Wayang, Let’s Save Our Heritage


Wayang, Indonesian Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity

Wayang, Indonesian Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity


Wayang is the Indonesian original cultural heritage which was admitted and designated by Unesco, United Nations as Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Wayang or the shadow puppet theatre has various kind, there are Wayang kulit, Wayang wong, Wayang golek, Wayang klithik, Wayang beber, and Wayang wahyu. But I think the most popular one is Wayang kulit which spread around Jogjakarta, Central Java, East Java, and Bali. The performance of Wayang is always accompanied by gamelan, traditional music instrumental.

Wayang, the oldest indigenous storytelling in Indonesia was created about hundreds a go. It is assumed that Wayang existed long before Hinduism came to Indonesia, but there is no evidence to prove it. When the Hinduism came to Indonesia and adopted slowly the local belief system called Animism and Dynamism. By using classical stories from Mahabharata and Ramayana, they used Wayang to spread their religion. It also happened when Islam began spreading in Indonesia, by adopting and adapting, moslem used Wayang to spread Islam. In Islam, display of God in human form is prohibitted, therefore to keep performing the theatre, Moslem leaders converted wayang golek in wayang purwa which made by leather and displayed only the shadow instead, here is the birth of Wayang kulit. Wayang nowadays is not belong to one of religion, Wayang is a Indonesian cultural heritage and belong to Indonesian people.

The term of Wayang, “Bayang” come from Old Javanese language  which means “shadows”, actually the meaning is not only about shadow, but also “the spirit”. Wayang performing theatre usually starts the show at 8 p.m until the early morning (around 4 a.m), played by the only one Dalang ( person who played the Wayang) and one assistance of Dalang. Wayang itself has a hundreds characters, so the Dalang have to remember each character’s voices and attitudes.

What could I do for Wayang? I had a great opportunity to introduce Wayang, Javanese traditional puppet theatre in farewell party of Short-term training Architecture and Arts program in Osaka, Japan. I brought two Wayangs which are called Arjuna and Srikandi (There is different spelling of those characters’s name in Indonesia and among Hinduism countries such as Nepal, India) came from classical story Mahabharata. Arjuna is physically powerful, strong, robust, has a high-desirability, and has many wifes. Srikandi, one of Arjuna’s wifes is a strong and powerful woman, beautiful, and skillful. By introducing Wayang to the global community as Indonesian Cultural Heritage, I wish Wayang could attract International attention and show proudly to the world that Indonesia has masterpiece of heritage, Wayang. Let us save our heritage!



Wayang Kulit, picture is taken from .htm