Minggu, 17 April 2011

Shadows Story

The two most popular and common subjects of Wayang Kulit are the epic Mahabarata and Ramayana stories from India. There are also folk stories and newer creations. Although the stories are well known and retold many times, the fluid medium of Wayang Kulit allows for adaptation, humor, and pontification, keeping the stories up to date and interesting.

Synopsis of the Mahabarata

The Mahabarata, the largest epic ever written, elegantly depicts Hindu ideals and philosophies and has provided a wealth of inspiration for many cultures. The Balinese and Javanese, who accepted these verses long ago, combined the Hindu stories with Buddhist philosophy and their own folk lore.

Throughout the stories two related families, the Pandus and Kurus (cousins), or Pandawas and Kurawas, represent, respectively, forces of good and evil.

The mother of the Pandawas, Kunti, aunt of Krishna, obtained a sacred mantra enabling her to call on the gods to obtain offspring. In order to test it, she called out to the Sun and to her surprise bore Karna, a golden warrior. As yet unmarried, Kunti abandoned Karna, who was later adopted by the Kurus. She then married Pandu, a prince, who was under a curse whereby he would die upon reaching ecstasy in love making. Pandu begged for Kunti to use the mantra to produce sons, so she called on the gods of Dharma, Wind, and Fire, resulting in three god/sons - Yudistira the wise, Bima the strong, and Arjuna the skilled. Pandu's second wife borrowed Kunti's mantra to bear sons of the Twin Gods, Nakula and Sahadewa. These five god/sons, the Pandus, are pitted against the Kurus in an epic struggle for balance and justice.

The Kurus were born of a giant ball of flesh which was divided into 100 pieces and incubated in jars to produce 100 sons. There was a little glob left over which became one daughter. The Kurus are the cousins of the Pandus and their arch rivals. They are led by Duryodana and Karna.

A palace of illusion is built for the Pandus who unwisely lose it to the Kurus in a game of dice. The Pandawas are exiled to the forest and then must live anonymously in the cities for a year. During this time the Kurus build up power and influence which the Pandus must regain.

Eventually, there is a great battle and everyone dies. They are brought back to life and later dwell in heaven.

The Mahabarata is presented in many different individual episodes. Staple episodes include, Arjuna Wiwaha - the marriage of Arjuna, and Bima Suarga - Bima's travels in the underworld. There are many others and often Dalang will contribute new and original episodes to the story.

Synopsis of the Ramayana

The Ramayana is a love story of adventure and intrigue. The main characters, Rama and Sita, are lovers. Sita is captured by a giant called Rawana. Rawana has many heads, arms, and legs. He lives on the island of Lanka.

In order to rescue Sita, Rama calls on an army of animals led by Hanuman, the monkey king. They build a bridge to Lanka and Hanuman sneaks into the palace to let Sita know Rama is coming for her. In the end, Sita is saved, Rawana is defeated, and all live happily ever after.

The Ramayana is typically told in one sitting. Many parts of the epic may be omitted from night to night. Although it starts at the beginning and ends at the end (unlike the Mahabarata), the content of each performance can vary considerably, keeping the story fresh. The Ramayana is massive in writing and could never be performed completely in one night.

Other Stories in Shadow

Wayang Kulit is a favorite medium for almost any kind of story. There are "witch callings" and folk tales of all kinds. The most popular folk stories are the Panji tales from Java. The Panji tales are common to both Bali and Java, although typically presented in an older classical style. A new kind of shadow play, Wayang Suluh, was created for the purpose of government propaganda.

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