Batik is one of Java's famous and highly developed art traditions, together with wayang (shadow puppets), gamelan (Javanese orchestra) and keris (the dagger - heirloom).

Anywhere, batik designed materials are clearly seen as women traditional dresses, shirts, uniforms, sarongs, bags, hats, table-cloths, napkins, painting and decorative items, etc, with traditional color of brown, indigo and blue or more colorful ones.

Nowadays, batik is an important industry in many production centers in Java. It is a proof that the people of Java do love the products, long time ago created by their ancestors.

The Symbolic Meaning of Batik's Motifs

The motifs of Batik, especially with old pattern, as in other field of Javanese tradition are symbolizing something. Might be, this is one of the reasons, why people still adore batik up to present date. Some of the motifs are :

  1. Sido Mulyo :
    Sido (you should be ), mulyo (happy). Symbolizing 'you should be happy and rich man'.
  2. Sido Dadi :
    Symbolizing 'you should be a man/woman as you wish (prosperous, high ranking position, wealthy, etc)'.
  3. Satrio Wibowo :
    Symbolizing 'Man with dignity'.
  4. Tikel Asmorodono :
    Tikel (more), Asmoro (love), Dono (gift).
    It is meant the one who wears this batik, should be loved more and more by others.
The Process of Batik Making

Batik, in Javanese means 'To Dot'. Basically there are two kinds of batik; Batik Tulis (hand drawn) and Batik Cap (stamped). The price of batik tulis is much more expensive than batik cap.


A canting (a pen like instrument with a small reservoir of liquid wax) is applied to the cloth of batik tulis making. The tracing of the desired design on to the prepared cloth is the first stage of making followed by the technique of applying wax and dye substances. At the final stage of the process, all the wax scraped off and the cloth boiled to remove all traces of the wax. This process of repeatedly waxing and dyeing is the batik process, used until nowadays in Java and other parts of Indonesia.

So, this kind art of batik is an indigenous to the country. The wax used in batik process is a combined product of paraffin, bees-wax, plant resins called gondorukem and mata kucing.

Batik cap, which is also using the waxing process, its process of course faster and easier. But people appreciation of batik tulis is higher, it is really a work of an artist not only a craftsman. It combines the expertise, patience, deep feeling to produce the finest product, and it may take days, weeks and even months to make only a batik tulis

The Cities of Batik

Yogyakarta and Solo are the centers of traditional of batiks, as the north coastal town of Pekalongan is the center of more modern batiks, using more floral and birds motifs. There are some well-known artists of batik design in Yogya and Solo, as well as some big batik manufacturers with famous trademarks.

The growing production of batik makes way to the establishment of mori (woven cotton fabrics) factories in Yogya and Central Java. The Batik research Institute was founded in Yogya.

When Batik is Worn

Batik dresses are worn for several purposes, such as ;

  1. Informal Dresses
    It is a free choice, usually for daily casual wear.
  2. Formal Occasions
    In some parties, as a state banquets, receptions, etc, the invitees are requested to wear batik. Long sleeves shirts for the men and 'kain batik' (long batik to cover the lower body) for the women.
  3. Traditional Occasions
    It is worn to present the traditional wedding ceremonies, special ceremonies for the Royal families, etc.
In a wedding ceremony the bride and the bridegroom wear the same motif of batik Sidomukti, symbolizing a happiness and prosperous life. Using the same motif symbolizing the togetherness. The parents of the bride and the bridegroom wear batik with motif of Truntum, symbolizing the advice of the parents to the newly weds to enter the new life with full of love and confidence.

Traditional Dress

Women's traditional dress, especially in Yogya and Solo court families, consisting of :

  1. Jarit or Tapih or Sinjang
    A 'kain panjang' (long cloth of batik) measuring around 2 m x 1 m to cover the lower body, tightened with stagen (large waist band)
  2. Kebaya
    It is a traditional long sleeved shirt (the material used is not from batik, usually from silk and other fine materials).
  3. Selendang
    It is used as attractive piece of clothing to compliment the traditional dress. The 2 m x 0,5 m selendang cloth hung over one shoulder.
  4. Kemben or Semekan
    It is special for ceremonies in Karaton (palace) or Royal family ceremonies. Instead of wearing Kebaya, to cover the upper body, a kemben is worn.
Men's Traditional Dresses
  1. Jarit or Bebed
    Men kain panjang, tightened with stagen.
  2. Surjan
    Men traditional long sleeved shirt (only for Yogya style) and the material is not batik.
  3. Beskap
    Instead of wearing surjan, the men wear a coat (beskap of Solo style or Atila of Yogya style), the materials is not batik.
  4. Blangkon
    It is a headgear made from batik.
  5. Keris
    The dagger is worn at backside of the waist, as a compliment to the dress.

Is a very long jarit to cover the lower body. It is worn only on a very special occasion such as the king coronation by the king himself. The wearing of dodot or kampuhan is very complicated. It may take two hours to wear a dodot with the help of specialist-dressers!

(Suryo S. Negoro)

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