The following exchange appeared on an online discussion group. The email addresses have been removed to protect the privacy of individuals.

From: Lan Wang
To: dharma_nusantara
Subject: Re: Replying to Asia Online Messages
Date: Sun, 20 Feb 2000 22:17:32 +1100

Dear Mas Ronnie

Thanks for your well thought out response to my email. It would be
great if you could post it to the Asia Online discussion group so
that everyone can read it and consider your points, which are very
interesting and will contribute to the discussion of the issues.

By the way, I was not suggesting that we have to find meeting points,
merely that all Australians (of all cultures and ethnic groups)
should approach understanding another culture through thinking about
themselves and where they stand in the world. They may find
commonalities or they may find no real 'meeting points' but just the
_process_ of examining themselves and other cultures is a valuable
one.

I hope you will post your message to the whole group. I'm sure
everyone will find it very stimulating.

Regards
Lan
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From: "Dharma Nusantara"
To: "Asia Online"
Subject: Re: Replying to Asia Online Messages
Date: Mon, 21 Feb 2000 08:43:26 EST

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Asia Online Discussion Group
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Dear Lan and everyone,

The thinking of Western-European background culture in my understanding is linear in comparison to the Asian culture that more of circular thinking. With the circular thinking the point of ending is the point of beginning. While in the linear thinking the point of ending is not the point of beginning. In a simple term the possibility of union or being together is expected in circular thinking of the Asian (the point of ending is the point of beginning), while the same possibility is not expected in the linear thinking. One of the elders I met few years ago (1991) in Bali island asked me this question which I was not able to answered then: "Why do western people afraid of (physical) death, and us from eastern culture afraid of being hungry...?" Perhaps now my answer will be that it does not really matter, as in reality both will end the same.

The Asian celebrates the aspect of never changing in life through festivals. It is perhaps serves as a reminder that although everything appear to be ever changing, there are things that also never-changing (Yin-Yang). Therefore festivals taking different meaning for most Asian. For example: The Hindhu-Dharma follower in Bali island will celebrate their new year festival in total darkness and silence (Nyepi), while we are celebrating our new year with lights and sounds (parties). For them the New Year is the time to stop and detach themselves from the world activities. The time to meditate and to see how far an individual and a family travel in their journey of life. Or we can say turning inward, while for us New Year is to turn outward. Whatever it is we are all know that art is one of the universal languages. Festival then is very important, as everyone can be part of it. We do not need to speak the language and knowing the music to understand the beauty finds in every dance and every song perform in festivals.

Regarding the question of do the Asian in Australia celebrate the same way..? As far as I know yes. The only different is the Asian community’s celebration slowly involves other ethnic group also. For example since last year Dharma Nusantara being invited to demonstrated Indonesian traditional martial art (Pencak Silat) as part of Asian New Year festivals by Vietnamese-Asian community of Richmond-Victoria.

Festivals brought the community together, we find that the ethnic group enjoy being involve as participant for Moomba parade in Melbourne the last few years. Perhaps because everyone identify Moomba as a Victorian festival (their new country). The Asian traditional & religious festivals normally held strictly according to their traditional calendar. Therefore these festivals held at different time every year.

The Victorian Indonesian community celebrates "Lebaran" or Moslem New Year with fund raising festivals that open to everyone to help charity group in Indonesia. Even the Indonesian consulate normally serves lunch for everyone (open house) and not justs for the Indonesian community or Moslem. The consul general and all their staff although Christian or Hindhus will always host this Moslem New Year festival.

My suggestion therefore instead of trying to find the meeting point to understand each other, let us just run parallel, for at the end the term for east and west are just the name for the direction we are facing. Beside the bird must have 2 wings to be able to fly.....

Mas Ronnie Takdare
(Dharma Nusantara)
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From: Lan Wang
To: dharmanusantara
Subject: Re: Linear-Circular thinking
Date: Wed, 23 Feb 2000 22:37:31 +1100

Dear Mas Ronnie

Once again you have very interesting things to say about Indonesian
and other cultures. It would be terrific if both of your last two
messages could be sent to the Asia Online group as I think people
would find it interesting.

Cheers
Lan
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From: "Dharma Nusantara"
To: "Asia Online"
Subject: Linear-circular thinking
Date: Fri, 25 Feb 2000 08:36:43 EST

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Asia Online Discussion Group
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Hi everyone,

Lan suggested to post this online. The idea is to know about the aspect of meeting/joint together in Asian circular thinking. This is part of the writing that I’ve been working on regarding the traditional Indonesian belief system. This information is the result from analyzing the oral tradition teaching by elders. The well-known WAYANG performance in Indonesia is the adaptation of the Mahabarata and Ramayana Hindhus legends from India. Mahabarata or the Great War story is so important that approx 80% of one of its chapter known as "Bisma Pralaya" becomes known as a separate book called "Bhagavad Gita". The stories based on the war between cousins (Pandawa-Kurawa): the 5 brothers of Pandawa represent the good one. This is what I found:

Number 5 it seems very important for Indonesian, we can find this in the symbol of the nation Panca Sila, and the Panca Pendawa of Mahabarata (Hindhus-Wayang) that actually describes the "MASLOW Hierarchy of needs theory" in a greater scale, etc. Maslow theory from the Indonesian traditional point of view then can be viewed to only focus on the function and needs of individual (Buana Alit), while Panca Pendawa describes also Buana Agung. For many Indonesian then the 5 brothers of Pendawa also represent the function of societies, i.e.:

PENDAWA: TRADITIONAL - MODERN

1. Yudistira: Priests or Brahman - Scientist
2. Bima: Royalty/Monarchy - Government
3. Arjuna: Artist & Warrior - Artist & Sports stars
4. Nakula: Public Servant Traders & Professionals
5. Sadewa: Farmers, etc. Farmers, Working Class

As Nakula and Sadewa are twins, then the distinction between the last 2 groups is not clear, as both groups can be one or the other. It is also stated that Bima has 3 children that describe the government and its arms forces as Gatot Kaca the warrior (Air Force), Jayakatwang (Navy), and Antasena (Army).

Thus we can see that Yudistira as the eldest advised Bima how to rule the rest of his brothers properly, Bima then following his advised will enforced it as the rule of living for the rest of the brothers. In modern society we can see that scientist which discovered seat belt and speed camera advised the government to enforced this as a rule of traffic, or telephone, Internet/digital technology for communication, drugs for medicine, etc.

The important of number 5 assumed to be the description of the life and function of people in this physical world. In order to function properly we need our fingers to give and to take, and there are 5 fingers in each hand. It is also known that the 5 senses function as the gate to Halus or the working of the mind. Thus each action must be with the consideration of Buana Alit to Buana Agung (Micro-Macro cosmos) relationship, and also Halus & Kasar (Yin-Yang) relationship.

Therefore many Indonesian viewed that there are 5 directions of the wind not 4 as normally known. This based on the fact that the existence of North, South, East, and West, originate from us (where we are standing).

This is an example of how the circular thinking culture joint together or became one. Indonesian people absorbed the Indian and Chinese culture equally. Although the stories was from India the presentation of wayang influences also by Chinese culture. But everyone known as an Indonesian art. Both Chinese and Indian never colonialised Indonesia, yet their culture are very much part of the Indonesian. The Hindhu-Dharma culture was the blending of Indian-Hindhus, Chinese-Mahayana Buddhism, and Traditional Indonesian Belief System. The government system (only 2 presidents from 1945 to 1998), The foods, the gamelan degung that has Chinese flute melody, the 5 elements of nature that very much similar to the Chinese...etc. The same also for the Indian Sanskrit language, foods, music, etc.

On the other hand the Dutch that colonialised Indonesia for nearly 300 years failed to have the same impact for Indonesian culture in comparison to the Indian and Chinese. Even the Kroncong music influences more by the Portugal than the Dutch. Angklung and Kulintang music was the adaptation of European diatonic (7-note) music. As traditional Indonesian music is pentatonic (5 notes).

The problem with ethnic Chinese in Indonesia known to be started by the Dutch policy that treated the ethnic Chinese similar to the ethnic Jewish was treated long time ago in Europe. This was with the law prohibited the ethnic Chinese to be settler (farmers, public servants, etc), and only allowed them to became traders. The aimed was to control the Indonesian natives & ethnic Chinese people by the Dutch, especially after well-documented history of the Chinese-Javanese rebellion in north coast Java. We must be also considers that the Dutch colonial government policy was based on commercial point of view. There were and always are Chinese traders all around Asia.

As the British (other European) already controlled India and Arabic countries the same policy was not enforced to the ethnic Indian and Arabic by the Dutch.

Festivals as Lan suggested then are very important as the only successful influence by the European or Dutch influence in Indonesia is mainly in the area of arts. And since 1960 technology. Although the Indonesian originally wanted to follow the Japanese in their technological development. The new Indonesian president (Gus Dur) understand this factor therefore his cabinet now also has ethnic Chinese minister (financial). As Indonesian society is the blending of all different ethnic groups.

Mas Ronnie Takdare
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From: Kathe Kirby
To: "Asia Online"
Subject: encouragement
Date: Wed, 08 Mar 2000 12:21:42 +1100
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Asia Online Discussion Group
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Paul Keating is quoted in The Age today at Writers Week
in Adelaide saying:

"It is a complete mystery to me how anyone can look at the region, at the rich cultures, at the energy of these places and not see the work of the engagement as one of the most exhilarating and enjoyable challenges Australia faces."
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From: "Dharma Nusantara"
To: "Asia Online"
Subject: Re: encouragement
Date: Thu, 09 Mar 2000 09:17:38 EST

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Asia Online Discussion Group
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Perhaps because:

1. Australian still in the process of searching for an Australian identity. For example the republic-monarchy referendum, the Australian aborigine-non aborigine relationship. Beside such a big country with 19 million population where more than 50% either migrant or from migrant background make it difficult to really sure about being Australian.

2. The insecurity feeling cause by ever changes economic situation
especially effecting the work place area in the last decade.

3. The measurement of a country purely based on how sophisticated their
science and technological development without the inclusion of the cultural aspects.

Like a young person from a regional area just left his family home and moved to the city. After settling in Australian will explore the region and become an integral part of the region. This will be great as Australian being young and open-minded will play very crucial role in helping Asian to understand Western-European culture.

Mas Ronnie Takdare
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From: "Dharma Nusantara"
To: "Asia Online"
Subject: Asian-Aborigine studies
Date: Tue, 14 Mar 2000 07:36:52 EST

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Asia Online Discussion Group
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The Asian by nature will always try to adjust themselves into the environment surrounding them, while many people in western countries will try the opposite by changing the environment to suit the people. In most cases this created a situation where many Asian people lifestyle seems very backward from a Western point of view.

Yet, if we are willing to observe and think deeper we begin to realize that the Asian way of passing knowledge is very effective. The most common example is through art and ritual instead of through building monuments (through science and technology).

To build a great monument required not just only a lot of collective time and effort, but also alteration into the environment where the monument must be build. Beside not everyone will be able to come and learn directly from this great monument. On the other hand knowledge through arts and rituals with all the messages hidden in symbolism, will help to keep the knowledge become "The living knowledge".

As a result the knowledge itself becomes easily accessible. This will also help the knowledge to grow through different adaptation by different people with minimum time and effort.

For example a picture or a statue of a goddess with all the symbolism is easier to be carried around and reproduce than a temple for a goddess. In essence this picture has the same message as a temple. This actually will help to integrate the teaching or messages into every aspect of people life in different places or as a living knowledge, while building a monument or a temple is not. Beside soon or later the temple will be deteriorated and disappear.

Asian studies then will benefit all Australian in our effort to understand Australian aborigine. Thus we are actually contributing in the process of reconciliation, as Asian studies can become the bridge that we are all needed to understand our Australian aborigine.

Mas Ronnie Takdare
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From: "Pritchard, Peter A"
To: "Asia Online"
Subject: RE: Asian-Aborigine studies
Date: Tue, 14 Mar 2000 13:19:23 +1100

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Asia Online Discussion Group
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Borobodur is a mirage then?
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From: "Dharma Nusantara"
To: "Asia Online"
Subject: RE: Asian-Aborigine studies
Date: Wed, 15 Mar 2000 07:26:19 EST

Dear Peter and everyone,

Attach a well known Javanese story as a respond to the excessive actioned by both Sanjaya and Syailendra families in their efforted to build Bororbudur, Prambanan, and other temples in Java island.

Mas Ronnie Takdare

RORO JONGRANG.

In central Java between the cities of Jogyakarta and Semarang you can find the ruin of many ancient temples. The local people will tell you that the place they calls "Candi Sewu" or thousand (sewu) temples (candi) is where Roro Jongrang the queen of long time ago ruled the country. This story has been performed as drama, play, even dance by the central Java people repeatedly throughout the years, yet people are happy with the abrupt end of the story without explaining what happened to the main characters.

Roro Jongrang was a queen of Java who ruled the country prosperously for many hundred's years. Her strength and wisdom came from the gift that she received from heaven. The most impressive gifted was her eternal youth, although she was so old, yet she looked as a woman in her early twenties. She had many husbands but they all died of old age and could not give her any children, and yet she still looked the same. One day a high prince from outside Java came to ask her to be his wife and she agreed, not long after that she was pregnant and bore a son. The high prince was called to go back to his kingdom as his father had died of illness and he had to be their new king.

He asked to take his son back with him and promised Roro Jongrang that he would send their son as soon as the prince was old enough. Although she was very sad she let her son go with the father as she realised that the boy needed to learn to be a man and she could never teach him that.

Years had gone by and one day the boy came to visit his mother, but he could not believe or accept that Roro Jongrang was his mother, for how could a woman who was only twenty years old becoming his mother while he was more than twenty years old. Instead he fell in love and asked her to marry him, and stated that if Roro Jongrang refused to marry him, he will declare war to her kingdom for the insult. As he was young and powerful prince also known to have strong magic power he could summon the army from the unseen world, then the situation became very dangerous indeed.

Roro Jongrang agreed to marry him if he could build one thousand temples over night from sunset to sunrise without anybody's help. So confident he was in his power that he accepted the challenge and called his army from the unseen world to helped him built the thousand temples. The people watched him sat down cross legged on the top of the hill from sunset and saw suddenly out of the mist sprung up temple's one by one out of nowhere. In their fear they all ran to the palace to reported to Roro Jongrang about what they had seen.

Roro Jongrang told them that by 3.00 am they should all go to their homes and make much commotion as they always do at the beginning of their day every morning when the sun is just about to rise, although in Java the sunrise is always 6.00 am. She told them to create as many bon fire lights as they could especially near where their roosters slept. The people did that, and all the roosters seeing the light so bright from their bon fires started to wake up and crow. On the top of the hill, the prince wake up from his semadhi (meditation), upon hearing the rooster crows was so angry as his army from the unseen world had gone. His army could only work during the dark of the night. He counted the temples built only 999 temples, so he left Java island without saying anything.

The end of the story is so abrupt that it does not seem to be a complete story. But this is the typical Javanese mythology, if we understand the messages behind the story we realise that this is the way the ancient Javanese people try to tell the Sanjaya and Syailendra families to think differently about their life.

RORO JONGRANG WAS QUEEN OF JAVA WHO RULED FOR MANY HUNDRED YEARS : No one lives this long, therefore who is Roro Jongrang the queen represent ?. In order to find out we have to understand the function of the queen as a mother of the nation. Thus we find out that Roro Jongrang was actually represents mother earth, after all the name of the land according to the Javanese is "Ibu Pertiwi" or the mother earth. The land never changes, we could build or make anything, roads, cities, dams, even mining them but the land as a whole never changes, it only appears different on the surface, this is the true meaning of : The gift of eternal youth from heaven.

SHE HAD MANY HUSBANDS BUT THEY ARE ALL DIED OF OLD AGE: Everything that we built on the land becomes one with the land as husband and wife are one, but these things either roads, temples, etc are subject to the condition of time and elements, while the land is not.

FINALLY HAD A SON FROM THE HIGH PRINCE FROM OUTSIDE JAVA: This was an acknowledgment of the Indian Hindhus-Buddhist teaching will change the life of the Javanese people. Therefore the son is represent the power of idea or thinking develop also by outside influence (learning from other culture).

THE HIGH PRINCE HAD TO GO BACK TO HIS KINGDOM TO BECOME A NEW KING: The messages was to absorb the Hindhus-Buddhist influences without changing the character of the Javanese people.

From these we can understand the rest of the messages aimed toward the Sanjaya-Syailendra families for example:

ASSUMING: Sometimes we think we are better because we can do things more than anyone else, the prince could not accepted that Roro Jongrang was his mother.

THE POWER OF THE MIND: The magic power to bring the army of the unseen world is another way to explain that people can do anything in our life but must start in our mind first. Only then we can start to manifest this idea, but while still only in our mind other people can not see. It is like the origin of table or chair someone long time ago thought about making the table and chair. Except for that person everyone else only see the result of his thinking. In Indonesia we call the thinking "Halus" and the result "Kasar".

So finally we realise the final message is that we as humans are separate from animals and trees because we can think, but we are still only part of the whole environment, not the beginning and the end of the whole life/environment. Was it not the roosters crow that drove away the powerful prince and his unseen army ?. This is the message to remind us to be always humble and open minded because if we do not chose to live like this then surely we will find that the things which we consider so unimportant will be things that will destroy us, as the rosters crowed defeated the prince and his powerful unseen army.

(Mas Ronnie Takdare)
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From: nicmur
To: "Asia Online"
Subject: Re: Asian-Aborigine studies
Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2000 08:12:49 +1200

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Asia Online Discussion Group
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Dear Ronnie and onliners,

I was interested to read your summary of the significance of the number five in Indonesian folklore and culture. Did you know that in Australian Indigenous culture there also exists the five directions you spoke of ? The central place or where one is standing is the focal point from which all the other four directions are taken.

In Walmajarri (N/E Western Australian tribe) this place is called 'kaparn'. This memory of my time in the outback came to me as I was
reading your extract. I find it amazing that the links are so clear in these instances between human cultures. We all originate from a place that is more 'alike' than 'different'.

regards,
Nicole
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From: "Dharma Nusantara"
To: "Asia Online"
Subject: Re: Asian-Aborigine studies
Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2000 15:29:40 EST

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Asia Online Discussion Group
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Dear Nicole and everyone,

The alphabeth of the traditional written language in Indonesia is actually a poem or a story. The Kawi alphabeth of the Javanese, Balinese, Sundanese, and surrounded islands (Ha-na-ca-ra-ka) explained about the duality forces (yin-yang) that govern life in this physical world. But the first sentences of the alphabet from Batak people (north Sumatera) is very interesting and perhaps can help us to realize the unity in diversity of every one.

A-ha-ma-na-ra-ta

translated means "Everything is flat (horizontal)". The real meaning of this first sentences of their alphabet then:

1. Everything is equal; all attach to the earth.
2. Every human being started by laying down (born), and will finish (die) by laying down

The message: All living being in this world is equal
From where we come from, is where we are going
As we started, so we will end
We are one

The different then only in function, as in reality one can not survives without the support of the other. These are known also in Indonesian as HALUS (Characters, talent, intellect, determination, etc) and KASAR (Wealth, appearance, position, etc) or the yin-yang.

Batak people known also as a warrior tribe in Sumatera island, many of them embrace Christianity just like the Ambonese (Maluku) and the Manados (North Sulawesi). Being a warrior tribe the first sentences of their alphabet above also means:

"Do not be afraid of anyone or anything
All living being in this world are equal".

Mas Ronnie Takdare
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From: "Alanna Otway"
To: "Asia EdNet"
Subject: Mask Making
Date: Wed, 31 May 2000 07:49:19 +0800

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Asia EdNet Discussion Group
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Selamat pagi!
I am hoping for some assistance in finding sites or resources available to help my small but intrepid group of upper primary students with ideas for constructing Indonesian style masks for our production of The Ramayana. We are performing the story in a mime format, told through narrators. The masks we make must have the ability to illustrate parts of the characters' personalities to the audience members.
Yours in hope,

Alanna Otway
Kearnan College
Manjimup, WA

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Salam, Hope this information can be any help:

The making of masks or Topeng started long before the influence of Hindhus religion in Indonesia. It is part of the traditional ancestral belief by the Indonesian people. The masks represent the origin of the people, their characteristics, and the function of the tribes in harmony with the nature where they are living. The mask is in essence similar to the modern day photograph, it is serves as a concrete reminder of one's own duty in the society. By knowing where we come from, we know where we are, and that is a guide to the journey into the future. The mask of the ancestor is held very highly, as this mask represents the "Never changing" character or the essence of the ancestor. This quality of the never changing known as "Halus", is becoming an object of worship, and reminder that without our ancestor things as we know it, or even ourselves would not exist in this
world.

The meditation, contemplation, and fasting required before the making of a mask it serves as the purification of thought and action, and will enabling us to reach the divine link between the maker and the ancestor spirits.
This is based on the belief that being their descendent we have had already the ancestral characters within us. The Indonesian belief's that this life made of the duality nature (natural and super natural), just like to have one day we need daylight and night or to create life we need female and male. This itself known as: " Dunia halus & dunia kasar " Consequently for Indonesian inheritance come also in the physical and non physical forms. Therefore the mask itself becomes the bridge of the 2 worlds, the world of the spiritual and physical.

RELIGIOUS INFLUENCE IN MASK MAKING

With the coming of Hindhusm the making of masks became more intricate and expanded to cover the nature of all living things (animals etc). Thus the masks gradually represented not just the origin of the people but also represented the actions of the people. These actions, in essence never change, even to this day. The sacrifices to help others, the greed characters represented in the animal nature, etc. In the reincarnation beliefs, when a person is very bad he/she will be born again as animal, until his/her good karma will bring the person back as a human in the future or the next life. This belief in essence also help teaches the people to treat other beings like animals properly, and to remind the people that even the animals have a place in the sacred making of the mask.

Normally the performers must play the characters that shown in the mask ie, Nice/beautiful looking faces for the good characters or demonic /wild animals for the bad characters.

Mas Ronnie Takdare
Dharma Nusantara)
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From: "pamadhi hajar"
To: dharma_nusantara
Subject: Re: Fwd: Re: Mask Making
Date: Mon, 19 Jun 2000 15:53:19 PDT

Mas Ronny,

Makalah ini cukup bagus, dan bolehkah saya nambahi? Dugaan topeng tersebut memang sebelum hindhu masuk, yaiyu adanya kepercayaan terhadap kekuatan alam (dynamism) dan animism. Animism merepresentasikan roh ke dalam bentuk yang menyeramkan dan disitulah orang menggambar wajahnya. Sedangkan dynamisme terarahkan pada penjelmaan kekuatan alam itu dalam bentuk binatang (biomorphism). Selang perkembangan teknologi bentuk-bentuk tersebut dipatungkan dan di topengkan (kebetulan ini adalah penelitian thesis saya: Javanese Symbolism). Di Jawa topeng digunakan untuk upacara yang bermula di Jawa Timur dan kota lain (namun data akurat untuk yang lain belum ditemukan). Ini seiring dengan perkembangan wayang (lihat candi Tikus
dan candi Singasari) itu perwujudan seni topeng indonesia .
Eh sory mas, saya menggurui, ini sekedar tambahannya saja. makasih infonya.

Hajar Pamadhi

TRANSLATION

Mas Ronny, the mask information was good, I would like to add some more as the subject was my thesis with the tittle Javanese symbolism.

The origin of mask assumed before the Hindhusm and represent the power of nature (dynamysm) and animism. Animism represent by the unusual faces picture as the spirit in the making of the mask. While the dynamism manifest in the power of nature picture as animals or known as biomosphism. Throughout the years these were picture in statues and masks.

The Javanese mask became integral part of traditional ceremonies started in East Java and many places, the acurate informations could not be find. It is considered as part of the "Wayang" evolution. This information can be find in Singasari and Rat temples. Hope this information can be any help.

Hajar Pamadhi