The Javanese of Indonesia
A cluster of 7 Javanese groups in Indonesia.
The Javanese have a rich written history, dating back to 750 A.D. The country is filled with huge temples and tombs. These architectural feats were influenced by outside cultures and nations that once lived in Java. The Dutch formerly ruled Java and controlled much of its commerce. The English later came to Java and offered a new system of trade. The Javanese liked the hierarchical system the English set up, and liberated themselves from the Dutch. After many internal rulers had governed Java, the Japanese took over. They ruled until 1945, when Java once again gained its independence. In 1975, Indonesia was born and Java voluntarily became part of that country.
What are their lives like?
The Javanese (or Jawa) have many subgroups. Two of these, the Pasisir Lor and the Pasisir Kulon, live on the northern coast of Java and do most of their trading with the English. Most internal trade is done by the women. They are the retailers, servicing four or five villages throughout rural Java.
The Javanese culture is highly stratified. The upper class consists of the nobles. They have different titles that indicate their hereditary rank and function in relation to the ruler. The middle class is made up of the educated. They often hold positions as administrative officials. They also marry with the nobles to achieve a higher social rank. The lowest level consists of the wong cilik, or "little people." These are masses of peasants who live in the villages and larger cities. Fortunately, the hierarchy allows people to move through the classes by education, marriage, or entering government service.
Many Javanese are bilingual, speaking Bahasa Indonesian away from home and Javanese among themselves. People in some villages speak only a Javanese dialect. For example, the Jawa speak Jawara, and the Banumasan Jawa speak Banumasanóboth Javanese dialects.
Within the Javanese language there are approximately nine different styles of speaking. The styles range from the least refined to the extremely polite form. The levels vary according to status, rank, age, and level of intimacy between the speakers. Mockery and insults are used only by the lower class and the extreme upper class.
In the Javanese culture, individuals are free to choose their own spouses. Sometimes marriages are arranged by parents, but this is rare. Divorce is common and is permitted by Muslim law.
Javanese children are completely indulged until the age of two or four. Then the discipline becomes very strict, almost cruel. The most common methods of discipline include verbal warnings, corporal punishment, comparison to siblings and other children, and threats of open punishment. The latter encourages children to be fearful and shy around strangers. Mothers are the primary caregivers, while the fathers are more distant.
What are their beliefs?
The Cirebon (one subgroup of the Javanese) are almost exclusively Islamic. They live along the northern coast of Java, which is where Islam originated on Java. Many work as merchants, and such a large majority of these merchants are Muslim, that Islam is often associated with commerce.
All of the Javanese religions stress inner tranquillity. This is the core of their distinct version of religion. Slametan is their most important ritual. It is a communal feast that is believed to bring well-being to the hosting family. They also perform a drama that recounts the struggle of two related families for the rule over the kingdom of Ngastina. This drama is based on an Indian epic poem that makes many philosophical judgments on how life should be lived.
What are their needs?
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
This profile may be copied and distributed without obtaining permission
as long as it is not altered, bound, published
or used for profit purposes.