Yogyakarta, Central Java, Indonesia
Dance mask of Jatayu, late 19th century
wood, gold, gemstones, leather
21.5 x 15.5 x 16.0 cm
National Museum of Indonesia, Jakarta
An old tradition states that the 16th-century Islamic holy man, Sunan Kalijaga, established mask performance in Java. However, the enduring importance of the Indian Ramayana and Mahabharata epics, as well as local romantic adventures such as the Tale of Panji, indicates that dance drama probably existed in Indonesia well before that time.
In the Ramayana, the majestic bird Jatayu assisted the hero, Rama, in his arduous quest to rescue his beloved wife Sita from Ravana, the evil king of Lanka.