CLOWNS OF HEROES: THE PUNAKAWAN

CLOWNS OF HEROES: THE PUNAKAWAN

In Javanese shadow puppets or wayang, the Punakawan or Panakavan (Phanakavhan) is defined as the clown servants of the wayang heroes. The term Punakawan comes from pana which means understanding, and kawan which means friend. There are four characters symbolized the story of Punakawan – Semar (also known as Ki Lurah Semar), Petruk, Gareng, and Bagong. Semar is the personification of a deity, sometimes said to be the Dhanyang or guardian spirit of the island of Java. In Javanese mythology, deities can only manifest themselves as ugly or otherwise unprepossessing humans, and so Semar is always portrayed as short and fat with a pug nose and a dangling hernia.

His three companions are his adopted sons, given to Semar as votaries by their parents. Petruk is portrayed as tall and gangling with a long nose, Gareng as short with a club foot and Bagong as obese. The Punakawan always appear in the second act of a wayang performance – Pathet Sanga – as servants to the hero of the story regardless of who that hero is. Similar characters appear in other Indonesian wayang and theatrical traditions, including those of Bali and Sunda, under different names.

If you are looking for Punakawan figures in the Mahabharata and Ramayana texts, do not be surprised if the Punakawan figures are not there. Punakawan is a puppet character created by a Javanese poet. According to Slamet Muljana, a historian, the Punakawan figures first appeared in the Ghatotkacasraya literary work by Empu Panuluh in the era of the Kediri Kingdom. Kediri or Kadiri (also known as Panjalu) was the Hindu Javanese Kingdom based in East Java from the year 1042 to around 1222.

Find the Punawakawan statues at Suroloyo Peak, Kulon Progo before ascending to the top of the peak. Tell stories of Punawakan and always remember this poem when you think of them…

Rich without money…

Fight without friends…

Victory without defeating the enemy…

Magic without a spell…

 

This is the attitude of a hero!

Sources: from many sources

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