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Balinese Shadow Puppets Art

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Balinese Shadow Puppets Art ( Wayang Kulit )

Wayang kulit is a drama performance with leather puppets. The skin is formed into wayang characters. In Indonesian art, wayang kulit is one that is well-known in all regions and even abroad.

Wayang is usually played by one or more puppeteers. The puppeteer is the person who moves the puppets, tells the storyline, and makes the puppets appear to be speaking.

Wayang kulit is very familiar to people in Indonesia, even to those in the Central Java region. In fact, not infrequently, wayang kulit in Central Java continues to produce puppeteers and even the puppeteers themselves.

This time we will not discuss shadow puppets from Central Java, it turns out that Bali also has stories about wayang. Check out our article below about Balinese shadow puppets!

Balinese Shadow Puppets

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Balinese shadow puppet shows are thought to have existed since around the IX century AD. In the Bebetin inscription, which dates to the year Çaka 818 (896 AD), a legacy from the reign of King Ugrasena in Bali,

During the reign of King Ugrasena Inj, the term “perbwayang,” which was believed to be related to wayang or wayang performances,

Other sources say that wayang kulit entered Bali after the collapse of Majapahit, brought by the descendants of King Brawijaya, who had converted to Islam.

Two Types of Balinese Shadow Puppets

In the performance, Balinese shadow puppets are divided into 2 types, namely weak leather puppets and peteng leather puppets.

Lemah Leather Puppets

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Lemah literally means noon, where shadow puppet art performances are held during the day.

Weak wayang performances are usually related to spiritual matters or religious ceremonies. This wayang kulit is performed without the use of screens, lights, or torches.

In playing the puppet, the puppeteer rests the puppet on a white thread with a length of about half to one meter and then ties it to a dadap tree trunk, which is first attached to a banana stem.

The characters and storylines that are sung in wayang lemur performances usually come from the Mahabarata story, which is adapted to the type and level of the related religious ceremony. The duration of the performance is relatively short—about one to two hours.

Peteng Leather Puppets

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Peteng, which means dark, this peteng leather puppet art is usually performed at night and has a broader theme. as a means of entertainment and also as a spiritual practice.

Peteng puppets based on characters and storylines are more complex, there are at least nine types, such as Wayang Parwa, Wayang Ramayana, Wayang Gambuh, Wayang Calonarang, Wayang Cupak, Wayang Sasak, Wayang Arja, Wayang Tantri, and Wayang Babad.

Balinese Shadow Puppets Philosophy

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In the performance of this Balinese wayang kulit, it has a philosophy of meaning that teaches about manners, which contains a strong social message.

Where is the ability of the puppeteer to create social messages, advice regarding moral, ethical, and religious values ​​that are conveyed is packaged properly so that it is easy to understand them?

The Development of Balinese Shadow Puppet Art

In its development, the art of wayang kulit has undergone a shift in terms of its performances. Currently, puppeteers are starting to appear who dare to present storylines that are more dynamic and related to the lives of today’s society.

Not only in terms of the story or topic sung by the dalang, but now the staging media is starting to change. For example, lighting that used to use torches is now being replaced by lights. You can even find performances using colorful lights to add to the excitement.


The traditional art of wayang kulit makes this art complete because it contains acting, sound, music, speech, literature, painting, sculpture, and symbolism in one performance.

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