Nestled in the center of District Museum at Kota Tua Jakarta, Museum Wayang is dedicated to puppets and dolls from all over Indonesia as well as from other countries.
The most famous puppet from Indonesia is Wayang. Even UNESCO has listed Wayang under the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The majority of Museum Wayang's collections are wayang from Indonesia, which has many types and variations. The most popular ones are:
Entering the museum, a couple of wayang golek will welcome you at the front door. According to the epic story of Mahabharata, these two wayang are Gatot Kaca and Pergiwa. These wayang golek are special due to their size: they are way oversize, taller than average people.
Wayang golek originated from Sunda. The upper body was made of wood and then the body is decorated with clothes and beads. Each set of wayang golek consists of many characters. During the show, a dalang will tell the story while playing wayang golek accompanied by musicians playing a a set of gamelan Sunda and a couple of singers called sinden singing.
On the other hand, wayang kulit or shadow puppet originated from Central and East Java. There are many variants of wayang kulit, such as wayang kulit purwa, intan, banjar, sadat, tejokusuman, and wahyu. The oldest one is wayang kulit purwa (purwa means the first). It was mentioned in an eleventh century inscription from Kediri kingdom.
Although this puppet museum doesn’t have the whole set of wayang purwa, it has some favorite ones. For example, Manik Maya or Batara Guru, the highest god who rule spirit, human, and god realms. Or the most famous wayang: King Rama Wijaya from the epic story of Ramayana.
During 1925-1967 there was a variant of wayang kulit performed in Yogyakarta. It is
called Wayang Kulit China-Jawa also known as Wayang Thithi. The plays were based on Chinese myths and legends.
While wayang thithi is an Indonesian wayang with a Chinese backgrounds, Wayang Poo The Hie originated from China 3,000 years ago. It entered Indonesia through the city of Semarang, Central Java in 1885. At that time the story was told in Malay language.
Villagers also create wayang as toys. Usually it is made of suket (a type of grass), bamboo, or used cardbox. The collection of this museum is 1963 wayang made of plaited bamboo from Wonosari, Yogyakarta.
Would you believe you can meet celebrities in Museum Wayang? They are Si Unyil and friends, a set of hand puppets that was famous during the TV shows in the 80s.
In addition to the Indonesian puppets, this museum has a large collections of puppets and dolls from all over the world, such as dolls from Vietnam, Thailand and Russia, Guignol dolls from France, Punch and Judy from England, Katakali dolls from Kerala, South India and Indian puppets from Bhartiyah Lokala Mandal, Undaipur.
The tour of the museum ends at the display of Ondel Ondel from Betawi, Jakarta. By all means they are the largest puppets this museum has. They are larger than average people, since a man needs to be inside each puppet to control the puppet's movements.
Have you explored other museums in Kota Tua Jakarta? This area is known as the District Museum, since there are six museums here, all are situated in the restored historical buildings.
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