Tumpek Wayang

Saturday October 29, 2011 was a very special holiday in Bali called Tumpek Wayang.  During this holiday, all puppeteers and those who own puppets or gender wayang (the instruments that accompany the shadow puppet theater) will perform a special ceremony. For those born during the week of wayang in the Balinese calendar, Tumpek Wayang is an auspicious day to get a purification rite called melukat or ruwatan.  This holiday is also known as odalan wayang or the birthday of wayang and falls every 210 days.

For years, I have been studying gender wayang music in the village of Mas under a very old dalang (shadow puppeteer) named Ida Bagus Made Geriya.


At 84 years old, Ida Bagus Made Geria is the 10th generation of shadow puppeteer in his family, and has been called upon to administer the Tumpek Wayang purification rite for decades. He is a special type of dalang called a ­Pemangku Dalang, having gone through a special mewinten ceremony making him a priest-like figure. On the day of Tumpek Wayang, dozens of people who are born during the week of the wayang will come to my teacher’s house to pray and be given holy water. This process called melukat is similar to a baptism with mantra-infused holy water (see photos of this).

Being a pemangku dalang, my teacher is also responsible for performing a special stype of shadow puppet theater during this holiday (see blog photo). All Balinese who are born during the week of wayang have to commission a special shadow play performance called wayang sapuh leger to be performed for them at least once in their lifetime. During this ceremony, the dalang will depict a special story called Kama Salah, and at the end of the performance he will make holy water using the puppets and special mantras. This holy water is then used for a purification rite called ruwatan, and is given to the person for whom the ceremony is taking place (see attached photos and video link below).

So why is this week of wayang so special? Well, it all has to do with the Balinese calendar and the Balinese calendar is complicated. There are 7,5, and 3-day cycles that correspond to one another, and Tumpek Wayang falls in a very special position of the calendar called Saniscara Kajeng Kliwon. Saniscara (Saturday), is the last day of the saptawara  (seven-day week); Kajeng is the last day of the Triwara (three-day week); and Kliwon is the last day of the  Pancawara  (five-day week). Because of this position, it is believed that Tumpek Wayang is a very auspicious day for transition, and is also connected with the Sapuh Leger mythology. In the Sapuh Leger mythology, Lord Siwa and Dewi Uma engage in improper sexual intercourse, leading to the birth of Lord Kala. This birth is considered “wrong” or salah wetu, and people born during this time are also considered wrongly born with sickly and unwanted properties. Through the ceremonies that my teacher performs, it is believed that these wrongly born citizens are cleansed and protected from unwanted qualities and the wrath of Lord Kala.

There are many versions of the Sapuh Leger story, but this is the one that my teacher’s son Ida Bagus Anom Suryawan relayed to me:

One day Lord Siwa was having a leisurely walk on the beach with his wife Dewi Uma when the wind blew and Dewi Uma was exposed. At the sight of her beauty, Lord Siwa became lustful and wooed the goddess to make love. Lord Siwa’s semen then fell into the ocean and was discovered by Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu and was given a mantra. From this mantra-infused sperm, an ogre was born named Lord Kala. To honor his son, Lord Siwa gave Lord Kala a boon that he may prey on people who are born during Tumpek Wayang. Later, Lord Siwa had another son named Kumara who was born on Tumpek Wayang. In accordance with Lord Siwa’s boon, Lord Kala was permitted to eat Kumara even though Siwa did not want this to happen. Nevertheless, Lord Kala chased Kumara and they came across a shadow puppet performance. Kumara then hid behind the shadow puppeteer. Lord Kala eventually caught up and since he was so hungry he ate all of the offerings in front of the shadow puppet screen. This made the shadow puppeteer very angry and he demanded that Lord Kala give his offerings back. Since Lord Kala could not, he promised not to prey on the people who born on Tumpek Wayang if they had organized a ceremony and staged a wayang sapuh leger performance.

Click here for a clip of my teacher making holy water during a wayang sapuh leger performance. He is accompanied by Mas Village style gender wayang music.

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