Academic journal article Researchers World

Leather Puppet in Javanese Ritual Ceremony

Academic journal article Researchers World

Leather Puppet in Javanese Ritual Ceremony

Article excerpt


Wayang kulit (leather puppet) is a universal art work and is owned by different countries. In Indonesia, leather puppet has significant roles in Javanese community life. Among such roles is that it is perfomed in ritual purposes. There are some ritual functions performed by Javanese people. With descriptive qualitative method, it was known that presently only two types of leather puppet exist. The first type is performed in such types of ruwatan as ruwatan sukerta. The second type is performed in such purifying rituals as the bersih desa (village purification) ritual. In general, the rituals remain consistent and only little modification is made in order to be more practical

Keywords: leathre puppet, ruwatan sukerta, bersih desa.


Wayang (puppet) has been popular among the people of Indonesia. Wayang has been internalized in the heart of the Indonesian people. Wayang has been performed in television and enjoyed by millions of people throughout the nation, even those in remote areas. Wayang performance can also be enjoyed through the radio. Wayang is a very flexible art expression, either as a religious medium or artistic entertainment. Wayang embraced many forms of art such as painting, decoration, dance, music, vocal art, drama, scupture, and many others. These combinations enrich performance art and visual art (Heri Dono, 1993: 29). Such forms of art in wayang can be enjoyed collectively. Wayang is inseparable from the Javanese because Javanese wayang is more popular than others. Javanese is the largest ethnic in Indonesia. At least 41.7% of Indonesian population is Javanese people.

Leather puppet performance through television has made it even more popular and famous. Since wayang is performed in television, some changes have occured. While in the past wayang was an oral literature art, at present time it transforms into a merely performance art. In television wayang has been transformed into auditory-visual peformance. Cosequently, the performance of wayang in the television has put forward the visual aspect rather than the literature. Such literature content as janturan and suluk has been reduced and are only performed in particular scenes. On the other hand, musical composition play is performed more frequently. The niyaga (performers in gamelan orchestra) are well dressed, while the pesindhen (singers in gamelan orchestra) sit with their back to the wayang, who were traditionally opposite. Consequently the spectators can clearly see the faces of the artists (C. Bakdi Sumanto, 2003: 9-10).

The appearance of leather puppet show in television has made the art activities more competitive to capture the market. However, with the diminishing aspects traditionally contained in the wayang as the noble art has gradually lost its self-identity and dignity. Has has transformed itself into a money-oriented art, althoug it has not been comparable to modern art such as music to which nearly all people, in particular the young, love very much and which generates large financial benefits. The successful performance of modern arts is closely related to the professional management and administration, with long and serious preparation. The performance of wayang purwa which is a variant of a performance art has to be managed like a modern art with seriuos and professional management. The problem is whether there is any sponsor who is willing to manage this traditional art.

Historically, leather puppet has been long konwn in Indonesia, at least atthe tenth century, popularly known as ringgit (Pandam Guritno, 1988:3). At that time, the shapre of the purwa leather puppet was not identified but was told in the theme of serat Harjuna Wiwaha (Mahabarata). The materials used to make wayang was animal leather known as walulang inukir (walulang/lulang in Javanese means leather, while inukir means carved). Therefore, literally walulang inukir means the leather which was carved to represent a particular figure. …

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