Religion through performance: the Indonesian Ram Lila


The two territories are well-known for their inter-personal relationships that encompass not only economic and commercial ties, but a unique story of cross-cultural indulgences. One finds a huge population of Indian origins here, some even at renowned positions in local and multinational companies. Indonesia is famous for the presence of the largest lizard in the world, the Komodo dragon, after which they have even named an Island, the Komodo Island.

the komodo dragon

The state with the highest tourist concentration is Bali, surrounded by the Indian Ocean and possesses eye-catching beaches. The space is also an attraction for its Indian temples. The primary deity celebrated here is, Ghatotkach (a character from the Hindu scripture Mahabharata). In the midst of these pantheons one finds one of the most important centres of Indian cultural exposure. The Uluwatu temple, which means a rock, as it  is built between the vast Ocean and high mountains which make it look like the land’s end.

The place is notable for its “Kecak dance”, which is a non-musical and non-dialogic performance, symbolizing some of the significant events of the Indian epic Ramayana. Beginning from Sita’s abduction it travels through the story when Hanuman reaches the Ashoka vatika with Ram’s love token(the ring with his image) and ends at the scene where Lord Hanuman burnt down Ravana’s Lanka.

a still from the kecak dance

Approximately 50-60 artists contribute to the staging, where the chorus surrounds the main artists and they make noises by themselves to support the act. It is staged on a special amphitheatre and is a sunset dance as it is performed in the dusky hours of the land. It is also surprising to note that the main artists who play Ram and Laxman are females putting on male attires. The performance goes on for two hours and it is an aesthetic view to see these dancers acting out the Ramayana story before the setting sun.

The most entertaining is the character of Hanuman.  He is in white attire and is also interacts with the audience by jumping around the stage. The most significant of all is the fire dance enacted by Lord Hanuman which gives goose bumps to the audience and is the charm of the show. Thus, with all these cultural explorations of the Indian mythology, one can see how Indonesia is one of the crucial standpoints for India’s development and foreign connections.

(Megha is a student at the University of Delhi. She is pursuing her masters in English and has also done her studies in German language.) Gmail-