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When you arrive in Java, you will see immediately the exposure of colorful flat leather puppets- the wayang kulit in various places, at airports, hotels, shops, museums, dwelling houses, even in  palaces. Wayang means shadow and kulit means leather in Javanese language.





The wayang puppets consists of many figures from the Ramayana and Mahabarata ancient stories. The classical art performance of wayang – Pagelaran Wayang Kulit in Javanese language remains as one of traditional favorite entertainments for Javanese people. The wayang performance is held for the whole night from 09.00 pm to 05.00 am. It needs around 8 hours to perform a plot of story from Ramayana or Mahabarata.

The famous wayang figures from Ramayana  are : Rama, Sinta, Laksmana, Rahwana, Kumbakarna, Anoman, Sugriwa, Indrajit etc.





From Mahabarata, the well-known figures among other are : Yudistira, Bima, Arjuna,Nakula, Sadewa, Duryudana, Kresna,Durna, Sengkuni, Karna, Drupadi, Srikandi, Antareja,Gatotkaca,Antasena etc.

The famous gods are : Betara Guru, Narada, Brama, Wisnu, Surya etc.





The popular dwarf clown figures are Semar and his children namely Gareng, Petruk and Bagong.





In every wayang performance, the puppet master from time to time manipulates the Gunungan.It is a mountain like leather puppet, it has an important  part in wayang performance. It symbolizes the power of life of The Creator. It is used to begin as well as to end the play,  to change every scene, it is  used as the image of wind, mountain, sea, cloud and big obstacle.

Wayang is indeed a Javanese ancient cultural heritage which is very popular up to present date and has become a hardly expression embracing most types of theater.

According to scientists and historians, wayang were already existed in Java before the arrival of Hindu in this country. The stories of wayang from Ramayana and Mahabarata performed here are of Javanese version. Many people believe that the events in wayang, actually took place in ancient Java with Javanese actors.





During the reign of King Sri Maha Panggung ( Raden Jaka Pakukuhan) in the 4th century in his palace Jawadwipa in Mount Gede, began wayang performance of Ramayana and Mahabarata with Javanese version. The art of wayang performance was further developed by King Airlangga of east Java in the 11th century.

The story of Sri Mulih

Besides Ramayana and Mahabarata wayang stories, there is a genuine Javanese story i.e. The Story of Sri Mulih means “The Goddess Sri comes home”.

Sri Mulih is performed during a traditional ritual ceremony of village cleansing( Ritual Bersih Desa in Javanese language). Every year after the great harvest of rice, the farmers are organizing a thanksgiving ceremony dedicated to Goddess Sri, the goddess of rice, who has blessed the farmers with abundant harvest of rice and other crops.

The show of Wayang Kulit

The show of wayang can be held successfully, if we have :

  1. Someone or an institution or a committee willing to stage wayang performance.( Sing nanggap in Javanese language).
  2. The Dalang- the puppet master and story teller. He is the leader of the performance.
  3. The stage complete with the screen illuminated by a blencong- an oil lamp hung above the seat of the dalang; well arranged  wayang puppets, the gamelan music instruments  and its players consists of some musicians and singers ( pesinden in Javanese language) to accompany the show.( Some viewers watch the show from behind the screen, they see the shadow of the puppets. Shadow in Javanese language is wayang, that is where the word wayang comes from. The other viewers watch the show in front of the scene).

  4. Before the show, the name of the story is already decided by the organizer.
  5. A complete set of traditional offerings. It depicts a pray to Gusti, God for the smooth and safety of the wayang show including the dalang and all his crew and the audience.

JagadKejawen will explore step by step the stories and the philosophy of wayang.

Suryo S. Negoro