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Tuesday, 11 June 2013

History of Javanese Batik

Not so many records can be found on the development of Javanese batik history. It is mentioned in one myth that batik has already existed since 700 AD. In this myth, its began when a prince from Jenggala (near Surabaya—Red), Lembu Amiluhur, married a princess from the royal family of Coromandel, India. From the princess and her maids, the local women gain the knowledge of weaving, making batik, and cloth coloring.
Printed record just appeared hundreds of years later, approximately in 15th century in the region of Galuh, north-west Java, in the pre-Islam era. Most of the myths or printed records were found in the north-coast of Java, at the period before Islam entered. The area had the role as the center of trading and for that, it received strong cultural influences from India, China, and Persia.
It was after Mataram Kingdom developed and adopting the coastal cultures in 17th century. That batik reached the deeper regions of Java and grew into the sophisticated and delicate Javanese batik as the manner of royal kingdom. Batiks from Jogjakarta and moreover Surakarta Kingdoms, and every pattern descended from them, are regarded as the highest esthetic in batik.
Among many factors supporting the development of batik in Java, the support from the royal government was the most dominant one. At that time, batik was considered as the keprabon (highest rank), that described symbols of greatness and royalty, and also as the ‘official’ cloth for traditional and ritual ceremonies. Although others than royal family were able to wear it in daily life, they are limited to the abdi dalem (royalty servants). Symbolically, the wearing of batik cloth in royal environment showed a way to legitimate the power of the royal palace. At this point, batik became a symbol of elitism.

Through times, the elitism symbol of batik still lingers and appears in royal palace environments (Jojakarta, Surakarta, Cirebon), governmental positions, or in society of certain cultural traditions. From the government of this republic (Indonesia), batik has always gained a prestigious rank since the era of Soekarno, Soeharto, Gus Dur, even until now.
Yet in fact, through its dynamics progress, batik finally ends up becoming a mere commodity in the industrial business world. From that phenomenon, a question arises: Can batik along with its elitism and all of its symbolic values be preserved?


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