History of Indonesian Batik

The history of batik in Indonesia is closely related to the development of the Majapahit Kingdom and the spread of Islam in Java. Indonesian batik comes from the word “ambatik” which means a cloth that has many dots. The suffix of the word batik, “tik” means a dot or tip used to make a dot. The word batik also comes from the Javanese language, namely “tritik“, the word batik comes from a combination of two words, namely “amba“, which means writing and “tik” which means point.

Batik in Indonesia has been known since the Majapahit era and was popular in the late 18th century. At that time, the batik produced was written batik, until entering the 20th century. Meanwhile, stamped batik began to be recognized after World War I. Batik art is the art of drawing on cloth for clothing which is one of the cultures of the royal family.

Batik art is the art of drawing on cloth for clothing which became one of the cultures of royal families in Indonesia in ancient times. Initially, batik making was limited to the palace and batik was produced for the clothes of the king and the government family and dignitaries. Because many of the dignitaries lived outside the palace, this batik art was brought by them out of the palace and also produced in their respective places.

Over time, this batik art was imitated by the common people and then expanded so that it became the work of household women to fill their spare time.

The process of Indonesian batik being recognized by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Culture Organization) on October 2, 2009 has been a long journey. Until October 2, 2009, it was proclaimed as National Batik Day by President Susilo Bambang Yudoyono.

Reporting from UNESCO’s official website, the recognition of Indonesian batik as an Intangible Cultural Heritage (WBTb) in 2009 was based on its manufacturing techniques, the symbolism contained in it, and its close association with Indonesian culture. Batik is not only considered an art, but also loaded with deep philosophical meanings.

UNESCO Charter. Photo source: Wix.com

UNESCO’s recognition of Indonesian batik has several main reasons. Batik in Indonesia has a remarkable history, dating back to the Ancient Mataram kingdom in the 8th century. The depth of its history shows its high cultural value, which proves that this art has been around for a long time and is well developed. In addition, batik in Indonesia also shows a rich regional diversity with cultures existing in different regions. Each region has its own distinctive batik styles and patterns, which make up the rich mosaic of cultural arts across the country. Skills and traditions passed down through generations are also the main reasons for UNESCO’s recognition of Indonesian batik. Indonesians interpret batik from birth to death processions, which makes batik a reflection of Indonesia’s cultural diversity.

The technique of making batik recognized by UNESCO is a technical process of coloring on a piece of cloth using canting tulis or canting cap and hot wax as a color barrier. So if the process of making cloth does not use canting and hot wax, it is not called batik.