Indonesian art forms can include designs traced back to early animistic beliefs, ancestor worship, Hindu or Buddhist influenced motifs brought by Indian traders, Chinese or Islamic symbols and beliefs.

Monday, December 26, 2005

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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Wayang (Puppets)

Puppets have been used for centuries in Indonesia to tell the stories of the ancient epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabarata, as well as ancient myths. Modern stories also utilize this ancient art form for contemporary audiences.
Puppets fall into two major classifications - wayang kulit - the leather or shadow puppet of Central Java, and wayang golek - wooden puppets of West Java. There are several varieties of wooden puppets. Some expats enjoy collecting the same character by various artisans, or all the characters in a scene or story, or just characters that strike their fancy. Good guys, bad guys, gods, demons, nobles, giants, clowns, princes and princesses and monkeys ... all can be found in traditional puppet forms.
Less commonly seen are the Wayang Klitik, a flat wooden puppet.

Wayang Golek

Wayang Golek is a traditional form of puppetry from Sunda, West Java.Unlike flat leather shadow puppets, these puppets are made from wood, and being three-dimensional do not use a screen. The puppetts are ornate with colourful costumes, and have moveable arms and head.
The puppetteer sits on the floor behind a low "table" on which the puppetts perform.The shows are performed for at least six hours during the night, accompanied by gamelan music, with speech and singing to tell the story. This music is quite unlike the traditional court music from Solo, for example, and contains much banter and sound effects!

TEMPLE (candi)

Borobudur Temple

Borobudur is the biggest Buddhist temple in Indonesia located in Muntilan District, Regency of Magelang, Central Java Province. It is the beautiful and glorious temple which was built in seventh century during the Dynasty of Syailendra. Borobudur temple had attracted since seventeenth century as mentioned in Babad Tanah Jawi. Sir Stanford Raffles (1811-1816) interested stone building of Budur village, and to appoint H.C. Cornelius to clean this building and Th. Van Erp 1907-1911 who intended firstly to conserve the building stone in hill. And big scale conservation in 1973-1983 under the leader of Prof. Ir. Rooseno and Dr. R. Soekmono funded by Indonesia and grant from other countries. Borobudur temple has the form of terrace with big stupa. The temple forms has a series of symmetric building with stupa on the top. Structure of the temple has an accompanying component in the form of small stupa. Every terrace of temple has its specific meaning. Symbolic meaning of Borobudur Temple is on the shape of terrace and its places. This connection with cosmology of Buddha, means that the world divide into three parts, Kamadhatu, Rupadhatu, and Aruphadatu.
Borobudur temple was made in phase, first phase in 780 A.D. for basement of terrace, next phase up to fifth phase. The temple consist of ten stages. The first six are square form and stage 7-10 in form of circle made of stone in amount 2.000.000 pieces with volume about 55.000 m3

Prambanan Temple

Prambanan temple is a great building based on Hindu religion familiarly with Bandung Bondowoso story, located in border of Special District of Yogyakarta, and Central Java Province. The temple constructed in 856 A.D., known as monument of Siva the most beautiful and biggest temple in Indonesia, built in the era of Rakai Pikatan in 846-855 A.D. Mr. C.A. Lons was interested in that temple. In 1733 the condition of the temple was covered by land and plant. Effort of cleaning on the large scale was done in 1855 and in 1919 started to be conserved. In 1953 Siva temple finished to be restored, while Prambanan complex finished in 1993.

The biggest complex of Prambanan temple has three main yards, first yard is 110 x 110 m with three main temples namely Siva temple in central, Brahma in the south, and Vishnu in the North. These three main temples symbolized three gods of Hindu religion in the concept of Trimurti. In front of those three main temples there is three temples called Wahana, God transportation that Eagle for Brahma, Buffalo for Siva, and Swan for Vishnu. Beside Wahana temple there is Kelir temple placed in every gate and two temples and Sudut temple. At the second yard there is Perwara temple; accompanying temple arranged in four rows surrounded the first yard in amount 224 pieces. First row is 68 constructions, second is 60 constructions, third 52 and fourth 44 constructions. From that number only a few number can be reconstructed. The third yard could not be found any building of temple.

The Siva temple had five statues, located in the center chamber is Siva statue, in the north chamber standing Dewi Durga Mahisasuramardhini statue, in the west chamber standing Ganesya statue, and the south chamber standing statue of Agastya. In this temple have found relief Ramayana story in the panel of wall building. Inside of Brahma temple there is Brahma statue, and in the Vishnu temple there is Vishnu statue. In the Vishnu temple is carved the story of Kresnayana, and Brahma temple is continuos story of Ramayana.
Prambanan Temple (also known as Loro Jonggrang) is actually a huge Hindu temple complex about 15km north east of Yogyakarta. It was built in the 9th century and designed as three concentric squares. The inner square contains 16 temples, the most significant being the 47m high central Siva temple flanked to the north by the Brahma temple and to the south by the Vishnu temple. The middle square contains 224 lesser temples arranged in four rows.

Legend has it that the princess Loro Jonggrang had unwillingly consented to marry Bandung Bondowoso (a terrible prince with magical powers) on the condition that he build her a huge temple complex, containing 1000 statues, in a single night. She believed he would never manage this impossible task and so the marriage could be avoided. However, as dawn approached on the night of the task, it looked as though the prince was going to complete the challenge. He was just about to start the final statue when he heard the sound of rice being pounded by the local villagers, the traditional sign for the start of a new day. The prince believed he had failed and never completed the final statue. Only later did he discover that Loro Jonggrang had asked the villagers to begin pounding the rice early, so as to trick the prince and escape the marriage. He was so angry that he turned the princess into a statue of Durga, which can still be seen inside the central Siva temple.

Indonesian weapons

Weapons from Indonesia are fascinating. The most popular weapon is a dagger called a "keris" or "kris". Indonesians believe the keris to have mythical powers which can bring the owner good fortune!


stamped batik, the design of which takes months to create; double weave ikat from the islands of Nusa Tenggara, ship cloth from Lampung, silk Bugis sarong from Sulawesi, gold-painted Balinese prada fabric; shimmering kain songket from Palembang utilizing silver and gold metallic threads weft in woven cotton or silk ikat; and Tapis weavings from Lampung.
Weavings from the 27 provinces utilize different materials, methods, colors and designs. Primarily formed on back looms, weeks or months are spent creating intricate designs for everyday use or ceremonial wear. These weavings are primarily known by the different techniques that are used to create the distinctive designs.
The symbolism of the various ethnic groups is evident in the variety of textiles. Color, shapes and their arrangements all have special meanings. Certain designs can only be worn by women or men, or only by the members of the royal family or nobility.
Special textiles are worn or exchanged in life cycle or rights of passage ceremonies celebrating birth, circumcision, puberty, marriage, childbearing and death. Textiles play an important role in many traditional events and ceremonies.
Written records dating to the fourteenth century document the importance of textiles in the social and religious lives of Indonesians. The highly distinctive traditional dress, or pakaian adat, best shows the diversity of uses of textiles throughout the archipelago. The even more elaborate bridal dress displays the best of each province's textile and ornamental jewelry traditions.

Garuda Carving (Symbolism)

Indonesian art forms are rich in symbolism. The mythical naga or dragon; the mamuli pendant - symbol of fertility from Sumba, the tree of life, the mythological beast Garuda (also a national symbol found on the Panca Silasymbol), all have special meanings in Indonesian traditions, myths and beliefs. Exploring the origins of these designs and what they mean is fascinating.
The war between good and evil, ancient stories of love and warfare, nature and the heavens - all have special meanings to Indonesians throughout the archipelago. Gods, demons and knights abound in Balinese carvings and in other areas where Hindu influence predominated at some point in history. Plants, animals (mythological and real) and geometric forms are also widely used and represent specific meanings in particular art forms.
Motifs drawn from nature - leaves, flowers, mountains, water, clouds, animals often represent religious or mystical symbols related to early forms of animism, then later to Hinduism. Islamic prohibitions against showing the human figure or other living creatures stagnated the development of many art forms in areas where Islam was strong.
Certain motifs were favored and even restricted to the royal families, especially in batik designs for the Surakarta and Yogyakarta royal families (one of which is called the broken keris). These symbols depicted simple, natural objects that were important to the lives of Javanese, such as the leaves of the aren palm or the fruit from the kapok tree. Traditional colors of navy blue, cream, brown and black used in batik have given way to a myriad of colors utilizing modern imported dyes.
Handicrafts and art objects range from every day items which are unique to Indonesia, to one-of-a-kind collector's items, with a very wide range in between. What you will buy and/or collect depends of course on what you like. To introduce you briefly to the wide range of items available we've covered some of the more popular below:


The state guarantees tolerance for certain religions regarded as monotheistic by the government, including Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism, but only as long as these creeds remained outside of politics. The government generally discourages religious groups from playing a political role, although they influence many other aspects of life.
Islam was the dominant religion by far in Indonesia, with the greatest number of religious adherents: around 170 million people or 86.9 percent of the population, making it the largest Islamic country in the world. There are striking variations in the practice and interpretation of Islam, with most forms being much less austere than that practiced in the Middle East.
Christianity is the most rapidly growing religion in Indonesia, but still remains small when compared to Islam (9% of the population compared to 86.9% Muslim). The religion was introduced in the sixteenth century, but little growth occured until an influx of foreign missionaries in the twentieth century. Most Indonesian Christians are Protestant, with about half as many Catholics.
Hinduism, which makes up 2% of the population, was greatly modified when adapted to Indonesian society. The caste system that disguishes other Hindus was never rigidly applied. Bali is the primary island on which Hinduism is practiced, where over 93% of the population is Hindu. The Balinese are famous for their graceful and decorous behavior.
Buddhism makes up approximately 1% of the population, primarily in the ethnic Chinese population. They, like the Hindus, built some of the ornate temples scattered across Indonesia.
Kafir(pagan) religions are practiced by millions of Indonesians(0.6% of the population), many of which tend to live in the more remote, sparsely populated islands of the archipelago. Many of these are unique cultural and religious practices that have developed within single communities.


Ceramics made their way to Indonesia over centuries of trade with China dating back to 205 BC. Ceramic items range from everyday common vessels and plates, to fine ceramic pieces that became heirlooms passed down fromgeneration to generation.
Modern reproductions of these antiques abound ... so take the time to learn the difference between a genuine antique and a modern reproduction. The Ceramic Museum in Jakarta, ceramic study groups at the Indonesian Heritage Society and a wealth of books on Ceramics will help introduce you to this fascinating ancient art form.
Contemporary ceramic design can be found in a wide range of useful household items. Lombok pottery in particular is popular with expats. The intricate terra-cotta pottery made in the village of Kasongan near Yogyakarta is also a favorite of many.
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