Plays in the wayang cycles on Java and Bali encompass mythical origins through the present. There are hundreds of plays in the repertoires. Some exist only as outlines of plots with narration, musical clues and sound effects suggested. New plays are created in some cycles or scenes added to old ones.
The Wayang Pura cycle contains the four oldest stories that relate Java's legendary history. All are performed with wayang kulit (shadow puppets). The Ramayana and Mahabharata are also performed using wayang golek (rod puppets). Most are nighttime performances.
The Wayang gedhog cycle contains adventure plays set in the Javanese Majapahit Empire which was at its height during the 14th century AD. Heroes are Damar Wulan, Puyengan and Prince Panji who is the Javanese equivalent of Arjuna from the Mahabharata. Nighttime performances use wayang golek or wayang kulit. Daytime performances use wayang golek or the less common wayang klitik.
The Menak cycle recounts the many adventures of Amir Hamzah (Wong Agung Jayagrana), Muhammad's uncle, whose moral strength comes from Islam. The stories are said to have been created by a Javanese ruler in the late 16th century to help spread Islam. The setting range from Arabia to Europe and involve both historic and mythical characters like the Queen of Fairies. The nighttime performances use wayang golek.
All plays use wayang kulit for both daytime and nighttime performances.
The Balinese versions of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
Chalonarang plays are performed in the daytime to placate Rangda, the witch widow and prevent or avert disasters like cholera or malaria. The plays are magical and only performed by strong, senior dalangs since everything must be absolutely correct to avert death.
Chupak plays present indigenous Balinese tales with some influence from the Chinese.
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