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  Wayang Kulit

One of the oldest forms of dramatic entertainment, 'wayang kulit' is a performance of flat leather puppets in the hands of a mystic storyteller, the dalang, who casts their shadows on a back-lit screen.

This 'wayang' form exerts a powerful magnetism over Balinese of all ages. With its fluid, ethereal music and epic themes, its eerie shadows, its slapstick comedy, 'wayang kulit' is an extraordinary mixture of ribaldry and mysticism. It is at the same time a morality play, a religious experience, and pure entertainment.

For the Balinese, 'wayang kulit' also serves as a medium through which they learn about their classical literature, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Referred to as "Society's Teacher," the stories narrated are all important in Balinese education, its range of anecdotes covering all of life's situations.

'Wayang kulit' was popular at the court of King Airlangga of East Java in the 11th century. Through the 11th to 14th centuries, it was used by Hindu teachers on Bali to propagate their religion.

Though the chants relating the stories of Rama and Arjuna were sung in ancient Sanskrit, the texts were always interpreted by storytellers into everyday Balinese idiom.

All the classics of Hindu mythology were eventually adapted into this theater so as to inculcate the masses 'wayang kulit' can be seen at important stages in the life of a Balinese: weddings, toothfiling ceremonies, children's birthdays, cremations, marriages, and temple feasts.

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