Javanese people

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For other uses, see Javanese (disambiguation).
Javanese people
Wòng Jåwå[1]
Prajnaparamita Java Front.JPG
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Total population
more than 100 million
Regions with significant populations

Indonesia: 95,217,022[2]
Central Java: 30.6 million
East Java: 27.5 million
Lampung: 4.2 million
West Java: 3.9 million
North Sumatra: 3.7 million
Yogyakarta: 3 million
Jakarta: 2.9 million
South Sumatra: 1.9 million
Riau: 1.2 million
Banten: 1.0 million
East Kalimantan: 0.7 million

Malaysia: 1 million

Suriname: 275,000

Singapore: 89,000[3]

New Caledonia: 5,000

Netherlands: 150,000-300,000
Predominantly Islam and Kejawen. Minorities of Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism
Related ethnic groups
other Indonesian ethnic groups, such as: Sundanese, Madurese, Balinese, Tionghoa, Ambonese, Indo people.

The Javanese (Ngoko Javanese: ꦮꦺꦴꦁꦗꦮ,[4] Krama Javanese: ꦠꦶꦪꦁꦗꦮꦶ,[5] Ngoko Gêdrìk: wòng Jåwå, Krama Gêdrìk: tiyang Jawi, Indonesian: suku Jawa)[6] are an ethnic group native to the Indonesian island of Java. At approximately 100 million people (as of 2011), they form the largest ethnic group in Indonesia. They are predominantly located in the central to eastern parts of the island. There are also significant numbers of people of Javanese descent in most Provinces of Indonesia, Malaysia, Suriname, South Africa and the Netherlands.

Ethnic Javanese has many sub-ethnic such as Mataram, Cirebonese, Osing, Tenggerese, Boyanese, Samin, Naganese, Banyumasan, etc.[7]

Today the majority of the Javanese people identify themselves as Muslims, with a minority identifying as Christians and Hindus, but because Javanese civilization has been influenced by more than a millennium of interactions between the native animism Kejawen and the Indian HinduBuddhist culture, the influence is still visible in Javanese history, culture, traditions and art forms.


For other uses, see Javanese historical texts.

Like most Indonesian ethnic groups, including the Sundanese of West Java, the Javanese are of Austronesian origins whose ancestors are thought to have originated in Taiwan, and migrated through the Philippines,[8] reaching Java between 1,500BC and 1,000BC.[9]

Ancient Javanese kingdoms[edit]

The Prambanan temple complex, built during Mataram kingdom.

Hindu and Buddhist influences arrived through trade contacts with the Indian subcontinent.[10] Hindu and Buddhist proselytizers arrived in the 5th century. The Hindu, Buddhist and Javanese faiths blended into a unique local philosophy.[8]

The cradle of Javanese culture is commonly described as being in Kedu and Kewu Plain in the fertile slopes of Mount Merapi as the heart of the Medang i Bhumi Mataram kingdom.[11] Earliest dynasties, Sanjaya and Sailendra has their power base there.[12]:238–239

Center of Javanese culture and politics was moved to eastern part of the island when Mpu Sindok (r. 929-947) moved the capital of the kingdoms eastward to the valleys of Brantas River in the 10th century CE. The move was most likely caused by volcanic eruption of Merapi and/or invasion from Srivijaya.[12]:238–239

The major spread of Javanese influence occurred under King Kertanegara of Singhasari in late 13th century. The expansionist king launched major expeditions to Madura, Bali in 1284,[13] Borneo[when?] and most importantly to Sumatra in 1275.[12] Following the defeat of Melayu Kingdom, Singhasari controlled trade in the Strait of Malacca.

Singhasari dominance was cut short in 1292 by Kediri's rebellion under Jayakatwang, killing Kertanegara. However, Jayakatwang reign as king of Java soon ended as he was defeated by Kertanegara's son-in-law, Raden Wijaya with the help of invading Mongol troops in March 1293.

Raden Wijaya would later established Majapahit near the delta of Brantas River in modern-day Mojokerto, East Java. Kertanegara policies would later be continued by the Majapahits under King Hayam Wuruk and his minister Gajah Mada.[13]

Kingdoms of Java actively involved in spice trade in the sea route of Silk Road. Although not a major spice producer itself, they were able to stockpile spice by trading it with rice, of which Java was a major producer.[14] Majapahit is usually regarded as the greatest of these kingdoms. It was both an agrarian and a maritime power, combining wet-rice cultivation and foreign trade.[15] The ruin of their capital can be found in Trowulan.

Javanese sultanates[edit]

Sultan Amangkurat II of Mataram (upper right) watching warlord Untung Surapati fighting Captain Tack of the Dutch East India Company (VOC). ca 1684 AD.

Islam gained its foothold in port towns on Java northern coast such as Gresik, Ampel Denta (Surabaya), Tuban, Demak and Kudus. The spread and proselytizing of Islam among Javanese people was traditionally credited to Wali Songo.[16]

Following succession disputes and civil wars, Majapahit power collapsed. Java underwent major changes as Islam spread. After the collapse of Majapahit, its various dependencies and vassals broke free.[17] Sultanate of Demak became the new strongest power, gaining supremacy among city-states on the northern coast of Java.[18] Apart from Javanese city-states, it also gained overlordship of ports of Jambi and Palembang in eastern Sumatra.[18] Demak played major role opposing the newly arrived colonial power, the Portuguese. Demak twice attacked the Portuguese following their capture of Malacca. They also attacked alliance between Portuguese and the Sunda Kingdom, establishing in process the Sultanate of Banten.

Demak was succeeded by Kingdom of Pajang and finally Sultanate of Mataram. The center power moved from coastal Demak, to Pajang in Blora, and later further inland to Mataram lands in Kotagede near present day Yogyakarta. Mataram Sultanate reach its peak of power and influence during the reign of Sultan Agung Hanyokrokusumo in 1613-1645.

Colonial Java[edit]

Javanese adapted many aspects of Indian culture, such as Ramayana epic.

In 1619 the Dutch established their trading headquarter in Batavia. Java slowly fell to the Dutch East India Company, which would also eventually control most of Maritime Southeast Asia. The internal intrigue and war of succession, added with Dutch interference caused the Mataram Sultanate to break up into Surakarta and Yogyakarta. The further separation of the Javanese realm was marked by the establishment of Mangkunegaran and Pakualaman princedom. Although the real political power in those days actually lay with the colonial Dutch, the Javanese kings, in their keratons, still held prestige as the center of the Javanese realm, especially in and around Surakarta and Yogyakarta.

Dutch rule was briefly interrupted by British rule in early 19th century. While short, the British administration led by Stamford Raffles, was significant, and included re-discovery of Borobudur. Conflict with foreign rule was exemplified by the Java War between 1825 and 1830, and the leadership of Prince Diponegoro.

Like the rest of Dutch East Indies, Java was captured by the Empire of Japan during World War II. With Japan's defeat, independence was proclaimed in the new Republic of Indonesia.

Republic of Indonesia[edit]

August 17, 1945, when the Indonesian independence was proclaimed, the last sovereign Javanese monarchies, represented by the Sri Sultan of Yogyakarta, the Sunanate of Surakarta and Prince of Mangkunegara made a declaration they would become part of the Republic of Indonesia.

Yogyakarta and Pakualam were later united to form the Yogyakarta Special Region and the Sri sultan became Governor of Yogyakarta and the Prince of Pakualaman vice-governor; both were responsible to the President of Indonesia. The Special Region of Yogyakarta was created after the war of independence ended and formalised on August 3, 1950. Surakarta was later absorbed as part of the Central Java province.


An illustration of a ship on a Borobudur relief.

Javanese were probably involved in Austronesian migration to Madagascar in the first centuries C.E. While the core culture of the migration is most closely related with Ma'anyan of Borneo, a portion of the Malagasy language is derived from loanwords from the Javanese language.[19]

Since the Hindu kingdom period, Javanese merchants settled at many places in the archipelago.[12]:247 In the late 15th century, following the collapse of Majapahit and the rise of Muslim principalities on the northern coast of Java, many Hindu nobilities, artisans and courtiers migrated to Bali,[13] where they would contribute to the refined culture of Bali. Others who refused to convert to Islam retreated to Tengger mountain, retaining their Hindu religions and became the Tenggerese people.

In the conflicts during the transitions of power between the Demak, the Pajang and the Mataram in the late 16th century, some Javanese migrated to Palembang in southern Sumatra. There they established a sultanate and formed a mix of Malay and Javanese culture.[20] Palembang language is a dialect of Malay language with heavy influence of Javanese.

During the reign of Sultan Agung (1613–1645), Javanese began to established settlements in coastal West Java around Cirebon, Indramayu and Karawang. These Javanese settlements were originally commissioned by Sultan Agung as rice farming villages to support the Javanese troop logistics on his military campaign against Dutch Batavia.

The Javanese also present in Peninsular Malaya since early times.[21] The Link between Java and Malacca was important during spread of Islam in Indonesia, when religious missionaries were sent from Malacca to seaports on the northern coast of Java.[15] Large migrations to the Malay Peninsula occurred during the colonial period, mostly from Central Java to British Malaya. From 1880 to 1930 migration from other parts of Java and secondary migration from Sumatra also took place during this period. Those migrations were to seek a new life away from the Dutch colonists who ruled Indonesia at that time. Today these people live throughout Peninsular Malaysia and are mainly concentrated in parts of Perak, Johor, Selangor, and Kedah. [22] In Singapore, approximately 50-60% of its Malay population have some degree of Javanese ancestry. Most of them have identified themselves as Malays, rather than Javanese.[23]

Javanese merchants were also present in the Maluku Islands as part of the spice trade. Following Islamization of Java, they spread Islam in the islands, with Ternate being a Muslim sultanate circa 1484.[24] Javanese merchants also converted coastal cities in Borneo to Islam.[25] The Javanese thus played an important part in transmitting Islam from the western part to the eastern part of the Archipelago with trade based from northern coast of Java.

Javanese migrant workers in Suriname. ca. 1940

New migration patterns emerged during colonial periods. During the rise of VOC power starting in the 17th century, many Javanese were exiled, enslaved or hired as mercenaries to Dutch colonies of Ceylon in South Asia and the Cape colony in South Africa. These included princes and nobility who lost their dispute with the Company and were exiled along with their retinues. These, along with exiles from other ethnicities like Bugis and Malay became the Sri Lankan Malay[26] and Cape Malay,[27] ethnic groups respectively. Other political prisoners were transported to closer places. For example Prince Diponegoro and his followers were transported to North Sulawesi, following his defeat in Java War in the early 19th century. Their descendants are well known as Jaton (abbreviation of "Jawa Tondano"/Tondano Javanese).

Major migrations started during the Dutch colonial period under Transmigration programs. The Dutch needed many laborers for their plantations, moved many Javanese under the program as contract workers, mostly to other part of the colony in Sumatra. But they also sent the Javanese workers to Suriname in South America. Today approximately 15% of the Suriname population is of Javanese ancestry.

The Transmigration program that was created by the Dutch was continued following Independence. A significant Javanese population can be found in the Jabodetabek (Greater Jakarta) area, Lampung, South Sumatra and Jambi provinces. Several paguyuban (traditional community organization) were formed by these Javanese immigrants, such as "Pujakesuma" (abbreviation of Indonesian: Putra Jawa Kelahiran Sumatera or Sumatra-born Javanese).

Social structure[edit]

Javanese priyayi and servants, c. 1865.

The American anthropologist Clifford Geertz in the 1960s divided the Javanese community into three aliran or "streams": santri, abangan and priyayi. According to him, the Santri followed an orthodox interpretation Islam, the abangan was the followed a syncretic form of Islam that mixed Hindu and animist elements (often termed Kejawen), and the priyayi was the nobility.[28]

But today the Geertz opinion is often opposed because he mixed the social groups with belief groups. It was also difficult to apply this social categorisation in classing outsiders, for example other non-indigenous Indonesians such as persons of Arab, Chinese and Indian descent.

Social stratification is much less rigid in northern coast area, which is much more egalitarian.


Main article: Javanese language
For other uses, see Javanese poetry.

Javanese is a member of the Austronesian family of languages and is closely related to, but distinct from, other languages of Indonesia.[29] It is notable for its great number of nearly ubiquitous Sanskrit loans, found especially in literary Javanese.[30] This is due to the long history of Hindu and Buddhist influences in Java.

Most Javanese in Indonesia are bilingual fluent in Indonesian and Javanese.[31] In a public poll held circa-1990, approximately 12% of Javanese used Indonesian, around 18% used both Javanese and Indonesian, and the rest used Javanese exclusively.

The Javanese language was commonly written with the a script descended from the Brahmi script, natively known as Hanacaraka or Carakan. Upon Indonesian independence it was replaced with a form of the Latin alphabet.

While Javanese was not made an official language of Indonesia, it has the status of 'regional language' for communication in the Javanese-majority regions. The language also can be viewed as an 'ethnic language' because it is one of the defining characteristics of the Javanese ethnic identity.[29]

Culture and religion[edit]

Main articles: Javanese culture and Kebatinan
For other uses, see Javanese dance and Javanese sacred places.

Javanese culture is centered in the Central Java, Yogyakarta and East Java provinces of Indonesia. Due to various migrations, it can also be found in other parts of the world, such as Suriname (where 15% of the population are of Javanese descent), the broader Indonesian archipelago region,[26] Cape Malay,[27] Malaysia, Singapore, Netherlands and other countries. The migrants bring with them various aspect of Javanese cultures such as Gamelan music, traditional dances[32] and art of Wayang kulit shadow play.[33] The migration of Javanese people westward has created the coastal Javanese culture that distinct to inland Sundanese culture in West Java.

Today, most Javanese follow a moderate form of Islam as their religion,[34] while only 5-10 percent of Javanese follow orthodox Islamic traditions.[35] Orthodox Muslims are the strongest in northern coast bordering the Java Sea, where Islam was first brought to the island. Islam first came in contact with Java during Majapahit periods, when they traded or made tributary relations with various states like Perlak and Samudra Pasai in modern-day Aceh.[15]

A minority of Javanese also follow Christianity (Protestantism and Catholicism), which are rather concentrated in Central Java (particularly Surakarta, Magelang and Yogyakarta for Catholicism) such as the Gereja Kristen Jawa. On a smaller scale, Buddhism and Hinduism are also found in the Javanese community. The Javanese Tengger tribe is still practicing Javanese-Hindu till today.[36]

Kebatinan, also called Kejawen,[37] Agama Jawa[38] and Kepercayaan[39] is a Javanese religious tradition, consisting of an amalgam of animistic, Hindu-Buddhist, and Islamic, especially Sufi, beliefs and practices. It is rooted in the Javanese history and religiosity, syncretizing aspects of different religions.


Main article: Javanese names

Javanese do not usually have family names or surnames. Many have just a single name. For example, Sukarno or Suharto. Javanese names may come from traditional Javanese languages, many of which are derived from Sanskrit. Names with the prefix Su-,which means good, are very popular. After the advent of Islam, many Javanese began to use Arabic names, especially coast populations, where Islamic influences are stronger. Commoners usually only have one-word names, while nobilities use two-or-more-word names, but rarely a surname. Due to the influence of other cultures, many people started using names from other languages, mainly European languages. Christian Javanese usually use Latin baptism names followed by a traditional Javanese name.

Some people use a patronymic. For example, Abdurrahman Wahid's name is derived from his father's name (Wahid Hasyim) who was an independence fighter and minister. In turn, Wahid Hasyim's name was derived from that of his father: Hasyim Asyari, a famous cleric and founder of the Nahdlatul Ulama organization.

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Piwulang Basa Jawa Pepak, S.B. Pramono, hal 148, 2013
  2. ^ Kewarganegaraan, Suku Bangsa, Agama dan Bahasa Sehari-hari Penduduk Indonesia - Hasil Sensus Penduduk 2010. Badan Pusat Statistik. 2011. ISBN 978-979-064417-5. 
  3. ^ Census of Population 2010 Table 5 - Malay Resident Population by Age Group, Dialect Group and Sex, Department of Statistics Singapore, retrieved 17 February 2013
  4. ^ Kamus Pepak Basa Jawa,Sudaryanto/Pranowo, 2001, #1359
  5. ^ See: Javanese language: Politeness
  6. ^ Harjawiyana, Haryana; Theodorus Supriya, (2001). Kamus unggah-ungguh basa Jawa. Kanisius. p. 185. ISBN 978-979-672-991-3. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b Spiller, Henry (2008). Gamelan music of Indonesia. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-0-415-96067-0. 
  9. ^ Taylor (2003), p. 7.
  10. ^ Miksic, John; Marcello Tranchini; Anita Tranchini (1996). Borobudur: Golden Tales of the Buddhas. Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 978-0-945971-90-0. 
  11. ^ Tarling, Nicholas (1999). Cambridge history of South East Asia: From early times to c.1500. Cambridge University Press. p. 203. ISBN 978-0-521-66369-4. 
  12. ^ a b c d Spuler, Bertold; F.R.C. Bagley (1981-12-31). The Muslim world: a historical survey, Part 4. Brill Archive. p. 252. ISBN 978-90-04-06196-5. 
  13. ^ a b c Capaldi, Liz; Joshua Eliot (2000). Bali handbook with Lombok and the Eastern Isles: the travel guide. Footprint Travel Guides. ISBN 978-0-658-01454-3. 
  14. ^ World and Its Peoples: Indonesia and East Timor. Marshall Cavendish. 2007. p. 1333. ISBN 978-0-7614-7643-6.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  15. ^ a b c André Wink, André Wink (2004). Indo-Islamic society, 14th-15th centuries. BRILL. p. 217. ISBN 978-90-04-13561-1. 
  16. ^ Ricklefs, M.C. (1991). A History of Modern Indonesia since c.1300, 2nd Edition. London: MacMillan. pp. 9–10. ISBN 0-333-57689-6. 
  17. ^ Muljana, Slamet (2005). Runtuhnya kerajaan Hindu-Jawa dan timbulnya negara-negara Islam di Nusantara. Yogyakarta, Indonesia: LKiS. ISBN 979-8451-16-3. 
  18. ^ a b Pires, Tomé (1990). The Suma oriental of Tome Pires: an account of the East. New Delhi: Asian Educational Services. ISBN 81-206-0535-7. 
  19. ^ Adelaar, Alexander (2006). "The Indonesian migrations to Madagascar: making sense of the multidisciplinary evidence". Melbourne Institute of Asian Languages and Societies, The University of Melbourne. ISBN 9789792624366. 
  20. ^ Simanjuntak, Truman; Ingrid Harriet Eileen Pojoh; Muhamad Hisyam (2006). Austronesian diaspora and the ethnogeneses of people in Indonesian archipelago. Yayasan Obor Indonesia. p. 422. ISBN 978-979-26-2436-6. 
  21. ^ Crawfurd, John (1856). A descriptive dictionary of the Indian islands & adjacent countries. Bradbury & Evans. p. 244. 
  22. ^ "Javanese, Orang Jawa of Malaysia". Joshua Project. 2010. 
  23. ^ LePoer, Barbara Leitch (1991). Singapore, a country study. Federal Research Division, Library of Congress. p. 83. Retrieved 17 February 2013. Singapore Malay community leaders estimated that some 50 to 60 percent of the community traced their origins to Java and an additional 15 to 20 percent to Bawean Island, in the Java Sea north of the city of Surabaya. 
  24. ^ Storch, Tanya (2006). Religions and missionaries around the Pacific, 1500-1900. Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7546-0667-3. 
  25. ^ Lapidus, Ira Marvin (2002). A history of Islamic societies. Cambridge University Press. p. 384. ISBN 978-0-521-77933-3. 
  26. ^ a b Shukri, M. A. M. (1986). Muslims of Sri Lanka: avenues to antiquity. Jamiah Naleemia Inst. 
  27. ^ a b Williams, Faldela (1988). Cape Malay Cookbook. Struik. ISBN 978-1-86825-560-3. 
  28. ^ McDonald, Hamish (1980). Suharto's Indonesia. Melbourne: Fontana. pp. 9–10. ISBN 0-00-635721-0. 
  29. ^ a b Robson, Stuart; Singgih Wibisono (2002). Javanese English dictionary. Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7946-0000-6. 
  30. ^ Marr, David G.; Anthony Crothers Milner (1986). Southeast Asia in the 9th to 14th centuries. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. ISBN 978-9971-988-39-5. 
  31. ^ Errington, James Joseph (1998). Shifting languages: interaction and identity in Javanese Indonesia. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-63448-9. 
  32. ^ Matusky, Patricia Ann; Sooi Beng Tan (2004). The music of Malaysia: the classical, folk, and syncretic traditions. Ashgate Publishing. p. 107. ISBN 978-0-7546-0831-8. 
  33. ^ Osnes, Beth (2010). The Shadow Puppet Theatre of Malaysia: A Study of Wayang Kulit with Performance Scripts and Puppet Designs. McFarland. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-7864-4838-8. 
  34. ^ Geertz, Clifford (1976). The religion of Java. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-28510-8. 
  35. ^ [1]
  36. ^ Beatty, Andrew (1999). Varieties of Javanese religion: an anthropological account. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-62473-2. 
  37. ^ Gin 2004, p. 719.
  38. ^ Caldarola 1982, p. 501.
  39. ^ Hooker 1988, p. 196.


  • Caldarola, Carlo (1982), Religion and Societies: Asia and the Middle East, Walter de Gruyter 
  • Gin, Ooi Keat (2004), Southeast Asia: A Historical Encyclopedia, from Angkor Wat to Timor. R-Z. Volume three, ABC-CLIO 
  • Hooker, M.B. (1988), Islam in South East Asia, Brill 

Further reading[edit]

  • Kuncaraningrat Raden Mas; Southeast Asian Studies Program (Institute of Southeast Asian Studies) (1985), Javanese culture, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-582542-8