The Ramayana epic came to Indonesia around the 8th or 9th century and was written in the Old Javanese language. It was entitled Ramayana Kakawin. It was used to revive Hinduism at the time when Buddhism was firmly entrenched in Sumatra, West and Central Java. The Hindu resurgence was made possible through the puppet shadow play, Wayang Kulit and the Wayang Purwa. Both of these puppet traditions are still performed today and can be enjoyed in Sumatra, West and Central Java, and in Bali. They are a great source of entertainment as they are performed during family celebrations, festivals, and cultural events. There are also masked dance dramas, wooden doll puppet plays, and ballets depicting the Ramayana. A gamelan orchestra invariably accompanies these dramatic performances.
In Indonesia, there is a ceremony called the Mochopat. It is performed
when a child is born. It is a religious ceremony if the family is Hindu
and not religious (traditional) if the family is non-Hindu. In the Mochopat
there is a an expert who sits crosslegged among listeners as he sings stanzas
from the Ramayana. This recitation may last for a short period of time
or all day. Sometimes coffee and snacks are served. Following each chapter,
the expert may stop and instigate a discussion period with the audience.
This is done in the hopes that if the child is a boy, he will be heroic
as Rama, and if it is a girl she will be as faithful as Sita. The Bebachan
is a similar ceremony, except there are two reciters and both read the
Ramayana from a text written on palm leaves in Old Javanese. This is closely
similar to the tradition performed in India as well, but of course the
Indian Ramayana is written and recited in Sanskrit.
The Rama story and its characters provide a store of names and images
for modern use. There are streets, banks, and travel agencies, and other
places of business which carry the names of characters from the Ramayana.
See a plot summary of the Indonesian Ramayana, audio files in Indonesian, and Javanese temple reliefs on the SEAsite Indonesia by Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, Illinois.
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