Address : Prambanan, Sleman, Yogyakarta
Sendratari Ramayana, also known as Ramayana Ballet, is an art exhibition that combines drama and dance to perform Ramayana story. Ramayana story is a legend beautifully carved on the wall of Siwa Temple, one of the temples in Prambanan complex. If you walk around the temple in a pradaksina (clockwise) direction, you will see the plot of Ramayana story on the reliefs.
The story of Ramayana played in the performance is based on the sculpture on the wall of Siwa Temple. The ballet stages an episode of Rama’s life in his endeavor to free Shinta who is kidnapped by Rahwana, the king of Alengka. The long and thrilling plot is divided into four lakon or chapters, including the kidnap of Shinta, Anoman’s mission to Alengka, the death of Kumbakarna and Rahwana, and the reunion of Rama and Shinta.
The whole story is wrapped in such a series of dance movements and steps performed by hundreds of gorgeous dancers to the accompaniment of gamelan (Javanese traditional music). There is no dialog spoken by the dancers on stage, only sinden’s (female Javanese singer) voice telling the general plot in Javanese language through songs. There are Indonesian and English narrations available for people who do not speak Javanese.
The first thing you will notice in the location is a majestic stage with a background of glowing Prambanan Temple as the beams of yellowish spotlights are shining around it. On the corner of the stage, sit tens of niyaga (gamelan musicians) with their instruments. Sounds produced through the kenong, gambang, saron, kendang, and, once in a while, the gong, will accompany you throughout the show. The melody will carry the audience away, bringing in imagination to enter the world of Ramayana.
Right after the master of ceremonies opens the show, the stage lights will be turned off, leaving only a silhouette of Parambanan Temple glowing even brighter in the dark. Suddenly, the spotlights lit the stage and you will see some dancers coming out performing dances of the first scene in chapter one. Then from up the stairs will appear two dayang (female personal servants/guards), each carrying a golden bow, followed by a beautiful princess walking down gracefully. She is Shinta, the daughter of Prabu Janaka. By this time, it is told that her father is holding a contest to find a man for her. It turns out that Rama Wijaya wins the contest and gets Shinta.
The show goes on with the adventure of Rama, Shinta, and Laksmana in Dandaka Jungle, in which they meet Rahwana, who wants to possess Shinta. He believes that Shinta is an incarnation of Dewi Widowati, whom he has been seeking for a very long time. Rahwana then transforms one of his men into a handsome deer. Shinta is attracted to it and asks Rama to hunt it down for her. So he does, but then he does not come back. After some time, Laksmana goes to find Rama, leaving Shinta within protection of a magic circle. Nevertheless, the protection fails and Rahwana succeeds in kidnapping Shinta.
Knowing that Shinta is no longer in the place, Rama and Laksmana decide to look for her. Not long after, a white monkey appears. He is Hanoman, sent by Sugriwa to find two brave men to kill Subali. Subali is the man who has kidnapped Dewi Tara, Sugriwa’s lover. Being compelled, Rama agrees to help. Sugriwa and Rama finally defeat Subali and bring home Dewi Tara. To pay Rama back, Sugriwa will help Rama to find Dewi Shinta.
In the kingdom of Alengka, Rahwana is trying to persuade Shinta to become his wife, but she refuses. When Shinta is drowned in sadness alone, all of a sudden, she hears a beautiful voice, apparently of Hanoman, the white monkey. Hanoman explains to her that he is sent by Rama to free her. After that, Hanoman devastates the garden of Alengka Kingdom.
Indrajit, Rahwana’s son, manages to capture Hanoman. Hanoman is then sentenced to death by fire. While being burnt, Hanoman is able to break away and moreover, burns the kingdom with the flame on his body. After hearing the explanation of Hanoman, who escapes from the death sentence, Rama himself sets out to Alengka accompanied with a monkey troop. He attacks the kingdom and wipe out Alengka’s soldiers. Rama finally kills Rahwana.
In the end, Shinta is brought home by Hanoman. When they meet, however, Rama does not trust her anymore because he thinks Shinta must have been sullied. To prove her chastity, Shinta is asked to burn her own body. It turns out that Shinta is still pure because her body does not get burnt at all and in fact, she gets prettier. Seeng this, Rama accepts Shinta as wife again.
During the two hour show, you will be amused by an extraordinary performance that you will not feel bored or dissapointed. Every gesture illustrates what the performer wants to say: Shinta’s graceful motion that is coquettish, Rahwana’s that is rough yet comical, the gestures of Rama and Subali that are so calm and charismatic, not to mention the hyperactive movements of Hanoman, Subali and the monkey troops in their colorful costume.
Aside from the dance, you will see other interesting actions such as fire and acrobatic attractions. You can see such a captivating fire attraction when Hanoman, who is in flame himself, is burning Alengka Kingdom. Another is displayed when Shinta is trying to show her chastity by burning herself alive. Acrobatic dance is performed during the fight between Hanoman and Rahwana’s troops.
It is not only the music and dance that are really prepared, the lighting is also set up meticulously. This is what makes the exhibition special: the lights do not only function to illuminate the stage, they also help to illustrate a situation and the feelings of the characters. Watching Sendratari Ramayana under the stars and seeing Prambanan Temple in the dark background of the night will surely be an unforgettable experience.
Sendratari Ramayana is performed at Prambanan Temple complex located on Jalan Raya Yogya-Solo Km 16 Prambanan. During May-October, the exhibition will be on Ramayana Outdoor Stage. While in November-April, it will be on Trimurti Indoor Stage due to raining season. Sendratari Ramayana show is often held at Purawisata Yogyakarta that is situated in Jalan Brigjen Katamso, on the west side of Kraton Yogyakarta.
Location on the side of an inter-province highway results in easy-access to the venue. If you come from the direction of Surabaya, Solo, Klaten, you can reach the place by bus and stop exactly in front of Prambanan Temple. If you depart from Yogyakarta, you may go by Trans Jogja bus of route number 1A or 1B, or you can catch any public transportation vehicle on Jombor-Prambanan route. However, since the show was played at night, it is suggested that you use private transportation, taxi, or Trans Jogja. Any other public transportation vehicle will only work until 06.00 p.m West Indonesian Time.
E. Ticket Price
The prices of Sendratari Ramayana tickets vary according the class you want: Rp. 125.000 for VIP ticket, Rp. 100.000 for first class ticket, and Rp. 50.000 for second class ticket. With a cover letter from related school, students may get a special price, i.e each Rp. 15.000. The ticket is available and valid only for the show on Ramayana Outdoor Stage.
Sendratari Ramayana is staged three times a week that is on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday on 07.30 p.m. – 09.30 p.m. West Indonesian Time. In the first week of May until October, the show is staged episodically per day, four days in a row, on Ramayana Outdoor Stage. On other days, the whole four chapters are staged in a single night.
If you are on a short visit in Yogyakarta, you can watch the show in Purawisata. The show is staged every day on 06.00 p.m. – 09.00 p.m. West Indonesian Time. With only Rp. 175.000, you will get a package of the show plus dinner.
F. Accommodation and Facilities
As one of Yogyakarta’s top tourism objects, the location is fit out with facilities such as: souvenir shops, taverns, small mosque, public conveniences, and a wide parking area. Before the show, you can have dinner in Prambanan Resto, which is not far from the outdoor stage. There are many motels of various types around the temple complex if you want to stay overnight.
Being located downtown, there are in fact more facilities available at Purawisata compared to those in Prambanan Temple Complex. With a ticket, you can have dinner at Jimbaran Resto, watch gamelan show during the dinner, go backstage and have a picture with the dancers after the show.
Text: Elisabeth Murni
Photo(s): Collection of Jogjatrip.com
Translation: Reza Daffi
(Primary data and various sources)