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Old 6th September 2019, 07:05 AM   #12
A. G. Maisey
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Join Date: May 2006
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It seems that in spite of my best efforts I am not infrequently misunderstood, even though I am a protagonist for clear writing and simple expression, it appears that much of what I write is read as if it contains messages that I never intended.

I apologise to all who may read this for my unintentional lack of clarity. In this post I have attempted a slightly different format, in that I have interpolated individual responses to each of Gustav's comments, hopefully this will reduce the misunderstandings.


Alan, if you address me in the last two paragraphs, - I have diversified my attention for some time already, and posted a "Majapahit era carving where human figure is represented with some parts of it's body rendered in the lung-lungan style", something, at which you didn't look consciously until now and doubted its existence in Majapahit period.


I apologise Gustav, if you thought I was still speaking directly to you, rather than giving a rather rambling response to your post for all to read, this was entirely my error in failing to clearly identify where my remarks directed to you ceased, and my remarks intended for whoever might care to read them began.

I often tend to write in what I think of as a conversational style, as if we were all sitting in a big circle, where some remarks might be for one person and heard by all, and other remarks are obviously for everybody. The reason I write like this is because I need to squeeze my posts to this Forum in between other obligations, so I mostly write from the top of my head in an undisciplined manner, and I admit this can cause some confusion.

Again, my apologies for confusing you. I will try to keep this present post very simple and very direct, but regrettably, it might be a rather long post.

The Majapahit era carving to which you refer is the one that Bernet Kempers has identified as coming from Tulung Agung?
If so, this carving has a figure that Bernet Kempers identifies as a punakawan, and another that he identifies as a bhuta. We can accept that the punakawan is intended to be seen as human, this punakawan figure has no parts of its body hidden or represented as tendrils or foliage.
On the other hand, the bhuta does have some parts of its body represented as foliage. Bhutas are spirits or demons of the forest, this sort of representation of a bhuta is not at all unusual in older Javanese "raksasa" hilts; I'm guessing that if I went looking for this type of representation of bhutas in other places, I would probably find the same or a similar style applied.

My own interpretation of this carving is that we might possibly have a scene that includes a specific bhuta, Bhoma, present. Unless we can positively identify this bas-relief as a part of a Tantri series, then all I have to form my opinion is a carving in the absence of context. Perhaps Bernet Kempers knew that this carving was only one of a series, in which case his interpretation could well be valid, but if he did not have this additional information, well then, he is just guessing out of context too.

In any case, the carving shows a man & a bhuta, the bhuta is repesented in a usual way, the man is represented as a man, complete with fingers and toes --- or most of them anyway.

Regarding Panakawan -

from what I did read about Panakawan until now I understand, that they are purely Javanese invention, as they doesn't exist in Indian sources,


Yes, this is so.

and that comic element surely was a part of character of Panakawan earlier then Raden Patah's politics.

Yes, possibly, but it does seem to have intensified following the Demak bans.

The thing is this:- modern wayang kulit performances are full of social comment, moral teaching and philosophy. I am uncertain whether or not this was always so, but what we do know is this:- modern wayang kulit was used as tool of conversion by Islam.

A wayang kulit performance can last from dusk to dawn, and it is necessary for the dalang to keep his audience interested, he does this by introducing comedy and topical comment into the performance. The clown servants that are commonly called "punakawan" are critical in this delivery of humour. The punakawans are possibly indigenous deities that were pushed into the background by Jawa Hindu, then Islam, they actually are intended to represent the common people and their purpose in a wayang performance is to upset the social order, they usually speak in ngoko, while the characters with higher status are speaking krama, or krama inggil, or maybe kawi. These days most Javanese people cannot understand everything said in a wayang performance, but they do understand the clown-servants, so the jokes often get delivered by those punakawan.

For the first time I also hear that comic Panakawan are associated only with Ramayana. Here my experience totally differs.

I'm afraid that by reducing my comment to bare minimum rather than being all inclusive, I have caused you to misunderstand me Gustav. What I wrote was this:-

"--- Moreover, the comic punakawan is associated with the Ramayana, and the Tantri stories do not involve the Ramayana.---"

The punakawan in the wayang context is not limited to only the Ramayana, taking only Semar, who is the senior punakawan and the elder brother of Batara Guru, one of the names of Siwa, Semar is actually a god, but he appears as the common man, in different forms of the wayang, and different plays, Semar can have different sons, so the concept of "punakawan" can be extended into many more places than just the Ramayana. I mentioned the Ramayana because I think everybody knows of the Ramayana and in the Javanese Ramayana, Semar and his sons are decidedly humourous.

If you re-read my comment you will find that I have neither stated nor implied that punakawans exist only in the Ramayana. I have said two things, firstly that the comic punakawan is associated with the Ramayana, secondly that the Tantri stories are not associated with the Ramayana. I have said just this, and no more.

If we take a look to reliefs of Candi Surowono, c. 1400, the behavior of Panakawan serves as commentary to the actions of protagonist Arjuna.
Sometimes they do just the opposite of their master, for example, during Arjunas temptation they busily make love with the female servants of the nymphs. Sometimes they mimic actions of Arjuna, as in the battle scene, where they make threatening gestures at Siva.


I'm familiar with Candi Surowono, in fact I think I have a complete photographic record of all the reliefs that are still present on this candi. Only the base remains, and it has a mix of stories, there are some Tantri stories, the Arjunawiwaha story runs right around the base, but it is broken by another couple of stories that I've forgotten the names of.

In fact, I doubt that we can call the clown-servants in the Surowono reliefs "punakawans" , I might be wrong, but I doubt that Semar is present in these reliefs, and in the wayang context we cannot have punakawans in the absence of Semar. Yes, this is a bas-relief, rather than a wayang play, and clown servants might be referred to as "punakawans" in the principle sense of the word, especially as it applied in Old Javanese, but if we do that we lose the inherent comic implication that "punakawan" + "wayang" generates. In fact, I think one authority on Surowono refers to the clown servants as "grotesque dwarfs", I forget who that was.

So I am quite sceptic about your sentence "... because it seems probable that the comic nature of the wayang panakawans did not arise until wayang golek was replaced by wayang purwa in the 15th century in Demak, the replacement occurred because of Raden Patah's prohibition that applied to the wayang golek puppets.", also because of another reason.

If you really mean that, Wayang Golek is a Wayang figure style, which quite certainly even didn't exist in 15th cent., and developed in Cirebon area most probably in 17th cent.


It is very difficult to be too positive about anything that concerns wayang golek. We can be relatively certain about a lot that concerns wayang purwa, wayang wong, wayang klitik, wayang beber &etc & etc & etc but with wayang golek we do not really have very much to go on For instance we do not know with certainty that it dates from the 17th century, we tend to assume that it came to North Coast Jawa from China, but we do not know this with certainty either. Many assumptions are applied to wayang golek.

What we do know is that many people in Jawa who take an interest in this sort of thing believe that Raden Patah objected to figures in the round being used in puppet plays, and also objected to the wayang kulit puppets being actually seen by the audience, so he banned representations of gods and god-like characters that could be seen. Because religious leaders were very keen to use the wayang plays for the purposes of religious propaganda they replaced the puppet plays using visible characters, with wayang purwa, that is, shadow theatre.

What did originate at a later date, I think it was during the time of PBII, around 1700&something, was wayang golek menak.

The passing of time tends to distort perception, and a lot of things that we believe to be so today are really very open to question. It is as I have sometimes said:- the more I learn, the less I know.


Wayang Purwa is the classic Wayang repertoire, which consists of Jawa-Dewa, Arjuna-Sasrabau, Ramayana and Mahabrata. Other sources list Para-Dewa, Lokapala, Ramayana and Mahabarata-Baratayuda.

So Wayang Golek and Wayang Purwa belong to completely different categories, like grapes and bottles.



No Gustav, all wayang is one category. The word wayang indicates a traditional performance, there are many different forms of wayang, and the repertoire of each form can be either similar to, or the same as, or completely different to another form.

Regarding Tantri stories and the relief I posted - there is a story called Angling Dharma, of which the Tantri story "Language of Animals" is an introduction.

Yes, this is one of the versions

Here a jewel-crowned snake princess, her father snake king appears, later a priest, father of Ambarawati, which is turned into Rakshasa. Ambarawati, arguing with her Rakshasa-father, travels in company of Panakawan.
And there is another Tantri story "Goose and Tortoise", where a goose carries two tortoises with help of a stick. The tortoises are distracted, let the stick go and fall to the ground.


True, and many, many more moralistic teaching tales.

But we do really need to consider the rather loose use of the word "punakawan". In the wayang context a punakawan is Semar or one of his sons, in a wayang performance that does not include Semar, it is perhaps questionable whether a grotesque dwarf, or a clown-servant can in fact be called a "punakawan" in the wayang sense, but any member of a group of retainers and followers can be called a "punakawan" in the ordinary lay usage of the word.

So when Bernet Kempers calls the figure in the Tulung Agung relief a punakawan and then uses the word "comic", to me, that implies a wayang association with Semar. Where is Semar? Or is it a Tantri story? Or is it something else entirely? I don't know, but with this relief taken totally out of any context at all, we could all hypothesise forever, and know nothing more with any certainty at the end of it all.


Perhaps Bernet Kempers saw it as a gathering of protagonists from two stories, possibly depicted on the same building.

Possible.

All this sort of discussion eventually reduces to hypotheses, and in the case of the present root of the discussion, all this following commentary is really pretty irrelevant. There is very little that can be stated with certainty, there are a lot of questions. We can recount popular belief, we can wheel out the opinions of some of the recognised Greats --- who seldom seem to be able to reach agreement between themselves in any case.

This discussion began with a rather refined interpretation of a pretty typical North Coast hilt that included some design modification.

Gustav, you asked a question, or perhaps a couple of questions that to my mind seemed to be non-specific and obscure.

Do you feel that you might be able to re-phase these questions in a more specific way?

Perhaps you have some of your own ideas that you would like to run past us?
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