Wayang or Puppets
Wayang is considered to be a highlight of Javanese culture.
Over the centuries its religious character has increasingly developed into a distinct art form, foreign influences introduced new stories, characters were added, and new refined styles were developed at the courts.
There are various types of wayang, but, in Java, the most important is the wayang purwa, which uses kulit (flat cut-outs of painted leather puppets) whose shadows are projected on a large white screen.
Wayang is a generic term denoting traditional theatre in Indonesia. There is no evidence that wayang existed before Hinduism came to Southeast Asia sometime in the first century.
However, there very well may have been indigenous storytelling traditions that had a profound impact on the development of the traditional puppet theatre.
Hinduism arrived in Indonesia from India even before the Christian era, and was slowly adopted as the local belief system. Sanskrit became the literary and court language of Java and later of Bali.
The Hindus changed the Wayang to spread their religion, mostly by stories from the Mahabharata or the Ramayana. Later this mixture of religion and wayang play was praised as harmony between Hinduism and traditional Indonesian culture.
The figures of the wayang are also present in the paintings of that time, for example, the roof murals of the courtroom in Klungkung, Bali. They are still present in traditional Balinese painting today.
Wayang today is both the most ancient and most popular form of puppet theatre in the world.
Hundreds of people will stay up all night long to watch the superstar performers, dalang, who command extravagant fees and are international celebrities.
Some of the most famous dalang in recent history are Ki Nartosabdho, Ki Anom Suroto, Ki Asep Sunarya, Ki Sugino, and Ki Manteb Sudarsono.