5 Types of Indonesian Puppets

Thursday, January 9th, 2020 - Indonesia Souvenirs

Of course, we are all familiar with this one Indonesian tradition: wayang. In Javanese, the term “wayang” is interpreted as “shadow”, referring to a theater of speech that uses shadow techniques and light effects and is accompanied by gamelan music. The word wayang also often refers to the puppet itself. This doll is controlled and voiced by the “puppeteer” in a show that can last for hours. Most of the shows are based on two epic stories from India – Mahabarata and Ramayana. In Bali and Java, puppet shows tend to combine Hindu stories with Buddhist, Islamic ideas, as well as folklore and myths.

In Indonesia, there are various types of puppets. Puppets come in various shapes, sizes, and mediums, including in the form of scrolls of images, leather, wood, and masks. However, there are 5 types of the most popular puppets that I will mention below. They are:

  • Puppet beber

Beber puppet is one of the oldest types of puppets in Indonesia. In this narrative performance, a long picture sheet is explained by a puppeteer. The oldest beber puppets can be found in Pacitan, Donorojo, East Java. Apart from the Mahabharata and Ramayana stories, wayang beber also uses stories from folklore, such as the romance of Panji Asmoro Bangun and Dewi Sekartaji.

  • Shadow puppets

In Central and East Java, the most popular type of wayang is wayang kulit or wayang kulit purwa. This puppet is flat and made of buffalo or goat skin. Arms and legs can be moved. In Bali and Java, shadow puppet shows often combine Hindu stories with Buddhism and Islam. In addition to religious stories, folktales and myths are often used.

  • Wayang Klitik (or Karucil)

The shape of the puppet is similar to shadow puppets, but it is made of wood, not leather. They also use shadows in their performances. The word “klitik” comes from the sound of wood that touches when a puppet is moved or during a fight scene, for example. The stories used in this shadow play come from the kingdoms of East Java, such as the Kingdom of Jenggala, Kediri, and Majapahit. The most popular story is about Damarwulan. This story is filled with romance and is very popular with the public.

  • Puppet show

This performance is performed using a three-dimensional puppet made of wood. This type of puppet is most popular in West Java. There are 2 kinds of puppet show, the puppet show puppet show and the puppet show purwa. Puppet show which is widely known is puppet show purwa. The stories used often refer to Javanese and Islamic traditions, such as the stories of Pangeran Panji, Darmawulan, and Amir Hamzah, his uncle Prophet Muhammad a.s.

  • Puppet wong

This type of puppet is a dance drama that uses humans to portray characters based on traditional wayang stories. The story that is often used is Smaradahana. Initially, wayang wong was shown as entertainment for the nobles, but now it has spread into a popular form of art.

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