A musical ethnography of the Ruwatan performance in Central Java : tradition and change
Ruwatan is the Javanese term that comes from the word ruwat, to cleanse or release from curse or misfortune. A ruwatan ceremony involves a sacred wayang kulit (shadow puppet) play that is performed as a form of exorcism for people (sukerta) who have fallen victim to personal disaster and are considered magically vulnerable to the evil god Bathara Kala. Ruwatan is an established, conservative tradition of performance on which current changes are working and will, in the future produce certain effects. Prior to the 1600s ruwatan were performed as paper scroll plays (wayang heber), but in 1630 wayang kulit became the accepted medium for ruwatan ceremonies. Wayang kulit ruwatan plays have been performed in Central Java for over three centuries. The cultural tradition of ruwatan survives in modern Java despite a rapidly changing society. Changes in education, politics, the economy, religious beliefs, social relations, moral beliefs and lifestyles influence the tradition of ruwatan. The adaptation and innovation of this cultural tradition has ensured its enduring meaning and function in a changing society. Various elements of the ruwatan ceremony have changed, including the duration of performance, the wayang figures used, the music of the performance, the number of sukerta people believed to be impure, the number and variation of offerings, the criteria for dhalang ruwat (ruwatan puppeteers) and the chants performed. The purpose of the dissertation is to examine not only the tradition of ruwatan that has remained largely unchanged over the last century, but also to describe the changes that have occurred in ruwatan ceremonies. 'Thick description' is the method of research used to scrutinise the various perspectives on ruwatan and perceptions of change. Geertz explains in his article 'Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture' (1973, 4) that thick description is "a' narrowed specified and theoretically more powerful concept of culture." The fieldwork in Indonesia involved interviews with several dhalang ruwat, traditional arts lecturers, ruwatan hosts, sukerta people, ruwatan audiences, and traditional arts students. The introductory chapter discusses the significance of wayang kulit performance in Central Java and provides definitions for the terms: wayang kulit, wayang purwa, ruwatan and ritual. The education of the dhalang, Javanese religions and the genres of wayang kulit performance are described. A section attends to social and cultural change in Central Java followed by a statement describing the argument of the writer. The final section of the chapter discusses the methodology used in the dissertation and provides a review of the literature followed by a statement of purpose. The second chapter examines the types of ruwatan performance, stories of ruwatan, stories of Bathara Kala, sukerta, criteria for dhalang ruwat, sacred offerings, chants, beliefs surrounding ruwatan performances, and the differences between ruwatan and all-night wayang kulit performances. The third chapter examines the three hour ruwatan performance of Ki. Toyo Carito. The following chapter discusses the diverse interpretations of ruwatan in Java. In chapter five change in ruwatan performance is discussed in relation to social and cultural change in Central Java. The concluding chapter examines the forces that have influenced the cultural arts including ruwatan performance in Central Java. The appendices include fieldwork questionnaires, the tonal systems of slendro and pelog, a description of patet, a certificate of puppetry, figures (photos of a ruwatan performance and wayang characters), genealogies of the gods and Javanese kings, a description of the gamelan instruments, maps of Java and a transcript of the ruwatan performance of Ki. Toyo Carito (22 August 1996). A video recording of the ruwatan performance of Ki. Toyo Carito is referred to in the text.
Advisor: Johnson, Henry
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Music
Publisher: University of Otago.
Research Type: Thesis