To my astonishment, a reader wrote me an email asking where she can watch a "Wayang Kulit" or shadow puppet show in Bali. I never thought shadow puppets show can also be interesting for tourists, so I decided to write a little note about this matter (not a comprehensive article).
Shadow puppet show, despite all these bombardment of movies with computerized special effects, still alive in the heart of the Balinese people. Thanks to the great puppet masters in Bali that Wayang Kulit is till watched by many Balinese, even the youngsters.
Shadow puppet which can be a part of sacred ceremonies are prepared very carefully. Not any Balinese can be puppet master because it requires special skill for example in changing voices when talking as different character. A puppet master must also be knowledgeable in Hindu religious teaching and social matters.
The preparation of a Wayang Kulit may appear very simple. All it needs are large screen, a torch, a banana tree trunk for placing the puppets so they can stand in front of the screen, a group of musicians (Balinese traditional music) and singers and most important thing is the puppet master himself.
One show of Wayang Kulit normally last for one night long and it is performed during religious ceremony at the temples or homes like in a Balinese birthday ceremonies. Beside families, neighbors also come to visit and watch the show.
There are also Wayang Kulit which is merely for public performance, not for part of any religous ceremony. You can buy VCD or DVD versions of this kind of Wayang Kulit show.
Why is it still so appealing to the Balinese?
There is a close connection between the Balinese and the show. Long time ago and until nowadays it has been used as a media for teaching Hindu religion, life philosophy, and wisdom. What makes it special, these heavy material are presented well in the stories as jokes or humors that they don't appear as "boring lectures".
Wayang Kulit stories usually present great epic of Hindu called Mahabharata and tells mostly about goodness and evil, family matters, with lots Hindu teaching blended in the story.
It also tells stories about present situation in the society. Social mattes are also highlighted in funny ways that will make spectators roar in laughter and joy.
You too can watch a mini version of Wayang Kulit which, instead of all night long, lasts for an hour. It is usually available in "cultural" town such as Ubud. I am sure you will also enjoy the show like the Balinese, and have a good laugh.
The only problem is they use Balinese language as the means of communications, but don't worry they will give you a handout so you can understand what 's going on the story.