Shadow puppet, Bratasena

This puppet represents the character Bratasena or Bima (Bhima) in his youth, in the Javanese 'wayang kulit' or leather shadow puppet theatre tradition. He is the second eldest of the Pandawa (Pandava) brothers and one of the most popular figures in the 'wayang'. He is a strong character as reflected in his round eyes and wide stance. He is also instantly recognisable by his portruding finger-nails that act as his weapon. The Mahabharata relates the conflict and struggle between two sets of cousins, Pandawa and Korawa (Kaurava), over the rule of the kingdom of Astina Hastinapura). The Pandawa brothers eventually overcome the Korawas in the Great War, the Bharatayuda. The vast majority of the 'wayang' plays performed are drawn from the two great Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata as well as local stories of Javanese origin.'Wayang kulit' is considered the highest of the Javanese performing arts. Performed in the royal courts of Java as early as the ninth century, this tradition continues to be treasured as one of the 'pusaka' or sacred heirlooms of the court. 'Wayang kulit' is traditionally performed on ritual days and religious ceremonies. It has also been adapted more recently for television and public education campaigns.

Indigenous Name
wayang kulit, Bratasena
20th century
Java, Indonesia
Object size: 82 x 49 cm
Accession No.
Collection of
Asian Civilisations Museum
Theatre Artefacts