Batik in Literature: Spiritual Dimension

Spiritual dimension of batik-making are particularly the rich culture, symbolic meaning and life values. The process of making batik is filled with terminology with deep meanings and moral lessons from the very beginning until accomplished or called mbabar.

The collection of literary works that explain the deeper meaning of batik are called suluk. These works are sung while the batik artist is working. So during the process of making batik, the artist often chants and sing to gather the inspiration from their spiritual relationship.

Below is the first part of Suluk Prawan mBathik, translated from the original Javanese. Suluk Prawan mBathik, among other literary works, serves as an important source of information for understanding batik.

This song of Suluk Bathik marks the beginning of the batik process. Please begin to make your batik, the woven cloth is already prepared. But don’t forget the pattern and please be careful. What is still lacking? The raw cloth is smooth. The wax is so white, because a little lanceng resin was added. The canting rengrengan is also ready for use. [Suluk mBatik kang pinurweng singir, lah ta wus babo bathiken pisan, tenunan wus panigase. Ywa tinggal polanipun, lawan sira den ngati-ati. Kang winadan punapa? Dhasaripun alus, mamira pethak, wus dinuga lanceng sedheng sawatawis, acanthing pengengrengan.]

There is 14 parts of this Suluk Prawan mBathik.**

(Source: Sekaring Jagad Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat – Astuti Hendrato Darmosugito)





Batik in Literature: Physical Dimension

There are two dimensions of batik educational value: physical and spiritual dimensions. The physical dimension is usually simpler and easier to understand.

To make batik, clear instructions and guidance are available related to equipment, tools and raw materials to be used. In this aspect, there is also a recommended sitting posture on the wooden stool, hold the patterned fabric and a certain way to use canting.

The hot molten wax will not flow through the tiny copper tunnel if not hot enough. The right timing is considered significant.** (Source: Sekaring Jagad Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat – Astuti Hendrato Darmosugito)

Batik Pasisiran

The word pasisir means on the coast, but in batik term, pasisiran indicates to the regional along the north coast of Java.

Silk Batik Pasisir with tumpal from Cirebon. ::Courtesy of hedabatik.

Based on the origin regional of batik, mainly two have been recognized as the most distinctive batik:

  1. Batik Kraton or Royal Batik – which is associated with the royal courts in Yogyakarta and Surakarta.
  2. Batik Pasisiran or North Coast of Batik – which is associated with vibrant colours, free and dynamic patterns and also have the strong influences from China, Europe and Arab.

Batik complongan from Indramayu :: Courtesy of hedabatik

For centuries, the seaports along the north coast of Java have been trading centers for a wide variety goods, including Indian textiles, which were mainly traded for spices. There was also lively trade with China. Since the Middle Ages, enclaves of Arabs, Indians and Chinese have settled in these ports.

Batik Pasisir from Demak ::Courtesy of hedabailey

North Coast of Java where batik are produced in Indramayu, Cirebon, Tegal, Pekalongan, Semarang, Demak, Jepara, Kudus, Pati, Lasem, Rembang, Tuban, Pacitan, Gresik, Sidoarjo, Pasuruan and Madura. Regional of Cirebon and Gresik, they had their own royal courts.

Batik with 'parang seling sekar' - Private collection. Courtesy of hedabatik

Originally, batik pasisiran were based on Indian export textiles in terms of palette, design and layout. Kain panjang (long cloth or hip cloth) or sarung (sarong) typically have a tumpal (a row of pointed triangles at each end and a narrow encompassing border). The pattern of buketan (flower bouquet), lokcan, shrubs in bloom, floral vines and sea creatures are also typical of Batik Pasisiran. **
(Source: Batik Rudolf G. Smend Collection)

Batik Outside The Royal Courts

Every time mention about batik and royal courts, immediately our mind goes to indigo and sogan colour with a stark white background, contains deep meaning and symbolism are hidden in the each pattern. Besides that facts, batik is worn in the important occasions to reflect the personality.

Certain patterns of batik from royal courts were prohibited used by the public. Pola larangan or ‘forbidden pattern’ were formerly the supremacy rights to the king and the royal family.

If there is batik from royal courts which were only worn by the royal family called as Batik Kraton or Royal Batik, so there is so many other patterns from the largest group of people who live in and around Yogyakarta.


Batik worn by the traditional administrative officers in the regencies and also worn by their families, forms a distinctive class of its own. Usually they were come from the royal palaces by birth.


Batik worn by the people who live around the mosque, was formerly where the Muslim leaders lived. They also produce their own batik to trade it. The most of batik kauman has an Islam influences.


This batik worn by general public. There are batik halus and batik dhagel. Batik rini is a special variety of batik dhagel. Rini is the Javanese word for half cent, the smallest currency during the Dutch period.


This batik produced and worn by Chinese in the North Coast of Java. Encim is a term referring to a woman of Chinese descent.


This batik produced in the North Coast of Java spread from Pekalongan till Madura.They have adopted patterns from Dutch, China and India influences.

(Source: Sekaring Jagad Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat ~ Nian S. Djoemena)

Batik in Literature

As a form of dress, batik is considered one of man’s “Basic Human Requirements”. From time to time, the needs of food, clothing and shelter have always been the prime concern of the human race of survival.

One of the patterns were reserved exclusively for royal attire It is 'Parang Rusak' Design delivers physical and mental control which is consisting of a series thick knife-like forms. :: Courtesy of hedabatik.

Clothing is mentioned in many other ancient literary works, along with concern for the other basic requirements of food and shelter.

Each of man’s basic requirements of food, clothing and shelter have two dimensions : one being physical, the other spiritual. Physical dimension describes the physical aspects of the human requirement, while the spiritual explores the metaphysical.These dimensions are so intrinsically entwined, we consider them dwitunggal or ‘two-in-one’.

Understanding these two dimensions is of educational value, especially for one’s spiritual growth. It is of particular interest to explore our traditional literature and examine in more depth what the physical and spiritual dimensions of batik-making are, especially because of batik contains the rich culture meaning and philosophical value.** (Source: Sekaring Jagad Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat – Astuti Hendrato Darmosugito)

Batik is a world gift

Minister Aburizal Bakrie, on behalf of Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono issued the press release on Special Press Conference at Bogor State Palace,  to appreciate that UNESCO officially crown Indonesia as the country who hold the world’s cultural heritage original for BATIK. 


One of the patterns were reserved exclusively for royal attire. Courtesy of hedabatik.


Batik with 'parang seling sekar' - Private collection. Courtesy of hedabatik

The UNESCO’s acknowledgment  for batik as world cultural heritage original from Indonesia was held between Sept 28 – Oct 2, 2009 in an event at Abu Dhabi, UAE and officially President Yudhoyono calls for Batik Day on October 2. 

Batik is the world’s heritage gift that everyone deserved to love it. **

Javanese Batik

Batik has always been closely associated with Javanese culture. Yogyakarta is regarded as a capital of classical batik. The elegant and richly toned culture in the batik has a close association with the daily lives of the Javanese, both within the palace and outside.

Sogan (brown) colour is typical batik from Yogyakarta. Courtesy of hedabatik

Yogyakarta has been a center of cultural activity since the seventh century when an Indianized period of history ushered in the building of a great civilization with monumental architecture.

Batik from Yogyakarta is characterized by bold, forceful designs using indigo and soga on a stark white background. Many theoris have been developed on the origins of batik in Java.

One of Yogyakarta batik cloths. Sogan and a stark of white background. Courtesy of hedabatik.

The art of batik reached its supremacy level of distinction in the hands of the aristocracy with highly refined aesthetic sense, along with the time, to draw laborious patterns of ultimate beauty and philosophical value. Certain batik patterns were reserved exclusively for royal attire.

One of the patterns were reserved exclusively for royal attire. Courtesy of hedabatik.

In the court of Yogyakarta we associate batik with our traditions, festivals and ceremonies. Specific batik patterns deliver a profound non-verbal communication, a custom that continues to be followed even today.  Although many changes have occurred because of globalization and new life style nowadays, batik remains an important statement of the high-level of cultural expression found in the courts of Central Java.

Batik is more than a beautiful cloth to look at, but it speaks the commitment to a personal refinement and discipline in our traditional Javanese culture.** (source from Book of Sekaring Jagad Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat)