8 Best Indonesia Souvenirs: Wayang Kulit

In this “8 Best Indonesia Souvenirs” article series now we’re going to discuss more Wayang, also known as wajang (Javanese: ꦮꦪꦁ, romanized: wayang), which is a traditional form of puppet theatre play that originated on the Indonesian island of Java. Wayang refers to the entire dramatic show. Sometimes the leather puppet (wayang kulit) itself is referred to as wayang. 

Wayang Kulit Home Decor Bali & Artwork at Kaliuda Gallery

Leather Puppet or Wayang Kulit at Kaliuda Gallery | Source: Kaliuda Gallery 

Table of Contents

Wayang Puppet Theatre

Wayang puppet theatre is accompanied by a gamelan orchestra in Java, and by gender wayang in Bali. The dramatic stories depict mythologies, such as episodes from the Hindu epics of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, as well as local adaptations of cultural legends. Traditionally, a wayang is played out in a ritualized midnight-to-dawn show by a dalang, an artist and spiritual leader; people watch the show from both sides of the screen. The long period of time of the existence of wayang in Indonesia can be seen from the diversity of wayang models, various plays, as well as the method and language of the performance. The world of wayang has been ingrained in the heart of society’s culture. Perhaps that is also what underlies UNESCO to establish wayang as native to Indonesia.

Wayang is one of the various cultural heritages of the past in Indonesia. Wayang is one of the cultural arts that stands out among many other cultural works. Puppet performances include acting, sound, music, speech, literature, painting, sculpture, and also the art of symbols.

Wayang Collection Home Decor Bali & Artwork at Kaliuda Gallery

Wayang Collection | Source: Kaliuda Gallery

Wayang Culture

Listening to history, wayang culture seems to continue to develop from time to time. Then it developed to be used as a medium of social communication that can be useful for the development of the supporting community. The world of wayang shows a change in its function, from being a media for ancestral worship, da’wah, information, to moral and ethical education, as well as philosophical understanding, as well as being a mere entertainment medium.

Interestingly, the art of wayang theater is recorded to have survived through the centuries. Even though it can now be said that its existence has begun to be pressured by various offers of other modern forms of entertainment, until now wayang still has a place in the hearts of Indonesian people, especially in Java and Bali.

This phenomenon is at least reflected in how often the wayang theater is held in formal and informal events, both by the public and by government officials. In addition, it is also reflected in the ongoing regeneration process of the dalang profession, namely the main actor in the performing arts.

True, when it comes to the history of the origin of wayang kulit, there are at least four major theories. This difference in theory or interpretation, apart from being due to the lack of data from past sources of artifacts, also often arises due to differences in the disciplines used by experts to approach the problem.


Variety of Puppets in the Archipelago

Referring to the writings of Pandam Guritno (1988) in his work Wayang, Indonesian Culture and Pancasila, it is stated that in Indonesia, especially in Java, Bali, Lombok, Kalimantan, and Sumatra, there are dozens of models or types of wayang.

Types of Wayang – Acoording to Serruier

Guritno refers to Prof. Dr. L Serrurier, Director of the Ethnographic Museum in Leiden, who at the end of the 19th century conducted a survey of the types of puppets on the island of Java. The results of his research were published under the title De Wajang Poerwa in 1896. According to Serrurier, the types of wayang known in Java at that time were: wayang beber, wayang gedog, wayang golek, wayang jemblung, wayang kalithik (klithik), wayang karucil ( krucil), langendria puppets, waxing puppets, lumping puppets, middle puppets, pegon puppets, purwa puppets, puwara puppets, sasak puppets, mask puppets, and wayang wong or wayang orang.

Types of Wayang – According to Guritno

In the above list of wayang names, Guritno added several other types or models of wayang, such as wayang gambuh, wayang parwa, and wayang ramayana in Bali; sasak puppets in Lombok; wayang banjar in Kalimantan; palembang puppets in Sumatra; also wayang jemblung in Banyumas; no exception can be mentioned the mouse deer puppet, the Pancasila puppet or the flash puppet; revelation puppets; and so forth.

Dalang & Wayang - Blog Post 8 Best Indonesia Souvenirs - Kaliuda Gallery Bali

Dalang & Wayang Kulit | Source: google.com

Types of Wayang – Based on the Main Actor

Meanwhile, based on the main actor, the types or types of wayang can be classified into five groups, namely, first, shadow puppets, the players on stage are two-dimensional puppets, made of leather or bone. Second, wayang golek, the players on the stage are three-dimensional dolls made of wood. Third, wayang wong or people, the players on the stage are people. Fourth, wayang beber, the players are only described on wide paper that is rolled and stretched (displayed) during the show. Fifth or last, wayang klithik, players on stage are dolls made of flat wood.

Including wayang kulit are wayang gedog and wayang purwa in Java; wayang parwa in Bali; sasak puppets in Lombok; and wayang banjar in Kalimantan; and Palembang puppets in Palembang. Included in the wayang golek is the Sundanese puppet show with stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata; also included here are the Javanese Menak puppet show with stories of Islamic heroism; no exception for the Cirebon Cepak puppet with stories about the Cirebon chronicle and the spread of Islam in West Java.

Meanwhile, wayang wong or wayang orang usually perform plays from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. However, the langendria puppets, which also use people as their players, usually perform plays about the history of Majapahit, such as the story about Damarwulan and his opponent Menakjingga.

Types of Wayang – Base on the Stories

In addition, we can also classify them based on the stories or plays that are staged and the language used. There is something interesting to note here, namely the community classification system regarding wayang. Even if you say they both belong to wayang kulit, for example, if the play or story being staged is Panji, then the puppet is not a type of wayang purwa, but belongs to the type of wayang gedog. No exception, although they both use wayang golek, for example, the plays performed in Parahyangan are derived from the epic Ramayana-Mahabarata; while in Java, it takes the heroic story of Amir Hamzah.

The principle of detailing this kind of wayang category grouping clearly shows how the world of wayang has reached a sophisticated cultural phase in the historical space of society. This case reminds people of the case of naming a model (dhapur) of a keris, where if there are even the slightest different elements, they will undoubtedly have different names and types of groupings.

In Kaliuda Gallery, you can find various wayang which have been curated by our team that you can bring home as a gift or souvenirs. Not only gifts, but you can also find home decoration, furniture, and antiques at Kaliuda Gallery Bali. As we know, Kaliuda Gallery is the best teak wood furniture supplier and store in Bali. Please come and visit us!

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