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The Art of Storytelling: Ramayana Character Studies (lesson)

Rama, hero of the Ramayana, approx. 1930

Rama, hero of the Ramayana, approx. 1930, by Abah Wikarta. Indonesia; Kuningan or Tegal, Central Java. Wood, cloth, and mixed media. From the Mimi and John Herbert Collection, F2000.86.89.

Map of Southeast Asia

Map of Southeast Asia

Rama, hero of the Ramayana, approx. 1930
Map of Southeast Asia

Students will: 1.) discuss storytelling, a tradition that is passed down and preserved orally; 2.) examine how storytellers use voice, movement, drama, and music to tell a story; 3.) examine the Indonesian storytelling tradition using rod puppets (wayang golek). 4.) read a summary of the Ramayana or a scene from this Hindu epic; 5.) analyze a character from the Ramayana.

60 minutes
Keyword Results: 

Map of Southeast Asia (above); See "Downloads" (above): Slide descriptions; Synopsis of the Ramayana and Mahabarata; Character Study Worksheet; Video: Indonesian Rod Puppets 


  1. Using the slides and accompanying descriptions (see "Downloads above) and Background Information (see "Related Resources" below), and discuss with your students the following questions:
    • How is the Indonesian storytelling tradition similar to or different from the storytelling traditions that you are familiar with?
    • How does the puppet master (dalang) signal to his audience that a particular type of character is on stage (voice inflection, movement, the level of respect one character shows toward another, and artistic features)?
    • Describe some of the puppets shown in the slides. Ask students to guess which character type each puppet belongs to.
  2. Locate Indonesia on a map. Introduce the Indonesian tradition of rod puppet theater (wayang golek). Using the slides and accompanying descriptions, review the discussion questions (above) with your students.
  3. Have students read a summary of the Ramayana or focus on a scene from this Hindu epic. Ask students to choose a character from the story.
  4. Have students Indonesian Rod Puppets (below) to give them a sense of how music, voice, and puppet manipulation come together during a performance. 
  5. Have students do an analysis of their chosen characters using the Character Study Worksheet.
  6. Next, have students write a scene from the Ramayana from the perspective of their chosen characters.
  7. Finally, have students act out their scenes to their classmates. Students may wish to collaborate with one another on their performances.