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Wayang Lemah: An Exorcistic Puppet Performance  

by on Friday, 14 September 2007No Comment | 2,542 views

When a grand ceremony is held, the performance of Wayang Lemah is obligatory. As its name suggest Wayang Lemah is always performed in the daylight (“wayang” means “puppet” and “lemah” means “day”) and is usually performed as long as the high priest officiates the ceremony. Wayang Lemah is an exorcistic play, it is performed primarily for invisible audiences: the spirit, divinities and the demons, it is a part of ceremony which functions to ensure the success of a ceremony and obviously not an entertainment for mortals.


The stage for Wayang Lemah is simpler than the spectacular Wayang Peteng (Night Shadow Puppet) since it does not need a screen and wick lamp and there will be no shadow. Wayang Lemah stage consists of three young, cut banana trunks for placing the puppet during the play (the pointed handle of the puppet can easily stuck into soft banana trunks), on either side of long banana trunk, which runs across and forms the actual stage, two big branches of evergreen dapdap tree had been pushed vertically through the banana trunk into the ground; at top they branched out in three directions symbolizing Hindu trinity.

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Approximately forty centimeters above the banana trunk, the magic wood of dapdap branches are connected with a skein of white cotton yarn (benang tebus) its ends hung with bundles of 200 hundreds Chinese coin (andel-andel). The coins serve as a compensation for the unintended shortness or incompleteness of the offerings which are presented for the gods and demons and in case the dalang makes mistakes during the performance.


The Wayang Lemah performance is usually accompanied by four gender instruments. Each gender has 10 bronze keys they are suspended by leather straps running over wooden railing and hang over individually tuned bamboo resonators. The gender instruments are played with two hammers with round heads; the stick is held loosely between the second finger and third finger, leaving the fourth and the fifth free to damp the sounding key next when the next one is hit. The instruments are always played in pair.

The story which is enacted in Wayang Lemah performance tells about the effort of three gods Brahma, Wisnu, and Iswara to pacify their enraged father, Siwa (in Balinese mythology Siwa is the father of all divinities), who assumes a demon form, spreading deaths and plague, through a performance of Wayang Lemah. (The complete story will be presented in Sunday’s Balinese Folktale series)

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