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Bangsawan (Jawi: بڠساون) is a type of traditional Malay opera performed by a troupe. It was known to have developed from a sort of Indian theatre performance during the 19th century by visiting Indian travellers.


Bangsawan is similar in western opera where certain characters are played during performance, the stories drawn from diverse sources, such as Indian, Western, Islamic, Chinese, Indonesian and Malay. Music, dance and costumes are used depending on the story told.

Nowadays, it is difficult, if not impossible to find any bangsawan troupes in Malaysia.


In the Malay language, bangsawan means "nobleman". Bangsa means "nation", "race", from the Sanskrit word vamsa which means "family", "dynasty". The suffix -wan comes from the Sanskrit suffix -vant. A person is called bangsawan if he is descended from royal family (kings, princes, etc.). There was another category of noblemen in Indonesia, precisely in Java, called priyayi, who were not members of royal or princely families but formed a sort of nobles of the Robe, exerting administrative functions, including that of adipati (governor).