Wayang Wong

The heroes of the great Hindu epics, the "Ramayana" and "Mahabharata", have served as role models for the Balinese for many generations. In the Wayang Wong, the ancient stories of the Ramayana are converted to mask dramas enacting the battle between truth and justice and the forces of evil. Also providing the Balinese with positive images of behavior, Wayang Wong nurtures the belief that acts of courage, love, fidelity, and endurance are rewarding and lead to individual fulfillment. In the story dramatized in the Wayang Wong, Rama, the virtuous hero and the incarnation of the God Wisnu, represents the spiritual world.

Their adversary, the demon King Ranawa, embodies greed and selfishness. Including these and other characters, the Wayang Wong combines narrative literature, dramatic spectacle, and elements of Wayang Kulit shadow puppet drama. The name "Wayang Wong" literally translates as "shadow men," and the movements of the dancers in many ways imitate the jerky animation of the Wayang Kulit puppets. Although there is no recorded information about the origins of Wayang Wong in Bali, it is thought to have been performed in the seventeenth or eighteenth century during the Klungkung regency as part of a fertility dance called Barong Kedingling. Held in conjunction with the Balinese festival of Galungan, the dance was performed during a ceremony that repelled evil spirits and chased destructive pests from fruit trees.

The Raja of Klungkung ordered his court dancers into a new drama, using the "Ramayana" as a script source and the shadow puppet theater as inspiration. The Wayang Wong is performed annually, usually in conjunction with the birthday celebration of the "pura desa", the ancestral temple in each village. There are currently nineteen places in Bali where the Wayang Wong is performed: Batuan, Mas, Pujung, Blahkiuh, Kaler, Den Tyis, Marga, Klating, Apuan, Tunjuk, Sulahan, Bualu, Teja Kula, Telepud, Bangbang, Kamasan, Wates Tengah, Batuagung, and Perancak. Each village possesses a set of sacred masks used in the dance, which are stored somewhere in the temple complex, awaiting their annual performance.

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