Home Culture and Etiquettes Punakawan, Must-have Indonesian Phenomenal Puppets!

Punakawan, Must-have Indonesian Phenomenal Puppets!

What do you expect when visiting Indonesia? Some usual things like batik and statues are perhaps not really amazing for you. Since these two things are really easy to get, you might want to explore more unique things in Indonesia.

In Indonesia, you cannot separate the words ‘unique’ with ‘philosophy’. As this country is really great on the philosophy, each thing that you find will have a really deep meaning.

One of the unique things that you can buy and bring home to your country is these wonderful puppets. These four puppets are called Punakawan. If you see them at a glance, they might be seen as ridiculous characters. Their faces are painted white and their lips are painted red. Their bodies are painted light brown with batik cloth covering their legs. Two of them are seen fat while the rests are seen thin. The fat brothers are named Semar and Bagong, while the thin ones are named Gareng and Petruk.

You can easily find these exclusive puppets on traditional souvenirs markets or at conventional shops throughout the Java Island. They are presented in the form of wayang (traditional leather puppets), pictures, paintings, silver accessories, and even magnetic characters to be stacked on your fridge. You can also easily find it as designs of many souvenirs like t-shirts, bags, sandals, and so on.

Some of you might want to ignore these exclusive puppets but actually you can’t, especially if you are travelling around the Java Island. Punakawan are really famous in Javanese, especially as they have a great role in wayang stories. The ancestors of Javanese really take pride on these four characters as they symbolize the wisdom and truth. The word Puna means bright and clear. Puna in this Punakawan word means seeing something clearly on various natural and social phenomena. Meanwhile kawan means friends, a group of men who had really close relationship. Punakawan means a group of men who are really aware of many natural and social phenomena. They also really love to give a great wisdom related to spirituality and great leadership.

If you see wayang show in some tourism spots in Indonesia, you will find these close friends appear in the middle of the story. They usually come to solve the conflicts and give some suggestions to the other wayang characters. Perhaps you will ask why the audiences laugh loudly when they appear. It surely happens as the Punakawan love to convey wisdom through jokes.
The price of these puppets are vary, based on the material that is used. For silver souvenirs, you might spend Rp 25,000 to have Punakawan puppets.


/// Written by Riezty Wulan, Indonesia