Unsolved Mystery of Wayang Jimat

In Indonesia a traditional Javanese puppet show called Wayang Kulit (Shadow Puppet) normally made from animal skin, however Wayang Kulit in the village of Ndakan, Magelang, Central Java called Wayang Jimat made from human skin and it is believed has special power. Even though in Wayang Jimat there is 80 characters, interestingly only one character named Arjuna (Janoko) which believed has supernatural or magical power because it was made from human skin, while the rest of characters in Wayang Jimat made from cow (bull) skin. The word of "Jimat" was taken from Javanese language means Amulet (if an object has a supernatural power or strength).

For several hundred of years until now, Wayang Jimat should only be stored and performed in small village on Mount Merbabu slopes called the Village of Ndakan. According to Sumitro (70), the elder of the village,a long time ago Wayang Jimat was given by the King of Keraton Surakarta to Ki Ajar Ndaka as a present because at that time he had succeeded in healing the prince.

Ki Ajar Ndaka was a hermit from Mount Merbabu slopes. The king of Keraton Surakarta heard that he has extraordinary medical skills, so he bring his son to meet Ki Ajar Ndaka in the hope the hermit can heal his son's illness. He said he is able to heal the prince. After he recited incantations and give some medical potions, he order the prince to go back to Keraton and take some rest.

Few days later, his illness gradually cured. Soon afterward, the king gave orders to his soldiers to bring Ki Ajar Ndaka into Keraton Surakarta as an honorable guest. At first, the King wanted to appoint him as one of the royal family, however the hermit refused it. Then, the King want to give him a land property and plenty of gold coins, he also refused it. After various gifts he humbly rejected, the King gave him one of Keraton's heirloom in the form of a wooden crate which containing Wayang Jimat. Finally, he accepted the gift with pleasure.

He bring the wooden crate back to his place in Mount Merbabu slopes. He treat the Keraton's heirloom nicely until he died. Just before he died, he advised that Wayang Jimat should be treated nicely and must be performed to entertain people. However, he wanted Wayang Jimat is not passed on to his offspring, but to the elders of the village. To commemorate his services to the village, local people named the village as the Village of Ndakan

People believe that one of the characters, Arjuna, is made from human skin and during the process of making, the sculptor using the water for bathing the corpse. Sumitro who has been trusted to keep Wayang Jimat for 30 years said, this heirloom must be treated by the elder of the village for generations which capable to treat it nicely, not by outsiders or someone elses beside the elders.

Now, the old heirloom is stored inside Sumitro's house. Wayang Jimat is still kept inside the original wooden crate (made from Jati wood (Teak tree) with 1 metres long, 3 metres width and height half of meters) as when Ki Ajar Ndaka received it from the King of Keraton Surakarta.

Wayang Arjuna
Sumitro said, only character of Arjuna (Janoko) which made from human skin, it is from the skin of a young man who live around Surakarta when Keraton Surakarta have not been established. However, he has no clue who the young man was. In general, character of Arjuna has small body (diminutive), sharp nose and tall. Normally, it has bright yellow skin, however Arjuno in Wayang Jimat has darker skin, if it touched it will feel softer, lighter and thinner than the usual.

When Sumitro first store Wayang Arjuna in the wooden crate, often he heard loud noise sounds like someone is knocking from inside the crate every Friday Kliwon night. Strangely, the knocking noise subsides when he give an offering on the top of the crate. So, every Friday Kliwon he regularly gave offerings of flowers, incense and water on the top of it. Beside that, inside the crate there is a letter which written on palm leaves. No one has been able to translate the letters until now. Perhaps therein lies the secret of Wayang Arjuna.

Before the performance of Wayang Jimat, people have to prepare the offerings so that the show will run well. They explain that Sumitro as the dalang (puppet master) is possessed by spirit while he runs the Wayang Jimat performance. The interesting thing is that he does not know the story until he is done.

"Only the elder of the village is capable to play it especially the character of Arjuna. When it is performed by other dalang, Wayang Arjuna feels heavy and the dalang's hands will be shaky," said Sumitro.

It also has to be performed at least twice a year in the Village of Ndakan on month of Sapar and Syawal, these two months has good omen according to Javanese calenders.


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