What is A Pajegan Mask ?

What is exactly the significance of pajegan mask? Among the Balinese community, the pajegan mask dance is frequently called sacred dance (wali), because it has something to do with yajña ceremony (Hindu religious rituals). This dance-drama, according to the mask artist of the Indonesia Arts Institute (ISI) Denpasar, Nyoman Catra, was always performed by a single dancer with a storyline. Due to such solo performance, it then raised so diverse interpretations on the definition of the mask. Some call the pajegan mask to originate from the Balinese word mamajeg or doing an entire job alone—where an actor played the entire mask characters.

Meanwhile, there was also another version calling it Pejagan mask which meant to keep up. The mask dance was held to look after in order along the implementation of yajña children would not interfere with the high priest chairing the rituals. During the ritual process, the mask performance was used to make the implementation of yajña run without any obstacles and the high priest was capable of performing the worship solemnly.  However, the Pejagan was actually carried out by telling stories. In other words, during the performance of the mask dance, the artist attempted to ‘interpret’ the meaning of rituals.

By doing so, people could understand about the real meaning behind the implementation of the rituals. Within that context, the mask performance played an important role in the process of transformation of religious value–a very urgent mission. On that account, the mask was often used as a medium to interpret the meaning of ritual and served as ‘sermon’ since the past time. Catra also added that pajegan mask was identical to the procession of Sidakarya mask performance. In relation to this matter, at the end of the ritual procession was usually staged the Sidakarya mask.

Performance of the pajegan mask staged a hard mask depicting an energetic young character. If analogized to the passage of time, he was the early morning with a bright light, while the old mask depicted a person who had been growing older – whose energy was getting limited. Or it described the passage of time that had been leaning toward the west or afternoon. In the meantime, at the end of the performance was presented the Sidakarya mask marked with the expression of laugh and scary at the same time. This dualism of expression could be interpreted as the journey to the next world where a person could go to heaven or hell.

It was determined by karma vasana or traces of the deeds in previous lifetime. Expression of laughing described a good karma that led to heaven, while the creepy expression described bad karma leading a person to hell. Sidakarya mask, according to Catra, could be interpreted as a depiction of life cycle, starting from old age, died and then took a form of a child again. On that account, staging of the mask was regularly accompanied with the pursuit of small children. As consequence, it was often called the mask of pursuit. Having captured the children, they were given some amount of money.

Not infrequently, it initially made children frightened, but they were finally happy after being given a reward. Pajegan mask was generally performed in the Bhuta Yajña and Pitri Yajña. There were few pieces of masks staged in the performance of pajegan mask that should follow a fixed sequence. Firstly, it was commenced with hard mask and then followed by old mask. In the second order, it was completed with description of drama of life. On that account, it was then consisting of chief minister (penasar), king (dalem) and royal servants (bondres). Finally, it was presented the Sidakarya mask depicting double images namely laughing and scary expression.

In order to dance the mask well, Catra said, other than through training or learning, there were some rules to be followed including agem, tandang, tangkis and tangkep. Additionally, one should have a good talent, experience, and taksu or divine inspiration. By such combination, the mask dancer would definitely be able to provide a good spectacle and valuable guidance.

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