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  The Dalang

The mystic narrator of the 'wayang kulit', the dalang, is not only a skilled artist but also a great spiritual teacher and philosopher, a master of eloquence and poetic embellishment. He is the true star of this shadow theater that almost single-handedly directs the whole drama.

The 'dalang' must be a charming juggler and have surpassing endurance. Able to remain seated for more than six straight hours while deftly manipulating his puppets. Each puppet may weigh up to a kilo, and he may be required to handle as many as three or four at a time.

The 'dalang' is a refined classical orator and linguist who can sing episodes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana in as many as 47 different poetic measures, demonstrating an astonishing memory. He also conducts the gender 'wayang' orchestra with its drums and other percussion instruments, and he is also an accomplished musician who can play each one of the instruments if need be.

Years of training in the now-defunct Kawi language and a scholar's knowledge of the rich fund of Balinese literature are also required by the 'wayang kulit' master.

The 'dalang' is as well an ordained priest who can make offerings and divert evil, possessing a formidable sakti - magic power - with which he can move his audience to laughter or to tears.

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