A Royal Affair

The history of batik is closely intertwined with the royal palaces of
Java. Batik first gained popularity during the reign of Majapahit kingdom
(1293-1527), when it was worn only within kraton (Javanese court) circle,
handmade by ladies in waiting. At the time, the design was ordered by the court
– at times, by the king himself – to signify power, wisdom, abundance. This was
why they’re restricted for royals -the king and his descendants- only. It was
forbidden for common folks to wear the same motifs, hence the name “batik
larangan” (forbidden batik).

Ikat Kepala/Udeng 64 (1950) by UnknownMuseum Batik Indonesia

Sawat motif

Has a large and wide wing shape to depict a garuda (mythical bird in Hindu and Buddhist mythology), the mount of Lord Vishnu, one of the most powerful Hindu gods. It symbolises power and the king himself.

Kain Panjang 464 (1950) by UnknownMuseum Batik Indonesia

Kawung motif

Is a criss-crossing diagonal line of four
circles or ellipses surrounding a smaller circle at the centre. The four is a
symbol for four directions of the wind, itself a symbol of different facets of
power: the east (the rising sun as the source of life), the north (mountains,
the abode of gods and spirits), the west (sunset, the decline of luck), the
south (the zenith, the culmination of everything). 

The king, with his subjects, is the epicentre. The kingdom is the centre of arts and culture, science, government, religion, and economy. The common folks must abide by the centre (the king), and in return the king protects his subjects.

Kain Sarung Sutra ATBM Stelan 421 (2007) by Apip Sakur YogyakartaGaleri Batik YBI

Kawung also symbolises a modest king who always prioritises the welfare of his people. Kawung motif also signifies justice and prosperity. There are also some opinions that kawung is a palm fruit. Others argue that it is a simplified form of lotus, a symbol of sanctity and purity. In classical times (the Hindu and Buddhist kingdom era), the lotus is a symbol of the gods. Therefore kawung can also be interpreted as pure and holy.

Kain Panjang 240 (1950) by UnknownMuseum Batik Indonesia

Parang motif

A series of parallel, diagonal clear lines, it
was originally created by the founder of Mataram kingdom but has since evolved
into a variety of types such as parang rusak, parang barong, parang kusuma, parang
pamo, parang klithik, lereng sobrah. Parang Rusak motif is worn by the royal family during state ceremonies, and it symbolises a battle within self to fight one’s inner demons to become wise and noble.

The curved lines in parang motif are often interpreted as ocean waves, the core of natural power, in this case the king.

Batik Tulis Parang Kencono/Seling (1950) by UnknownMuseum Batik Indonesia

The slopes signify authority, power, greatness, as well as a quickness in motion, so that the wearer is expected to act fast.

Kain Panjang 114 (1950) by UnknownGaleri Batik YBI

During the reign of Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono VIII, parang motif was used as the main guideline to determine royal and noble rank, documented in "Pranatan Dalem Kraton asmanipun Panganggo Keprabon Wonten Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat Nagari" in 1927.

Kain Sarung 41 (1900) by UnknownGaleri Batik YBI

Lereng motif

A pattern of diagonal rows between parang motif. Lereng motif is one of the old designs reserved for the royal family. A popular lereng motif is udang liris (light rain). Lereng motif represents fertility, hope for prosperity, the determination to have the courage to do whatever it takes for country and its people.

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