Shadow puppet, Buta Cakil

This puppet represents the character Buta Cakil, a multi-purpose 'buta' or demon figure and appears only in the Javanese version of the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata. He is the favourite antagonist of Arjuna, one of the Pandawa (Pandava) brothers and his sons. He is usually killed in a 'lakon' or play and re-emerges in another one only to be killed all over again.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 Korawa 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, Buta Cakil
20th century
Java, Indonesia
Object size: H80.2cm
Accession No.
animal hide. cane. paint. rattan strip. twine.
Collection of
Asian Civilisations Museum
Theatre Artefacts