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RAMAYANA MASKS & Mask of Asia : Indonesia

Indonesia and Malaysia

Rewinding the time to the origin or Ramayana, it is visible from the ancient sea route maps that the Indian commercial fleet had come to establish the relationship and trade thought out the Indochinese Peninsula, from Chaiya to the end of the land, including significant islands such as Sumatra, Borneo, Bali, Java, and New Guinea. This large area had more than 98 cities and towns. A text from the Chinese archive during the Liang Dynasty had recorded the existence of the Lang-ya-hsiu Kingdom or known in the Malay language as Langkasuka since more than 400 years ago.

The land in this area consisted of many kingdoms of large and small sizes; each acts as an independent city-state. For example, the Tambralinga Kingdom, located on the eastern side of the Malay Peninsula, between Chaiya in the north and Pattani in the south, had its center of power at Nakhon Sri Thammarat. The discovery of a Sanskrit stone inscription from the 6th-century CE., or the theory of Professor George Coedes, a French scholar, believes that Palembang city used to be the center of the Srivijaya Empire that has control over the commercial sea route in the Strait of Malacca and the Sunda Strait. Fleets from the eastern world going to the west have to go through these straits, creating enormous weather for the Srivijaya Empire. The period of prosperity of the Srivijaya Empire lasted during the 6th-14th-century CE.

In almost 1,000 years, the empire has fully embraced the Indian civilization, literature, tradition, and culture, especially literature and religions – Hinduism, Brahmanism, and Buddhism, which has a long-lasting impact on the people. It can be seen that the Balinese people mainly use the Sanskrit language, have a firm belief in the Vedas, and rooted faith in Markandeya, a sage who brought the first group of Indians to Bali. Moreover, the names of the Balinese people are mainly Sanskrit even today. The journey of commercial ship fleets from India that came to the southern part of Suwannabhumi had recorded that many Indias had settled at Sumatra Island for many thousands of years. They mostly came looking to trade, searching for freedom, and spreading their religions. The Sumatra and the Borneo islands were under the Srivijaya Empire and the Shailendra dynasty, which had a great relationship with India’s Pala dynasty. This relationship between the two dynasties led to the donation to aid the Nalanda University building in 860 CE. Besides, more evidence stated that ascetics from mainland China who wanted to study Buddhism at Nalanda University had to stop at Sumatra Island for multiple months, waiting for the ideal seasons to continue their journey to India.

Sumatra and Borneo (now Malaysia) called the epic of Ramayana that had passed from the Indian brahmins, Hikaya Seri Rama. The story is different from the original Indian version. For example, Hanuman is the son of Rama. Even the characters’ names have changed from the original, such as Sri Ram to Seri Rama, Sita Devi to Sita Detti. Malaysian researchers said that Hikayat Seri Rama and Tamil Ramayana is the original blueprint of the  Old Malaya Ramayana and had been developed and adapted by the renowned Malaysian writer, Kikayat Marang Mahavamsha.

Most Ramayana plays in the Sumatra and Borneo Islands come in small puppets and shadow plays. In the Borneo Islands and Kalimantan, the Ramayana play is famous in the Hindu circle, so they perform in Bharatanatyam, a significant Indian classical dance, integrating the Indian flares from the musical instruments to the costumes and the masks. Such as the Naga or the Dragon mask, the Indai Gura mask of the Dayak people, which are used in rituals to banish evils or supernatural sickness.

The famous Ramayana play of Indonesia, Kakawin, is in Java and Bali. This Javan Ramayana is performed in modern dance and shadow play forms, known as Wayang Wong, play at Prambanan Temple and Yogyakarta city. In Bali, two differentiating characteristics are called Sendratari, performed in Ubud, and Kecak, perform at Uluwatu Temple. The names are in Sanskrit with Indonesian pronunciation, as seen from the Rawana mask, the Ganesha mask from Bali, and the Hanuman mask from Java.

Other than the performing art of Kakawin, another part of that nation uses masks to perform their indigenous rituals, such as the famous Indonesian mask performance called the Barong Landung from Bali, or the Barong Singha and Barong Macan masks, or the Wayang Topeng and the legend of Panji from Jaca. And the Topeng Keras or Topeng Tua mask from Bali. Most stories fused various beliefs, while the masks are worn in religious rituals, and the dramas tell the stories of national heroes.

Topeng is an ancient art form that is important to the nation. Its origin is as old as the 15th-century CE. and is a traditional ceremony unfolding the nation’s history. Topeng is a symbol of gods, ancestors, or spirits. Topeng was created in the royal court in the past, so the Javan kings or nobles would use the mask to conceal their faces during conflict and war. After the Colonial Era, Topeng traveled to ordinary folks’ lives to use in ritual and story-telling. Thus, Topeng is both terrifying, concealing, and emitting spiritual energy and joyful at the same time.

Masks of the ethnic groups all over Indonesia are very diverse. For example, the Prince Mask Matura Batuk from the Kalimantan Lombok island. Or the masks that exhibit the primordial beliefs in spirits seen in the masks from Papua New Guinea, the Ancestor Mask from the Asmat people, or the Tetum Mask from Timor-Leste.

 

อ้างอิงภาพแหล่งที่มา :

การแสดงรามายาณะ สมัยใหม่ ประเทศอินโดนีเซีย
http://hostingalbumofben.blogspot.com/2013/12/tour-de-java-ramayana-ballet-in.html

การแสดงหนังเงาของอินโดนีเซีย (Dalang, a Balinese wayang kulit)
https://disco.teak.fi/asia/wayang-kulit-and-gambuh-the-east-javanese-heritage/