You’ve probably heard of Wayang Kulit (a traditional Indonesian form of shadow puppet play). After all, it is one of Indonesia’s heritage the country never fails to be proud of. If you don’t know anything about Wayang, please read on! We will tell you what you need to know about Wayang and where to watch Wayang Kulit in Yogyakarta.

What is Wayang?

Before we talk about Wayang Kulit, let’s talk about Wayang as a whole. If you’re not familiar with it, Wayang is another name for the Indonesian shadow puppet. Yes, we’re talking about those shadow puppets that we hold by attaching sticks at the edge of their hands and feet.

What makes Indonesia’s Wayang stands out is the design of the puppet. Unlike other dolls, they do not have a realistic approach where the puppet literally looks like a person/ animal. Sure, Wayang still has the outline of a person. However, the framework has most of its edges and inside carved with traditional Indonesian symbols and patterns.

Another fact that makes Wayang unique is its existence. So far, there is no evidence stating that Wayang existed outside Indonesia. The most accepted theory is Indian origin since most wayang stories are related to Hinduism and Buddhism. Nevertheless, Indonesian Wayang holds a certain degree of beauty and sophistication that makes it stand out from other shadow puppets.

Types of Wayang

There are many kinds of Wayang in Indonesia. In fact, there are seven of them. We won’t talk about all of them, of course. We’ll talk about the most common Wayang we can see, which are:

Wayang Kulit

Wayang Kulit is the most well-known type of Wayang in Indonesia. Wayang is a Javanese word for shadow or imagination. Kulit means skin or leather. So Wayang Kulit is a shadow puppet that is characterized by the material, which is made by skin or leather. Another characteristic of theirs is the clown face of human Wayang. Although Wayang Kulit from Yogyakarta and Surakarta is the most well-known Wayang Kulit, some regions have their wayang characteristics. For example, Bali’s Wayang Kulit is not as exaggerated as the others. At the same time, Lombok’s is more realistic in terms of style.

Wayang Wong

Wong is a Javanese word for a person. True to its name, wayang wong is a person who is acting like Wayang. It is a Javanese theatre performance where the actors imitate the movement of Wayang and their stories. The actors would also use traditional ornaments that resemble those of Wayang’s shape.

Wayang Golek

Golek means puppet in Sundanese/Pasundanese. Wayang Golek’s style and pattern are similar to that of Wayang Kulit’s, except that Wayang Golek is not in 2D. Wayang Golek is just like an ordinary puppet, except that it has a hollow body that consists of only stick for the “Dalang” (the puppeteer) to hold.

Since Wayang Golek has a shape, it can be dressed up quickly according to the region’s clothing style. For example, Sundanese Wayang Golek would wear Sundanese traditional clothing, while Javanese Wayang Golek would wear regal clothing. Wayang Golek also has different face colors at times, such as red or dirty white (depending on the region).

Where to Watch Wayang Kulit in Yogyakarta

The easiest way to see the Wayang Kulit show would be in Yogyakarta. Although it’s a bit hard to find them these days, you still can see Wayang Kulit in two places. There is also a yearly event dedicated to Wayang to celebrate Yogyakarta’s birthday. Here are the places where you can find them:

Sonobudoyo Museum

Museum Sonobudoyo is one of the museums located in the center of the city. The museum has at least ten collections that cover most everything. From geology to technology, you will find all of them here.

The highlight of the museum, however, is its collection of Wayang. You can see all kinds of Wayang in this museum. Moreover, they also have daily wayang show every night except Mondays. If you happen to have some free time in the evening, we recommend visiting the place and seeing the performance. The language might not be understandable (most Wayang performance is in Javanese or Indonesian). But the experience of watching it would be priceless!


If you are visiting Keraton and seeing a dalang preparing for a performance, then it is your lucky day. The appearance of dalang can only mean that there would be a wayang performance on that day.

Unlike Museum Sonobudoyo, Keraton does not hold its wayang show daily. There would be different kinds of performance daily, and the wayang show is one of those performances. The show usually starts in the afternoon after lunch. The seat is also limited, as it can only hold around twenty people. If you don’t mind standing, though, then you’ll be fine. Just note that the show won’t be a quick one, so you must be strong.

Wayang Jogja Night Carnival

Wayang Jogja Night Carnival is a part of the yearly festival held in Yogyakarta. In the festival, there would be wayang performance that can be seen for free in different locations of the city (the event is held on the street). There’s no need to worry about missing the performance since it usually starts in the evening (around 6 to 8 PM).

Ready for a Wayang Performance?

There’s more to Wayang than just a mere puppet shadow. There are different kinds of Wayang, and each of them is performed uniquely. As you travel around Indonesia, you will find the location of other Wayang’s performances. Trying to see Wayang Kulit performance is an excellent start to delve into the world of Wayang. When you see Wayang’s majestic, exquisite, and regal performance, you will be hooked with it.