A Rajamala kris hilt




Indonesia, Java (Cirebon or Tegal)


Late 19th or early 20th century






Length 102 mm

COMMENT. Wayang is a traditional form of puppet theatre in Malaysia and Indonesia. It is most popular on the islands of Java and Bali. The term "wayang" is used to mean both the theatre itself and the puppets participating in the performances. Actually, there are several forms of wayang, in particular wayang kulit (shadow theatre), wayang golek (wooden puppet theatre) and wayang topeng (theatre of masked actors), but the term most often refers specifically to the shadow theatre. Dramatic stories are told through shadows thrown by puppets, which sometimes combined with human characters. Most of the episodes and characters are taken from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the two major epic poems of ancient India. A special category of puppet characters of the wayang theatre are demons called raksasa or buta (bhuta) in Javanese. Both words are of Sanskrit origin. The presented hilt is a carved sculptural image of Rajamala, the invincible warrior of the kingdom of Wirata, where the protagonists of the Mahabharata, the Pandawa (Pandava) brothers, were hiding from their enemies. He had a frightening appearance and possessed a special magical power that allowed him to come to life every time after death. Eventually, Rajamala was killed and even more disfigured by Bima (Bhimasena), the most powerful of the five Pandawa brothers, who was hiding in Wirata under the guise of a cook named Abilawa. In the wayang theatre, Rajamala is performed as a demon and portrayed as an ugly creature with a long nose.