The kayon, tree of life, is one of the most versatile and important figures. It’s meaning is often traced to the Sanskirt words for “tree” and “thought.” The puppet is used like a stage curtain to indicate the beginning and end of the performance, scene changes, shifts of location, and passage of time. Depending on how it is used, it can become a tree, a mountain, wind, rain, water, clouds, holy radiance, or a weapon. Once the kayon is placed in the center of the screen, the dalang begins to sort and place the puppets on either side of the kayon.
(Excerpt from the Asian Theatre Journal Article Volume 3, Number 1, Spring 1986, Bima Suraga: A Balinese Shadow Play as Performed by Ida Bagus Ngurah translated and with an introduction by Larry Reed)