Punakawan – Paper Toy Series

In Wayang, the ksatria of Pandawa, especially Arjuna was always accompanied by their loyal servants clown, by the name of Punokawan. Semar and his sons Gareng, Dawala and Cepot are the servants of kings and ksatrias with good behavior fighting for the truth. Togog and Bilung, on the contrary are serving bad rulers and knights. Although they are only servants with ugly faces and disproportional bodies, but they are very wise and good advisers.


Semar is in fact divine and very wise. He is said to be the god Sang Hyang Ismaya in human form, but as a punishment for a misdeed he was given a grotesque form and sent to Earth to serve the descendants of the gods. In puppet shows, Semar is never mistaken and is deceptively powerful. His checkered sarong denotes his sacred origin, while his whitened face symbolizes his nature as a kind and noble teacher. He only has one tooth, which indicates he speaks only the truth.


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.


Always smiling, Dawala is a constant character in Sundanese / Javanese puppet versions of the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Also known as Petruk, Dawala is one of several  Punakawan  characters playing various roles, such as war advisors, entertainers, social critics and clowns. They are a further source of truth and wisdom. Dawala in particular, ridicules atrocity with comedic antics.


Gareng is a constant character in Sundanese / Javanese puppet shows representing the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Son of Semar, the god sent to Earth to serve other gods, Gareng is one of the  Punakawan  characters intended to provide comedic relief. Though they may appear physically grotesque, they are always loyal servants and wise counselors. Gareng does not speak well, and whatever he says is usually wrong, which makes him a beloved and hilarious character.

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