Javanese people

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Javanese rambutan seller wearing
Batik shirt and peci hat
Regions with significant populations

Indonesia: 83.2 million
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
Jambi: 0.7 million
Aceh: 0.6 million
South Kalimantan: 0.4 million
Bengkulu: 0.3 million
Central Kalimantan: 0.3 million
Papua: 0.3 million

Malaysia: 1 million

Suriname: 75,000

New Caledonia: 5,000

Netherlands: 150,000-300,000[citation needed]
Javanese, Indonesian, Dutch
Predomatinely Islam. Some adherents of Kejawen Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism
Related ethnic groups
Sundanese, Madurese, Balinese, Sri Lankan Malays, Malays

The Javanese are an ethnic group native to the Indonesian island of Java. They are predominantly located in the central to eastern parts of the island. At 90 million people (as of 2004), it is the largest ethnic group on the island, and also in Indonesia.

Origin and distribution

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, reaching Java between 1,500BCE and 1,000BCE.[1]

The Javanese were traditionally concentrated in the provinces of East Java, Central Java and Yogyakarta, but due to migration within Indonesia (as part of government transmigration programs or otherwise) there are now high populations of Javanese people in almost all the Indonesian provinces. (The province of West Java is home to the Sundanese, Indonesia's second largest ethnic group who are ethnically distinct from the Javanese).


Javanese people use Javanese language in everyday speech. 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.


Culturally, Javanese people adopt a paternalistic system that traces the hierarchic lineage of the father. This system is particularly used to determine descendants' right to use royal titles before their names. However, it is not customary for Javanese to have a descended family name.


Most Javanese follow Islam as their religion. Some also follow Christianity (Protestantism and Catholicism), which are rather concentrated in Central Java (particularly Surakarta, Magelang and Yogyakarta for Catholicism). In a much smaller scale, Buddhism and Hinduism also are found in the Javanese community.

Many Javanese follow the ethnic religion Kejawen, which is animistic with strong influences of Hinduism and Buddhism and some rituals in Islam. The Javanese community is also known for syncretism of beliefs. All the outside cultures were absorbed and interpreted according to the Javanese traditional values, creating a new set of religious beliefs unique to local culture.


In Indonesia, Javanese can be found in all professions, especially in the government and the military. Traditionally, most Javanese are farmers. This was especially common because of the fertile volcanic soil in Java.

Social stratification

The famous 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.[2] 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.

Map of Javanese language distribution (in white). The homeland of the Javanese people is almost identical to the language distribution.


Javanese refined art of royal court dance.

Javanese origin artforms are among the best known in Indonesia and the whole archipelago. The famous Javanese wayang puppetry culture was influenced by Hindu and Buddhist traditions. The Wayang repertoire stories, lakon, are mostly based on epics from India; Ramayana and Mahabharata. These epics and stories influenced wayang puppetry as well as Javanese classical dances. The influences from Islam and the Western world also can be found. The art of Batik and Keris dagger are among Javanese origin art expressions. Gamelan musical ensembles are found in both Java and Bali. All of these artforms holds important position, and function within Javanese culture and tradition.


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 among clerics and northern 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 baptist 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.

See also


  1. ^ Taylor (2003), p. 7.
  2. ^ McDonald, Hamish (1980). Suharto's Indonesia. Melbourne: Fontana. pp. 9–10. ISBN ISBN 0-00-635721-0 Check |isbn= value: invalid character (help).

Further reading

  • Kuncaraningrat. (1985) Javanese culture Singapore: Oxford University Press,