Cepot is the name used in Sundanese (West Java – Indonesia), this puppet’s birthplace. Bagong is the more common name in the rest of Java. Originating in the Javanese culture, Cepot / Bagong, clown and servant, has been added to the great Hindu epics, including the Mahabharata.
According to Javanese legend, when the God Ismaya was ordered to go down to earth and become Semar, the guardian of the Knight, the great royal warrior class in Hinduism, Ismaya complained that he would be lonely and needed a friend. The gods caustically replied that he could have his shadow as a friend. When he reached the earth, Semar’s shadow transformed itself into a human form and took the name of Cepot or Bagong.
Almost identical in appearance to Semar, Cepot became one of the panakawan, clown-servants to the Knight. Noted for his impish, sassy jokes and ability to mimic others, using a loud, self-important voice, Cepot and his family of clowns add comic relief to the drama of the ancient Hindu stories. Outwardly stupid, the panakawan in reality are the common sense advisors of the more lofty knights and mask their wisdom with clumsy, lower-class behavior.