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Batik has been synonymous with Indonesian cultural richness and national pride. Driven by cultural influences from different regions that lead to distinct approaches to create Batik, a visualized expression of the surrounding community.

There has been disagreement on the precise origins of batik. Samples of dye resistance patterns on cloth can be traced back to 1,500 years ago in Egypt and the Middle East. Many were also found in Turkey, India, China, Japan and West Africa from past centuries. Although they use dye resisting decoration technique, none are as developed as the intricate art form of batik found on the island of Java in Indonesia.

There were mentions of 'highly decorated fabrics' in Dutch transcripts from the 17th century but scholars believe that the intricate Javanese batik designs would only have been possible after the imports of finely woven cloth. First imports were reported to come from India in the 1800s and Europe in 1815. Textile patterns can be seen on stone statues carved on the walls of ancient Javanese temples such as Prambanan (AD 800). However, there is no conclusive evidence that the cloth is batik. It could possibly be patterns produced from weaving techniques and not dying. Evidently, in the 19th century batik had fully developed and assimilated to Javanese cultural life.

Experts believe that originally, batik was an art form reserved for Javanese royalty. Princesses and noble women may have provided the inspiration for the highly refined design evident in traditional patterns. Although it is highly unlikely for them to be involved further than the first wax application. The messy work of dyeing and subsequent waxings was probably left to court artisans who worked under their supervision. Javanese royalty were known to be great patrons and supporters in the development of many art forms.

From the thousands of different batik designs, particular ones have been associated with traditional festivals and specific religious ceremonies. Previously, it was thought that certain cloth had mystical powers to ward off misfortune, while others brought good luck.

BATIK KERATON

Batik Keraton, especially from Yogyakarta and Surakarta, is the oldest batik tradition known in Java. Some calls it Batik Pedalaman. This type of batik has earthy color tones such as black, brown, and dark yellow (sogan), sometimes on a white background.

The motifs of traditional court batik have significant spiritual and symbolic meanings. Some designs are restricted: larger motifs worn only by royalty; certain motifs are restricted for women, and other specific occasions

In the 5th century, the courts of Java were highly influenced by Hindu motifs, which later on shifted to the culture of Islam. The Hindus introduced the sacred bird - Garuda, the sacred flower - Lotus, the dragon - Naga and the tree of life. Islam forbade the depictions of humans or animals. This lead to the introduction of stylized and modified ornaments as symbols, i.e., flowers and geometric designs.

Some of the oldest patterns are Kawung, Parang and Ceplok. Kawung consists of intersecting circles, introduced by the Javanese since the 13th century. The design has appeared carved into the walls of many temples throughout Java such as Prambanan near Jogjakarta and Kediri in East Java. For many years, this pattern was reserved for the royal court of the Sultan of Jogjakarta. The circles are sometimes embellished inside with two or more small crosses or other ornaments such as intersecting lines or dots. It was suggested that the ovals possibly represent plants such as fruit from the aren tree (Palm Sugar).

Parang was once available exclusively to the royal courts of Central Java. Some suggests it has the meaning of a rugged rock. The Parang design consists of slanting rows of thick knife-like segments running in parallel diagonal bands. Some alternates narrower bands in a darker contrasting color. These darker bands contain another design element in lozenge-shaped lines call mlinjon.

Ceplok is a general name for a whole series of geometric designs based on squares, rhombs, circles, stars, etc. Although fundamentally geometric, ceplok may represents abstractions and stylization of flowers, buds, seeds or even animals.

BATIK PESISIR

Batik Pesisir is created and produced by several areas on the northern coast of Java and Madura, including Pekalongan, Cirebon and Lasem. As a result of maritime trading, the Batik Pesisir tradition was more open to foreign influences in textile design, coloring, and motifs, in contrast to inland batik, which was relatively independent from outside influences. For example, Batik Pesisir utilizes vivid colors and Chinese motifs such as clouds, phoenix, dragon, qilin, lotus, peony, and floral patterns.

During the Japanese occupancy of Indonesia, Batik Hokokai was introduced. Designed to suit the Japanese, it attracted Chinese consumers in Java and Malaya as well. Highly influenced by Japanese design in motifs and coloring, with fine intricate backgrounds enhanced the appearance of beautifully designed flowers.

BATIK BELANDA

Even though Chinese traders arrived earlier in Java than the Europeans, their influence on batik was evident in the latter period. Batik Belanda, literally means Dutch Batik, appeared as early as 1840. Records show that European settlers on the northern coast of Java started their batik manufacturing in the mid-19th century. They pioneered a new era of international enrichment that remain visible in Indonesian batik of the modern day. Batik Sudagaran

An important genre in the Batik’s development, Batik Sudagaran emerged as early as the end of the 19th century in the principalities of Surakarta and Yogyakarta. Produced by sudagar or batik merchants, it is easily recognized from the modified classic ornaments styled to the taste of the merchants. Some of the popular creations are the patchwork style Tambal, Parang with the insertion of snail-like motifs, Lereng filled with extra fine spirals called Ukel and Semen that shows high quality workmanship.

BATIK KONTEMPORER

Freedom from the Dutch Colonialism introduced new designs to Indonesian batik. In the early 50s, President Soekarno encouraged the creation of a new style of batik, popularly called Batik Indonesia. A symbiosis between various styles of batik, especially of the principalities of Yogyakarta and Surakarta and the north coast of Java, soga brown remains as the basic color. Batik Indonesia features mostly bright colors. Some appeared in a totally new design, while still maintaining the traditional production technique. People sometimes called it Batik Modern.

As a reflection of the society it represents, Batik stays close to the heart of any generations as the clothing of choice. It is timeless as it evolved through time to stay relevant to its surroundings. The myriad of patterns gives each Batik voice of praises, words, and stories which could inspire our life.

UNESCO acknowledged Indonesian Batik as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity on October 2nd, 2009. As part of the recognition, we are also insisted to preserve our heritage.