Ramayana Shadow Puppets


“Ramayana” (or Rama’s Ways or Romance of Rama) is an epic story about love, war, and power.  It originated from India (written by Indian poet Valmiki in around 300 bc) and became popular in Southeast Asia especially in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia and Indonesia.  (There were also versions from the Southern Philippines.)  In Indonesia where these shadow puppets came from, this tale is told for several days during religious holidays or cultural events.  The puppeteer has shortened this story from days to just 10 minutes and only a few characters are used.

The shadow puppets in the play are Rama, Sita, Ravana, Hanuman,  Cahil (representing Ravana’s soldier), and a deer.  The two hand puppets are King Dasaratha and the Queen (See right top photo showing the two hand puppets on the foreground.)

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This is being revised and is not available as of 2014.

This 10-minute play is presented by one puppeteer. If presented during daytime or outdoors, the puppets are visible to the audience (see photos above and below).  If presented indoors with controlled lights, it is presented behind the screen (as shadow puppets.)


The story as used in this “abbreviated” play:

(retold by the puppeteer)

There lived a king named Dasaratha of Ayodhya.  He loved his three sons, Rama, Lesmana and Bharata.  His rightful heir was Rama but the Queen who was not Rama’s mother interfered reminding the king that when he was dying in the battlefield, it was the Queen who nurtured and saved his life.  In return, King Dasaratha would grant her wishes.  The Queen wanted her son, Bharata to be king and wanted Rama to banish for 14 years.  The King died.  Rama honored his promise and left the kingdom. Rama and his wife Sita faced many challenges.  (Lesmana, Rama’s brother who went with him, is not included in this play.)

    The pivotal challenge in Rama’s life was when Ravana, the demon king of Longka, kidnapped Sita.  Hanuman, the monkey general, helped Rama find Sita.  Hanuman and Rama found their way to Ravana.  Hanuman fought with Ravana’s soldier.  Rama killed Ravana and saved Sita.  After Rama’s exile, he and Sita went back to Ayodhya where he ruled for many years.