18. Literature:

Ramayana and Mahabharata are most popular in Indonesia. They were probably translated in the 11th century during the reign of King Airlangga in the ancient Kawi language.
King Airlangga was himself a great scholar and ascetic who spent many years in the jungle in meditation.
Ramayana and Mahabharata are the basis of innumerable dances, plays, sculptures, paintings and music themes.
The entire ancient literature has been written on the leaves of lontar palm. The literature has thus been preserved well in many libraries of Indonesia and also at Gedung Kritya in Singaraja in Bali.

a. Ramayana:

Ravana the evil king of Sri Lanka kidnaps Sita, the wife of Lord Rama. In the battle that follows, Lord Rama kills the evil king with the help of Hanuman the monkey king and his followers and rescues his wife Sita (Shinta).
Thus Virtue prevails over evil. Ramayana exhorts us to lead a life based on Dharma.

b. Mahabharata:

It relates about the war between two families, the Pandavas and the Kauravas. During the battle Lord Krishna gave a discourse to Arjuna that it was his dharma to oppose and fight evil and injustice.
Finally he convinced him to fight the evil Kauravas and defeat them.

c. Arjuna Wiwaha about heroism of Arjuna was written in 1035 AD by MPU Kanwa.

d. Bharat Yudha about the battle between Pandavas and Kauravas was written in 1157 A.D by MPU Sedah.

e. Panji Cycle: Originated in East Java 500 years ago. It is written about Prince Panji and his beautiful bride Candra Kirono (Ray of the moon).
Tales from Panji cycle are the basis of many masked and puppet dances.

f. Letters of a Javanese Noble: In modern literature, special mention must be made of a book containing letters of Raden Adjeng Kartini, who wrote this modern master piece. It describes the patriotic feelings of Kartini through letters written to her Dutch friends. She also wrote strongly in favour of education for women and their welfare.
Kartini's day is celebrated throughout Indonesia with public meetings, lectures and parades etc. in order to propagate her ideas.

Raden Adjeng Kartini

g. Chairil Anwar's: angry poems against Japanese are well known.

h. Rendrawas another gifted poet, actor and a great director of dramas.

i. Panchatantra:In India Panchatantra holds a unique place. Pandit Vishnu Sharma wrote it in 200 B.C. in Sanskrit. It has been translated into modern Indonesian recently by Jyoti Daryanani and Chandiramani. Printed by Dian Rakyat Jakarta.
Panchatantra is about 3 princes who were absolute idiots. The king hands them over to a great scholar Pandit Vishnu Sharma, who arouses their interest in life by telling them stories about animals. Very cleverly, through these stories, he imparts knowledge to them and guides them how to live in harmony with all.
After Ramayana & Mahabharata, Panchatantra is the most popular Shastra in India.


into English by Chandiramani & Prof. Dr. S. B. Hudlikar (Germany). Touched up by Sylvia Gidley (UK).
Into German by Chandiramani, Prof. Dr. S.B. Hudlikar (Germany), Touched up by Dr. A. Karl (Austria).
Into Indonesian by Jyoti Daryanani and Chandiramani, Touched up by Sri Artaria of Dian Rakyat, Jakarta.

19. Badui Tribe:

For the last 400 years this tribe numbering around 8000 has been allowed to stay in isolation and maintain its customs and culture on a mountain. in Java. They are highly mystic and practice meditation intensively. They follow a religion which is a mixture of Hinduism and Animism.

20. Tenggerese:

Around 3,00,000 Tenggerese live in 40 villages around Mount Bromo at a height of 3000 meters. They follow a religion that is a mixture of Hinduism and Buddhism. They live in complete harmony with all. They are highly respected for their straight forwardness.
You will find a huge tree in every village strewn with flowers and people saying prayers under these trees.

Mount Bromo Kasada Ceremony

21. Music:

There is a lot of similarity between our music systems. Tilang, Bhopali and Shudh Sarang are few of the common ragaas between our two systems.
Special mention must be made of their gamelan music which is soul stirring.
It is a percussion type orchestra made up of mainly bronze and wooden xylophones. Drums, flutes, gongs, and sometimes singers and dancers join in to make it livelier.

Gamelan orchestra

Sundanese music is the nearest to Indian music. The orchestra consists of Kecapi, a string instrument, Gendang drums, flute, iron gongs, and Angklung which is a frame made out of bamboos.


a. Wayang Kulit:  There are innumerable types of dances but special mention must be made of Wayang Kulit, a shadow dance.
It is usually a one-man show by a person called Dalang who controls the movements of various puppets plus talks with various voices befitting each character.
It is a historical fact that Si Galigi played wayang kulit in 93O A.D. He played Bima from the Ramayana before a royal court.
Shadow dance has been practiced in Indonesia for the last 2000 years and probably the inspiration came from South India.
Wayang Kulit Dancing girl artefact from
Moen jo Daro Sind-2OOO B.C
Tales from Mahabharata, Ramayana and Panji cycle are frequently used in Wayang Kulit.
b. Masks   play a very important role in Indian dancing as well as Indonesian dancing.
Indian Mask Indian Mask Indonesian Mask Indonesian Mask
c. Masked Dances:
There is a lot of similarity between Indian and Indonesian dances, like the popular Chhau (Masked dance) dance of Orissa, Kathakali of Kerala, and Topeng, (masked dance) of Indonesia. The similarity is astounding.
Kathakali dance,
Photo from
Dr. Kanak Rele's
Nalanda Dance Research
Centre, Mumbai - India.
Indonesian mask
Chhau dancing by
Prakarti Kashyap
d. Ballets based on Ramayana and Mahabharata are worth mentioning
Mahabharata Ramayana
Rama and Sita/shinta
d. Other Dances
However each area in Indonesia has its own dance. Each one is unique. Do not miss it.
1. In Java, they have Reog, Bedaya Kitawang and Golek Ayun;

Reog Dance in Java

2.In Bali, they have Kecak, Legong and sang Hyang Dedari (trance).

Legong Dance - Bali

3. In Sumatra, they have Lilin (Candle) and Rontak dance.

Dance from Sumatra

4. In Sulawesi, they have Pakarena dance praying for the safe return of the seaman.

Pakarena Dance - Sulawesi

5. In Kalimantan they have Giring dance which is a ritual dance.

Ritual Dance - Kalimantan

6. In Irian Jaya, they have a war dance.

War Dance Irian Java

Back   Next