ramayana. The stories of Amir Hamzah spread along with the spread of Islam in the 16th century. Among the main figures in these stories are his servant and best friend Umar Maya (Umarmaya), his general Selandir (or Alam Daur), his first wife Putri Muniggarim, his disputatious father-in-law Nursiwan, and, naturally, plenty of other kings against whom he must make war or whose support he must cultivate, princesses and, also naturally, the Devil and his wives. Part of the story is set in the time before the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, allowing this form to accommodate not only Islamic themes, but also the old animistic narratives, as well as those with a Hinduistic background.

Wayang karucil or wayang klitik

Wayang klitik figures occupy a middle ground between the figures of wayang golek and wayang kulit. They are constructed similarly to wayang kulit figures, but from thin pieces of wood instead of leather, and, like wayang kulit figures, are used as shadow puppets. A further similarity is that they are the same smaller size as wayang kulit figures. However, wood is more subject to breakage than leather. During battle scenes, wayang klitik figures often sustain considerable damage, much to the amusement of the public, but in a country in which before 1970 there were no adequate glues available, breakage generally meant an expensive, newly made figure. On this basis the wayang klitik figures, which are to appear in plays where they have to endure battle scenes, have leather arms. The name of these figures is onomotopaeic, from the sound klitik-klitik, that these figures make when worked by the dalang.

Wayang klitik figures come originally from eastern Java, where one still finds workshops turning them out. They are less costly to produce than wayang kulit figures.

The origin of the stories involved in these puppet plays comes from the kingdoms of eastern Java: Jenggala, Kediri and Majapahit. From Jenggala and Kediri come the stories of Raden Panji and Cindelara, which tells of the adventures of a pair of village youngsters with their fighting cocks. The Darmawulan presents the stories of a hero (Darmawulan) from Majapahit. Darmawulan is a clever chap, who with courage, aptitude, intelligence and the assistance of his young lover Anjasmara, makes a surprise attack on the neighboring kingdom and brings down a mighty enemy of his queen Minakjinggo. As a reward, he is married to Minakjinggo and becomes king of Majapahit; he takes Anjasmara as a second wife. This story is full of love affairs and battles and is very popular with the public. The dalang is liable to incorporate the latest local gossip and quarrels and work them into the play as comedy.

Wayang beber

The wayang beber has strong similarities to narratives in the form of illustrated ballads that were common at annual fairs in medieval and early modern Europe. They have also been subject to the same fate they have nearly vanished. A few scrolls of images remain from those times, found today in museums. Performances, mostly in small auditoriums, take place according to the following pattern:

The dalang gives a sign, the gamelan orchestra (or a musician with a violin-like instrument) begins to play and the Dalang unrolls a picture related to the story. Then, speaking and singing, he narrates the story in more detail. In this manner, in the course of the evening he unrolls several pictures. The pictures are shown one at a time and are successively unrolled. Each picture represents a story or part of a story. The content of the story typically stems from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Jenggala stories or profane stories from other villages and kingdoms.


This article was initially translated from the German-language Wikipedia article.

External link

eo:Vajango fr:Wayang kulit


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