Tumpek Wayang: The Lord of Puppets Celebrated
Tumpek Wayang is a recurring rahinan, or special day, for the Balinese. It comes every 6 months and is always on a Saturday, but there is no specific date due to the differences in the Gregorian and Balinese calendars. Without going deeper into the complicated Balinese calendar, you should know that there are 30 wuku in the Balinese calendar. Each wuku has 7 days, making for a total of 210 days in one Balinese year. Tumpek Wayang happens on the seventh day of the twenty-seventh wuku. But perhaps that’s something to discuss in a later post.
A theatrical expression in Bali, Wayang (or shadow puppet) is often performed as entertainment as well as an integral part of a number of Balinese Hindu Rituals. The Wayang figures, normally portraying Hindu characters, are manipulated with rods by these puppeteer, or Dalang. He tells the story to captivated crowds alongside the gamelan orchestra. They are not only forms of entertainment however, often the stories of the Dalang were used to share and spread lessons of good morals to the people.
Although Tumpek Wayang is a holiday for puppets and puppeteers, it is considered very unlucky if a baby is born on this day. The Balinese believe the child is prone to illness and injury from Kala, the demon god, and if a child should come to this world on this inopportune day, a special ceremony has to be performed in order to purify the child and protect it from harm.
Out of all the Tumpek days in the Balinese calendar (yes, there’s a lot of them!), Tumpek Wayang is considered the most mystical. It is said in old Balinese records that on Tumpek Wayang, the god Shiva gives permission to a demon to devour a child born on the day. Thus to protect new-borns, the Balinese conduct a special ceremony called the Sapuh Leger to ward off demons and prevent harm from befalling the child. The Sapuh Leger ceremony requires the help of a puppeteer, who will play special puppets as part of the ceremony. It is also believed that Tumpek Wayang is a very unlucky day, similar to Friday the 13th in the West. Balinese myth tells us the story of an improper sexual relation between the god Shiva and the goddess Uma, which gave birth to Dewa Kala, a scary demon. Thus, the Balinese tend to stay low during the day as it is ruled by the demons.
However, the Balinese also believe that at the same time, the god Ishvara manifests on earth to protect humankind from evil and provide enlightenment. Enlightenment is believed to come in the form of artists, who are provided with the powers to create art and craft. On Tumpek Wayang, all sorts of masks, shadow puppets, and other forms of art are spiritually cleansed through ceremonies. Therefore, it is also known as the day to celebrate art in all forms.