Colorful sets, a plethora of characters, over 200 performers, cute little kids playing soldiers of monkey king, Sugriva —can all of that tower over a magnificent 8th century Prambanan Hindu temple glowing in the moonlight?
That was the question in my mind when I took my seat inside the open theatre for Prambanan Ramayana. I must admit that I was skeptical about it. After all, I had paid over 20 dollars for a 2-hour show and that’s a lot for somebody like me who watches 3-hour long Bollywood movie for a tenth of that in an air-conditioned hall! Needless to say, I was mesmerized by the show, otherwise, I wouldn’t have spent my energy and time in writing this!
About Prambanan Ramayana
The show happens at a theatre right behind the iconic Prambanan temple. During the dry season in Indonesia (May-Oct), the show is generally held inside an open theatre with a backdrop of the temple while the show happens in a closed theatre (without the backdrop) during the wet months (Nov-April). Four days around every full moon, they play certain episodes from Ramayana. For more detail, refer to their website.
The Prambanan stage is set!
The show starts with enchanting gamelan music. Gamelan artists sit at both ages of the stage with their gongs and other instruments. Just as your mind starts going into trance, characters start appearing on the stage. Rama with his bow and arrow, Hanuman, Sita (Shinta in Indonesia), the army of monkeys and so on! For somebody who grew up watching Ramayana on a 14 inch black and white television, seeing Ramayana in 40-meter wide stage is a real treat.
And the drama unfolds
With drama spanning decades, Ramayana is certainly an epic which can’t be presented in two months, let alone the hours at the Prambanan Ramayana. Thus, the show is episodic, meaning it depicts a certain story from Ramayana. I watched ‘The death of Kumbhakarna’ episode during my visit. Whatever the episode be, you are up for a treat for your eyes and ears with the music and the colorful attire of the characters. And no matter which story is being played, it always has moral undertones, which make you reflect upon yourself.
As long as mountains and rivers will exist on the earth, the legend of Rama will continue to be narrated among people – Valmiki