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Wayang Puppets at the Museum of Volkenkunde

Hanoman, Prabu Dasamuka (Rawana), Wayang Kulit
Hanoman (left) and Prabu Dasamuka (right)
Part 3, (view part one and two), of my trip to the Museum of Volkenkunde in Leiden.
Pictures by me, text is from the Museum of Volkenkunde.

Javanese / Indonesia
Leather and Horn 

This wayang kulit puppet represents Hanoman. He belongs to the group of “monkeys” (para wanara) that play a role in the wayang purwa repertoire – which includes stories like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Hanoman appears as a white monkey with Bayu features. He has long thumb nails (pancanaka) and wears a checkered sarong.

Prabu Dasamuka (Rawana)
Javanese / Indonesia
Before 1883
Wood and Horn 

This wayang kulit puppet represents Prabu Dasamuka (Rawana), he belongs to the group of “demons” (para danawa) and plays a role in the wayang purwa – which includes stories like the Ramayana and the Mahebharata.

Arjuna, This wayang kulit puppet, young prince Parmadi

Yogyakarta / Indonesia 
1850 - 1878 
Wood and textile 
This wayang kulit puppet represents the young prince Parmadi. According to the Javanese tradition, Parmadi was the name that Arjuna, one of the heroes of the Mahabharata, received on his birth. Although the wayang golek theatre is largely based on Muslim stories and values, its repertoire includes the two great Hundy epics, the Ramayana and the Mahebharata.

wayang kulit puppet, shadow play
wayang kulit puppet, shadow play, wayang puppet and horse
Myths portrated
Wayang is a form of theathre that can be rendered by both humans and puppets. The wayang performance is always about the struggle between good and evil. The balance is disturbed again and again, but in the end, it is restored. 
Wayang can represent all sorts of stories ranging from ancient Indian epics and local legends to stories related to Islam or to recent political developments. Each episode begins and ends with a leaf-shaped figure, the gunungan or kayon, representing the totality and cosmic balance. The performance is staged by a dalang, puppeteer, and often accompanied by a gamelan orchestra. There are various forms of wayang. The three-demensional wooden puppets are called wayang golek, the flat wooden ones wayang klitik and the leather puppets with which the shadow play is performed are called wayang kulit. A complete wayang kulit set consist of hundreds and puppets representing gods and demons, princes, servants, human beings and animals.

wayang puppet, Wayang Golek, Semar
Wayang puppet
Wood and silk
This wayang golek puppet portrays Semar. He belongs to the type of servants, body-guards and followers who take the hero’s side in all the stories. They are the only characters with a free text who deliver (mild) comments and make jokes about all kind of things. They do not occur in the original India stories as they are Javanese additions.

wayang kulit puppet, Batara Guru
Wayang puppetSurakarta / Java
Leather and horn
This wayang kulit puppet portrays Batara Guru, the Devine Master and manifestation of the supreme god Shiva. Along with Brahma (Creator) and Vishnu (the Sustainer of Life) Batara Guru (Desroyer) makes up the Hindu Trimurti. Together they are responsible for the life cycles on earth.

dance mask of a tiger head, Mask from Gianyar, Bali
MaskGianyar, Bali
C. 1930
This dance mask depicts a tiger head, characterized by bulging eyes, large fangs and movable ears. By means of a stack at the back, the mask can be held during the dance.

painted sculpture of a winged lion
Before 1899

This painted sculpture is in the form of a winged lion. The lion is portrayed in a seated position with large fangs in an open mouth, bulging eyes, high upright wings and horn-like spines on the head and on the curled tail.

From afar it looks like a nice elephant, until you see the skulls upclose! No idea from where/which period it is though.


  1. Heel mooie museum! De 'Wayang'
    is prachtig om te zien c:


  2. I've heard of these puppets! It's so interesting learning about ancient entertainment. I think it's all very impressive that they devised these intricate artforms.

    d a n i e l l e |

  3. Wow, the puppets are amazing! I was really fascinated by the shadow puppets when I was little.

  4. They used to scare me a bit, I still think there might be more behind them, but yeah, not sure :p