Ketoprak Balekambang is a form of appreciation of the Surakarta City Government for traditional arts. The performance, which is broadcast live either on the Balekambang theater stage or through the Youtube channel, is broadcast every Saturday night. Performances are also often done in collaboration with actors from surrounding cities to enliven the performance. On November 5, 2022, the Head of the Indonesian Literature Study Program, FIB UNDIP, Dr. Sukarjo Waluyo, M. Hum. participated in the Balekambang Ketoprak performance. He played a village youth from the slopes of Mount Wilis in the performance entitled Bancak Ngratu. Bancak Ngratu is a slapstick story that takes from the story of the Panji story.
The Balekambang Ketoprak performance was temporarily staged at the Graha Wisata Niaga Building during the renovation of the Balekambang Park Staging Building. As the title suggests, Bancak Ngratu tells the story of how Bancak characters process themselves to become queens. In Javanese tradition, the concept of the queen is the supreme leader or king who takes both physical and spiritual forms.
Physically ngratu can also be interpreted as the process of becoming the king of a kingdom. Meanwhile, the concept of the queen also has an understanding of metaphysical values so that she is close to the spiritual universe. This process was visually hinted at when a village youth from the slopes of Mount Wilis rescued him from a river current. Like the story of the great kings, those who finally find themselves at the peak of power physically and spiritually always start from exile. Bancak who was swept away by the current of the river moved in the channel of his exile by his past life which made him no longer stand on the ground.
Playing the role of a character who changes the situation of Bancak, Dr. Sukarjo Waluyo, M. Hum. inspired himself as a savior of Bancak figures. With the rescue of Bancak from the river, the ngratu process reached its climax. The performance also shows an illustration as written in the title, namely Bancak becomes a king.
The activity of Dr. Sukarjo Waluyo, M. Hum. in Balekambang ketoprak becomes a creative form as well as the application of his knowledge as a researcher who is heavily involved in traditional arts research. Involvement in the practice of art is a joy for him as a lecturer who is involved in many collaborations with artists. The Panji story is a collection of stories that are related to the two main characters, namely Raden Panji Asmarabangun, a prince from the Janggala Kingdom and Dewi Sekartaji (Candrakirana), a princess from the Kediri Kingdom. The two nobles love each other and the stories often end with the union of love.
The classic theme of this story is mainly related to the adventures of the two main characters, although some are about the life struggles of other characters. The origin of the Panji story is unknown, but it has a background in the era of the Kediri Kingdom, when poets began to compose literary works with stories that were no longer India-centric, but breathed with local Javanese life. Panji stories achieved popularity in the Majapahit era and gained a high didactic position. A number of these royal temples are decorated with reliefs that immortalize not only epic stories from India, such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata, but also stories from the scope of Panji stories and contemporaries.
During the late Majapahit period and after, Panji’s stories began to be used as literary works in the form of poetry and prose in various palaces and were spoken orally among the public and some of them became popular folk tales, such as the Golden Conch, Ande Ande Lumut, Cinde Laras, Enthit, and Golek Kencana. These stories then spread to several kingdoms in the archipelago, and even then to Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, and the Philippines. Since 2017, various manuscripts (manuscripts) of the Panji story have been included by UNESCO in the World Memory Heritage. (Hamdan)