Six men arrived on stage, each of them held up a huge gunungan, a mountain shape shadow puppet with some pictures of animals, trees, a gate, and some other items, that depict either, a palace and its contents, a jungle and the wilderness or the universe. The presence of the gunungan is the signal to the audience that the performance is about to begin. In a classic Wayang Kulit  (shadow puppet) performance, gunungan is used not only in the beginning but also as the symbol of the venue where the story takes place. The two men narrating the story followed the arrival of the gunungan.

Text & Photo by Kartika D. Suardana

Six men arrived on stage, each of them held up a huge gunungan, a mountain shape shadow puppet with some pictures of animals, trees, a gate, and some other items, that depict either, a palace and its contents, a jungle and the wilderness or the universe. The presence of the gunungan is the signal to the audience that the performance is about to begin. In a classic Wayang Kulit  (shadow puppet) performance, gunungan is used not only in the beginning but also as the symbol of the venue where the story takes place. The two men narrating the story followed the arrival of the gunungan.

The shadow puppets began narrating the story of one famous event in the Indian epic of Ramayana, which is the commotion in the Alengka Palace because King Rama of Ayodya has defeated King Rawana of Alengka. Rawana had asked his brother, Kumbhakarna, to fight Rama’s army, however, Kumbhakarna, could not fight as he was in an enforced sleep. Before agreeing to go into battle, Kumbhakarna had prayed to the God Brahma for his blessing, but had pronounced his prayer incorrectly as his tongue had been tied by the goddess Saraswati. With great difficulty Kumbhakarna was awoken and when he was told about the war and the motive of Rawana’s war, Kumbhakarna tried to convince his brother that what he was doing was wrong. Unfortunately Rawana refused to change his mind and the kingdom fought a fierce war. Due to his loyalty to his brother Rawana and his devotion to the kingdom, Kumbhakarna went into battle anyway, despite all his thoughts against it and actions from the gods to prevent his participation.

Next, the Kecak troop came on stage and sat in a circle. Rama, Shinta and Lasmana danced in the center of the circle. The Kecak choir continued to sing their unique rhythm as Hanuman the king of monkeys and Sugriwa the red monkey arrived on the stage. The stage was then turned into Ayodya where King Rama and both monkeys were preparing for war.

Suddenly, the stage transformed and became much more vibrant. The combination of the gamelan orchestra, the lighting, the choir, the Hanuman and his monkey gank and the kecak dancers, made the imagery on stage a real spectacle. The war began. Kumbhakarna injured Hanuman and Sugriwa as the battle scene went on. After the battle there were many other continuing scenes of the play.

The performance was quite spectacular, and was rewarded by the audience with a standing ovation. Kumbhakarna Gugur was performed under the full moon at the courtyard of Puri Agung Soma Negare Pejeng, a palace in Pejeng Village in Gianyar Regency. The show was choreographed by, I Made Sidia, a prominent Balinese Puppeter, and included six different types of art performance, which were Wayang Kulit (shadow puppet), Wayang Wong (human puppet), Mawirama (story telling), gamelan orchestra, kecak, and ogoh-ogoh. Alongside the puppeteers, amongst the cast were dozens of dancers and musicians that all combined to make a truly extravagant and meticulous performance.

The night titled Cultural Wonders of the Royal Pejeng was meant to launch Pejeng as a tourism destination highlighting the cultural heritage and agro tourism. The regency government and the village have made a commitment to preserve 75% of their green area no matter how extensive the boom in tourism becomes in the area. During the event, the audience were invited to explore the Royal Palace Puri Agung Soma Negare Pejeng, which historically was where Indonesia’s first President used to stay before his visit to the Presidential Palace in Tampak Siring and where some maestro painters have also famously stayed.

The organisers plan to hold a similar event for every full moon.!

About Author :

Kartika D. Suardana

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