On 7th November 2003, UNESCO declared traditional shadow puppet theatre, Wayang Kulit, of Indonesia as a masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The reason behind this was to preserve this unique Indonesian heritage. Wayang is an Indonesian word for theater. This is basically referred to the traditional puppet theater shows that are popular for their conventional background.
There are three important types of wayang , first is Wayang Kulit (shadow puppet) , second is Wayang Golek (wooden puppets, West Java) and third one is Wayang Orang. This is not a puppet, but real people are playing the roles of wayang.
There is no clear indication as to when it really started in Indonesia, but it was so compelling on Indonesian culture that still certain features of the traditional puppet theatre are remaining. These theatres might have been existing even before the arrival of Hinduism in Indonesia. Mainly of the stories in wayang dramas were extracted from the Mahabharata or the Ramayana, and symbolizing the continuous conflicts between good and evil. When Islam was spread in this region wayang also adopted the Muslim teachings and beliefs.
Wayang Kulit, shadow puppets are the most famous in all types and these are widespread in Java and Bali in Indonesia. The literal meaning of Kulit is “skin”, and it relates to the leather making of the puppets. These wonderful puppets are carved with excellent skills and are controlled by buffalo horn handles. The objects of these puppets may vary from region to region but the most beautiful factor is that these puppets have retained their traditional designs.
Wayang performances are usually conducted for religious occasions, purification ceremonies, or when some transitional event occurs within the life of the people. But this art can also be seen in many other courses of life.