Old Javanese Ramayana

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Indeed, there is an earlier example of Old Javanese literature showing a reference to the shadow play; the opus magnum of kakawin literature, the Old Javanese Ramayana, supposed to be composed in the middle of the 9th century, mentions in canto 24.112 a widu mawayang, i.e. a performer who is playing wayang. Following recent findings by A. Acri, this canto stands in a complex religious context on a Saiva background. A widu is "a figure standing between a performer and an ascetic" (Acri, 2011:55). The religious/esoteric connotation of wayang has been maintained until today. P.J. Zoetmulder (1971:88) expresses this perception, saying that ‘perfect insight, the deeper meaning of the wajang [sic!], the innermost truth and reality, which remains…show more content…
It is in this temple that we find depictions of panakawan (see Fig.1), the dwarf-like figures which still today are characteristic and much-beloved features of wayang performances. They accompany the heroes of the story and caricature their behaviour in comical and ironical ways. The best known of these figures is Semar. In Old Javanese texts the panakawan do, however, not appear; they seem to be a specific creation of the performance art of wayang; only the Sudamala story features the panakawan Semar. Candi Jago has depictions of seven different narratives, not all of them showing panakawan figures. Another characteristic wayang feature is the depiction of the hairdo of the heroes, i.e. the crab-claw like supit urang. We find it in the depictions of Arjuna in the Parthayajna (see Fig.2) and the Arjunawiwaha reliefs. This supit urang is maintained in Balinese wayang for the depictions of heroes, such as the Pandawa-brothers Arjuna (see Fig.3) and Bhima, or Rama and the monkey general Hanuman from the Ramayana. In Javanese wayang this hairstyle developed to the gelung, a kind of up-turned hair plait. The fact that earlier temple reliefs of the Central Javanese period and of the early East Javanese period do not display elements of wayang, may be an indicator that wayang had not been popular or well-known to a broader audience before c. 1300,…show more content…
It is remarkable that only kakawin depictions have the supit urang, while other narratives such as the Panji stories never have this headgear. Panji stories belong to the literary genre of the kidung, not based on the Indic epics like the kakawin, but being new creations of the East Javanese period. Panji stories relate the love story of Prince Panji and his betrothed Candrakirana. A good example for the dichotomy of kakawin and kidung is displayed in Candi Panataran (c. 14th to 15th century), the State Temple of Majapahit in the region of Blitar, being the largest temple compound in East Java. While the entrance part of the complex which consists of three courtyards, shows depictions of Panji stories (see Fig.4), the rear part has Ramayana and Krishnayana reliefs, depicting kakawin which are based on the Indic epics. Panji has a specific headgear which is a kind of cap, while the heroes of the Ramayana and the Krishnayana have the supit urang (see Fig.5). The Panji stories have a folk-like character and are more associated to human daily life, while the kakawin have a stronger connotation of sacrality. Panji stands for the mundane world, preparing the pilgrim to proceed to the sacred

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