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Hanuman from Dieng Plateau in teak wood



Hanuman is the famous monkey general from the Indian epic Ramayana. When his mother was young, she was a beautiful daughter of a powerful sage and hermit who lived secluded in the jungle with his daughter and his two sons. One day, the hermit gave a gift to his daughter, a magical bowl with which you could see things that were happening far away, called Cupu Manik Astagina.

While the hermit was away in the jungle, the two brothers became jealous and the three siblings began to fight over the novel gift. Finding his children in a bitter fight when he came home, the father flew into rage and flung the magical bowl far into the jungle, but his children did not stop fighting. Instead the three of them rushed into the jungle in the direction where their father had thrown the bowl.

The bowl flew over the treetops, landed in a valley and magically became a beautiful lake. The eldest brother thought he saw the bowl tumbling in to the lake and he dived in, but as soon as the water touched his skin, it transformed him in to a red monkey. He was to preoccupied to notice and dived deeper and deeper, searching for the bowl. His brother arrived by the side of the lake and dived in, he also became a red monkey. The second monkey saw te first monkey and thought that the first monkey had found his bowl. He caught the first monkey and the two monkeys began to fight underwater, when they realized that their limbs had the limbs of a monkey, coved in red fur.

Their sister was last to arrive at the lake. Weary and tired, she had come running to stop her brothers fighting. She didn't want her precious gift, she wanted to bring her brothers home as it was getting dark. With deep sadness she scooped up some of the lake's water and washed her face, and immediately her hands and face transformed into the hands and the face of a white monkey. When the three siblings realized what had happened they were filled with grief and remorse and they went back to their father who advised them to go and live in recluse and meditate for the forgiveness of the gods.

Hanuman's mother meditated naked in a lake, standing with the water just touching her lips, she clasped her hands before her breast and stood still, vowing never to put anything in her mouth. All she would eat and drink would be what the lake brought in to her mouth. She stood as thus for many years, not eating anything, for the lake's waves brought nothing in to her mouth but water. Her powers of will and her devotion shake the foundations of heaven. The head god, Syiwa, came down to earth to see who was meditating so deeply as to create such energy, and upon seeing the naked woman from behind, fell in love with her, and turned himself into a leaf and floated himself into her mouth.

Syiwa woke her up from her meditation and told her that she was pregnant with his son, who will be born with fur as white as snow and who will live to the end of time. He will be called Hanuman and he will help Rama overcome Rahwana in the great battle of Lanka. In the areas of Indonesia where the Ramayana epic is popular, Hanuman is a hero of the common people and many side plays are dedicated to him. He even appears in stories that stem from the Mahabharata epic as an old hermit, still agile in battle.

This mask was collected in the Dieng Plateau, Central Java. The area has many of the earliest examples of Javanese Hindu temple architecture, dating back from the 6th and 7th century. This mask probably was part of a village set used once a year at harvest celebrations.

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