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Wayang Kulit (Leather Puppet)  

by on Monday, 27 November 2006One Comment | 5,914 views

Wayang Kulit is a very popular traditional art performance uses the shadow of leather puppets in its performance. The origin of wayang kulit can be traced back to the days of King Ugrasena in 896. As its name suggests wayang kulit is made of processed cow hide. Some wayang kulit characters especially the jesters (Sangut, Delem, Merdah and Tualen) are made from special cow hide (hide from cow that had been struck to death by lightning or unborn calf). This cow hide is made into puppets representing various characters. The differences among characters are produced by the differences in shape and in intricate carving that symbolize each character.

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The wayang kulit is performed by a Dalang (puppeteer). A dalang is single fighter performer; he has to do the sing, voice of characters, the movement of the wayang kulit and narrating the story of wayang kulit individually. He has to master all aspect of art since wayang kulit is a mixture of many elements of arts including literature, philosophy, movement and voice. Dalang is not only representing the classical literary characters from masterpieces such as Mahabharata or Ramayana but also delivers advice on moral, religious and social value in order to educate and guide the community in their every day lives. To become dalang mastery in all branch of art, philosophy and literature is not enough; one has to learn, observed and adhere to Dharma Pewayangan (code of conduct of wayang kulit performer) in order to become a true dalang. Dharma Pewayangan contains necessary knowledge which is needed in performing wayang kulit performance such as Mantra (incantation), Upakara (offering), Sasana (code of conduct), Brata (prohibition and exercise), Pengasih (charm), Peleburan Wisya (poison antidote) and Kawisesan (magical power).



The wayang kulit is performed behind a white cloth screen known as kelir, supported by the light of lampu blencong, a traditional lamp which uses coconut oil and a burning wick. The lampu blencong is hung between the dalang and the puppets so the shadows show up clearly on the screen. The shadows look alive as if they are dancing on the screen because the flame always flickers.



At first, the wayang kulit is personification of ancestor. When Hinduism came to Indonesia in the fifth century, the wayang kulit was greatly influenced especially by the great epic such as Ramayana and Mahabharata, which quickly became new themes in wayang kulit stories.



There are many form of wayang kulit in Bali. Wayang Lemah, Wayang Sudamala, and Wayang Sapuleger are closely related to religious Hindu rituals. Wayang Parwa delivers stories based on Mahabharata epic. Wayang Ramayana is based on Ramayana epic. Wayang Tantri is specialized on fables, its stories is quite similar with Aesop’s Fables. Wayang Gambuh, Wayang Arja, Wayang Cupak and Wayang Calonarang is based Balinese folklores. Wayang Babad delivers stories in relation with history of Bali and Balinese. Wayang Wong and Wayang Golek Gede are newly created forms of wayang which enrich the culture of wayang in Bali.

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