Wayang Leather Pupet Show

A Javanese word meaning 'shadow' or 'ghost', wayang is a theatrical performance of living actors, three dimensional puppets, or shadow images held before a screen lit from behind. The word can also refer to the puppets themselves. Most often the chants are in the Kawi (Old Javanese), as archaic a language today as Shakespearean English. Wayang performances are staged when a transitional event occurs in the life of a family (a birthday, wedding or important religious occasion), or as ritual entertainment during family feasts or selamatan. Coming of age (puberty, circumcision, a promotion in rank, even the building of a new swimming pool could be an excuse for a show. As well as providing entertainment, wayang teaches the meaning and purpose, as well as the contradictions and anomalies, of modern life. Even government policies are explained in terms of wayang theatre, not only by the puppet master, but also in newspaper editorials and even in government statements.

The Dalang
The Dalang, the wayang puppeter,is the playwright, producer, principal narrator, conductor and director of this shadow world. He is an expert in languages and highly skilled in the techniques of ventriloquism. Some dalang even carve their own puppets, maintaining a cast of up to 200 which are kept in a katok, or big wooden box. He must be familiar with all levels of speech according to the dramatis personae, modulating his voice and employing up to nine tonal and pitch variations to suit each puppet's temperament. The dalang has a highly developed dramatic sense, and if he has a good voice, his chants are beautiful and captivating to hear. He must also be intimately versed in history (including complex royal genealogies) music (melodies, modes, phrases and song), recitation (both gamelan and spoken), eloquence (an extempore poet creating a warm or terrifying atmosphere) and posses a familiarity with metaphysics, spiritual knowledge and perfection of the soul. Travelling from village to village and city to city, he has as many fans as a film star.

Wayang Kulit
A shadow play using two-dimensional puppets. Handcrafted out of buffalo or goat parchment, the puppets have the appearance of paper dolls but with arms that swivel. The wayang kulit can be likened to a combination 'Punch and Judy Show' and Shadow Graph'. Since a wayang kulit puppet is a stylized exaggeration of a human shape, it is really a shadow of a shadow. Many different styles of wayang kulit exist. Palembang performs its own version, using its own dialect banjar is popular. In Jakarta, wayang kulit is performed in the local Batawi dialects. But by far the most popular is the wayang kulit form practiced in Central and East Java and on Bali, where it has been developed as a spellbinding medium for storytelling.

Wayang Topeng
This masked theatre mimes the stories of the wayang golek, using dancing men who act like puppets. Somtimes the dancers themselves speak their roles; at other time the dalang speaks for them, while the actors just march on and off the stage. Although classical Javanese language (kawi) is most often used, it is spoken in a less stylised form than in wayang orang. Troupes on Java consist of male dancers; female roles are taken by boys aged between eight and 14, before their voice changes. The mask, which are shiny and beautiful, are often similar to the heads of Golek puppets. Each region of Java and Bali features a different style of topeng masks, costume and dance. The most active topeng centers are in East Java and on Bali. On stage, the masks with their large and mysterious eyes seem suspended in the air. An entire wayang topeng troupe consists of perhaps 25 people, and a set of topeng traditionally contains 40-80 pieces.

Wayang Orang
Called wayang wong in Javanese, these are abstract, symbolic dance plays, with or without masks, employing actor-dancers that dress up like golek puppets. Masks are usually only worn by actors playing animals or monster roles (for example, the King of Demons in the Ramayana). A dalang may recite and chant, but the dialogue is most often spoken by live actors and actresses wearing shiny costumes of gold and black, and rich deep-coloured batik silks. Because of its hilarious antics, wayang orang is more of spectacle to Westerners than other wayang forms. But it is also by far the most expensive form to stage. A boxful of leather or wooden puppets is much cheaper to maintain than a whole troupe of live actors who have to be fed, clothed, transported and paid. Consequently, wayang orang is the rarest wayang form.


 Nearby Restaurants

 Ayu Joyo Royal
 Lunch & Dinner
 Jl. Rotowijayan 5
 Phone: (0274) 375348

 Gita Buana 
 Jl. L. Adisucipto 169
 Phone: (0274) 561164

 Isaku Iki Restaurant
 Jl. Kaliurang km 13
 Phone: (0274) 95168

 Karoaku Karaoke
 Music & Restaurant
 Jl. C. Simanjuntak 81-
 85 Tel. 0274-562367

 Miyako Japanese
 Restaurant Jl.
 Pakuningratan 70 Tel.
 0274-512707, 517505

There are a variety of places one can stay and enjoy such performances as those mentioned above. The following list of places to stay are a small selection that provide in house entertainment. All of these places to stay offer somewhere to eat and drink. Many of the hotels have restuarants that cater for tourists offering a good choice of food.

By Air:

There are several direct flights daily from Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya and Bali. Night trains from Jakarta, though comfortable, arrive at inconvenient hours.

By Bus:
Luxury buses with hotel pick-up and drop-off services operate from Bali via Surabaya.

By Rail:
Fast, comfortable trains run from Jakarta through Yogyakarta to Surabaya. First or executive class service includes air-conditioning, airline-style seats and complimentary beverage and meal service. The night trains from Jakarta, though comfortable, arrive in Yogya in the early hours of morning while the dawn service arrives in the late afternoon.

Many sites of interest are easy walking distance from Jl. Malioboro, the main tourist area where several hotels are located. Otherwise, metered taxis and chauffeur-driven rental automobiles are abundant. The typically innovative Yogyanese tourist authorities have been teaching rudimentary English to pedicab a pleasant option for visiting most attractions. There is also the option to rent a bicycle, a nice way to see the sights at ones own pace.


  • Wayang Orang (Human Wayang Theatre)

  • Purawisata
    Located on Jl Brigjend Katamso (east of Kraton). Every evening performs wayang Ramayana.

  • Ambarukmo Palace Hotel
    Located on Jl. Solo, west of Adisucipto Airport, every evening performs Ramayana Dance at the restaurant or in the garden.

  • Arjuna Plaza Hotel
    Located on Jl. Mangkubumi, south of Tugu, every Thursday evening performs Ramayana Dance.

  • Ramayana Ballet at Prambanan Temple
    It is a colossal live presentation with the backdrop of the grandiose Prambanan Temple, 15 km east of Yogya. The two hours ballet is presented alternately in Yogya and Solo dance style by five dance troupes of Wisan Murti, Cahyo Gumelar, Sekarpuri, Guwa Wijaya and Roro Jonggrang foundation led by Sri Paku Alam VIII. Formerly, the performance was organized only for dates under a full moon of May to October. The open area offers the complete Ballet, while the close arena presents aselection of different acts. The tickets are available at several Travel Agencies or could be purchased at the ticket windows just before the show.
    Roro Jongrang Foundation provides Yogya-Prambanan, cheap round trip transportation.

  • Hanoman’s Forest Restaurant
    Located on Jl. Prawirotaman . It performs wayang with different stories every evening.

  • Kraton Yogyakarta
    Every Sunday morning performs a Classical Court Dance.

  • Wayang Kulit Yogyakarta
    The name wayang comes from the Javanese word for ‘’shadow’’ of the puppets that the spectators are watching. The traditional repertoire is originated from classic Hindu mythologies, Ramayana and Mahabharata epics, adapted to the local traditions. Wayang shows usually last throughout the night.

Yogyakarta is an ancient historical city; museums and a bustling nightlife will undoubtedly keep you entertained if not entranced at this marvellous place.

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Information provided by Department of Tourism. Government of Indonesia.


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