The Philosophy Behind Classical Batik Patterns

Loved by many and omnipresent be it in lowly commoner’s funerals or lovely royal’s weddings, batik continues to carve an ever expanding niche for itself in today’s modern world, especially in its birthplace Indonesia. During the last decade, batik industry experiences an exponential growth. This further encourages the emergence of a plethora of batik patterns originated from various Indonesian regions; from classical pattern, contemporer, abstract and even patterns created out of mathematical formula called batik fractal.

But when it comes to batik, there is more to it than elegant lines and intricate patterns. This is especially true for classical batik, for which the manufacturing process still follows a certain set of standards in order to attune to philosophical values that have been passed down from generation to generation. Here are some of the philosophies behind some of the most famous classical Javanese batik patterns, which one day might come handy if any royal invitation ever come your way.

  1. Batik Parang

The word ‘parang’ originated from the word ‘perang’, which means war. Batik parang embodies the concept of war or struggle against evil, especially those against carnal desires. The wearer of this pattern is thus expected to be tough, strong, wise and virtuous.

In the olden days, batik parang usually was worn by the Javanese king and his relatives, and certain parang patterns such Parang Barong, Parang Gendreh and Parang Klithik, were reserved exclusively for the royal families only. However, in current days the restriction has been lifted and commoners frequently wear these patterns. Hence, if you ever feel the need to exude an air of classical authority and elegance, you can try wearing these patterns. But remember, there is a myth surrounding batik parang: you should never wear it to weddings. They say that it is a bad omen to do so!

  1. Batik pattern names beginning with sido

Have you ever heard batik patterns such as sidomukti, sidoluhur, sidomulyo? The word ‘sido’ in Javanese means something that really happened or a wish that comes true. Therefore, batik patterns beginning with sido symbolize a prayer or a hope. When it is coupled with the word ’mulyo’ which means glory, it symbolizes a prayer that the wearer would be glorified. Batik sido mulyo is usually worn by Javanese grooms and brides in the hope that they will be glorified, as signified by the batik that they wear.

When it is coupled with the word ’mukti’ which means happiness, power or respect, sido mukti signifies a prayer that the wearer would find happiness and respect, and lack nothing.

It is a different case with sido luhur. Luhur’ means high or ancestor. The philosophy underneath this pattern is a hope or a prayer that the wearer receives an elevated or honored position.  This batik pattern is usually worn in funeral as shroud or cover for the deceased.

So, now that we know what these patterns are really about, we know what to wear and what not to wear for certain ocassions. Let’s not get mixed up, lest we get the funny look from those who know!


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