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Created: May 14, 2004
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Index of Topics on Site Backup of Art-Pacific: Guide to Artifacts. Wayang Cycles
By Carolyn Leigh
SOURCE: Art-Pacific: Guide to Artifacts
Copyright: Photographs, text and maps copyright Carolyn Leigh, 1996-2003. All rights reserved. Last modified: Thursday, June 26, 2003
Included here under Fair Use Doctrine for teaching purposes. Source URL.

Art-Pacific: Guide to Artifacts
Wayang Cycles

Plays in the wayang cycles on Java and Bali encompass mythical origins through the present. There are hundreds of plays in the repertoires. Some exist only as outlines of plots with narration, musical clues and sound effects suggested. New plays are created in some cycles or scenes added to old ones. Java


Wayang Pura cycle contains the four oldest stories that relate Java's legendary history. All are performed with wayang kulit (shadow puppets). The Ramayana and Mahabharata are also performed using wayang golek (rod puppets). Most are nighttime performances.

  1. The oldest cycle has motifs from pre-Hindu times that deal with plant cultivation, fertility and death. It features battles between gods and giants. Plays from this cycle might be performed at rice harvest to ritually cleanse the village. A senior dalang uses the Murwakala play from this cycle during a daytime performance to exorcise evil.
  2. Arjun Sasra Bau is based on events from the Indian epic, the Ramayana.
  3. The Ramayana (Serat Rama) is the classic story of Sita's abduction by Rahwana, her rescue by her husband, Rama, with help from the monkey king, Hanuman. The setting is Sri Lanka and India.
  4. The Mahabharata (Serat Bratayudha) is based on the Indian epic but set in Java. The Pandawa brothers are banished by their 100 jealous cousins, the Kurewas. The Pandawa princes establish another kingdom in the forest. The Panakawan are their servant clowns. Eventually the Pandawas triumph and regain their kingdom. They are descendants of Vishnu and are considered the ancestors of the Javanese kings.


Wayang gedhog cycle contains adventure plays set in the Javanese Majapahit Empire which was at its height during the 14th century AD. Heroes are Damar Wulan, Puyengan and Prince Panji who is the Javanese equivalent of Arjuna from the Mahabharata. Nighttime performances use wayang golek or wayang kulit. Daytime performances use wayang golek or the less common wayang klitik.


Menak cycle recounts the many adventures of Amir Hamzah (Wong Agung Jayagrana), Muhammad's uncle, whose moral strength comes from Islam. The stories are said to have been created by a Javanese ruler in the late 16th century to help spread Islam. The setting range from Arabia to Europe and involve both historic and mythical characters like the Queen of Fairies. The nighttime performances use wayang golek.


All plays use wayang kulit for both daytime and nighttime performances.

* p> The Ramayana and the Mahabharata in the Balinese versions.


Chalonarang plays are performed in the daytime to placate Rangda, the witch widow and prevent or avert disasters like cholera or malaria. The plays are magical and only performed by strong, senior dalangs since everything must be absolutely correct to avert death.


Chupak plays present indigenous Balinese tales with some influence from the Chinese.

Next: Links, Books Indonesian Puppets | Wayang Kulit | Wayang Golek | The Puppet Master and the Play

Site Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, May 2004.
"Fair use" encouraged.