The Forbidden Designs in Batik Yogyakarta

Batik designs reflected traditional values, histories and cultures, so do Batik Yogyakarta designs. Some of the patterns were forbidden to be used by commoners because there were special for the royalty, some of them were forbidden to be used by certain kingdom family because it shown degree of the hierarchy of the kingdom family.

Every designs has its own meaning. Wearing right pattern in the right time by right people is very important in Yogyakarta, especially in kingdom family.

Although in these days we can find all of these forbidden patterns and wear them, but better to know closely about the historical and beautiful meaning of the forbidden batik designs.


Kawung Pattern

This can be the oldest pattern of batik. It depicts cross-section of aren-palm fruits and shows the seeds and center if the fruit. It also looks like a four petals blossoms simplified of lotus which means of purity. In other reference, the pattern can be evolved from fish scales. The pattern is very simple because based on the  repeating of squares, oval, rectangular, and star.


Kawung is part of ceplok design which in Javanese has a meaning as the belief of the people in a structured universe with a center of the universe in the center of the kawung.


Parang Pattern

A sword pattern, implies the power and the grown, and was worn by the rulers. It believes that someone who wear this batik design will has the magic power to destroy the flaw.

Parang means broken dagger or keris, a traditional sword in Java. Keris has superpower to make the owner as a winner in the war, to brought good luck to unfortunate and to heal the sick. More bigger the parang pattern, more high the class of the worn.


Parang Rusak Pattern

We have discussed about this design in this blog 🙂

This pattern is about 15 cm for each parang and just can be worn by King. Every single line in this written batik must be drawn in one breath, this need high concentration so the line will not be separated.


Cemukiran Pattern

Cemukiran batik depicts lotus that shows power of the owner and the worn. Cemukiran usually borders a plain color of centerpiece called modang. This modang uses by kingdom family.

Modang Cemukiran


Sawat Pattern

Sawat shows “big wings” of garuda bird. Garuda, according to legend is as bird-like creature has body and leg as a man but has beak and talon as an eagle. Garuda carried Wisnu (Hindi God) to the heaven.

“Sawat” in Javanese has a meaning as “strike”. Although Yogyakarta is from Islamic Mataram Kingdom, but it is influenced by Hindi and believes that Gods has a power to take care the universe. One of the Gods, Batara Indra, has a weapon called wajra or bajra which strike to the devil as a thunder. Wajra is a snake with big wings, scared all of Batara Indra enemies. Even Wajra is scary but also bring life as a rain. That’s why Batara Indra’s weapon depicts as a hope that the one who wear it will get protection in his life.



PS: interesting fact that Garuda is the emblem of Indonesia and Indonesia build a huge statue Garuda Wisnu Kencana in Bali. This statue, if finish :p, will be bigger than Liberty in USA. Check this out:


Udan Liris Pattern

or “light rain” combines a variety of designs and natural of shapes with diagonal lines. Most likely, the meaning is fertility symbols of agriculture.

The other reference says that the meaning of udan liris design shows the spirit and gratitude to pass every obstacles in the life.


Semen Pattern

In English semen is to sprout or to growth. The semen design is full of symbolism that may represent the worship of fertility

Mountain is the symbols of holy place of Gods, pavilion or temple as a place for meditation. Wings means moving to spiritual realm. Animal represent the earth. Garuda represent the father of heaven. Snake or dragon represent the mother of earth.

Another reference says that this type of batik used by Paku Buwono IV (1788-1820) to teach his royal prince how to be a King: Indrabrata (taking care the plans), Yamabrata (depicts as mountain, King must take care the law and justice), Suryabrata (depict as garuda, King must has strong heart to be a judge), Sasibrata (star in the darkness), Bayubrata (depict as bird that show King must not use his authority in wrong way), Danababrata (King must place the people above himself),  Barunabrata (depict as dragon that shows King must has a kind heart to forgive the others), and last Agnibrata (as a fire flame that shows the King’s power tho protect his people)


Alasalasan Pattern

or “virgin wood” has similar meaning with semen design or maybe its precursor. Flora and fauna suggest that this design encourage the productivity and protection of the earth. This pattern often applied in the fabric in gold outline.





Categories: Batik

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12 replies

  1. lian, this is ur blog?? wow, great! ^^
    btw, i love the last pattern i wish i can have batik with that kind of pattern, it it’s allowed… somehow it seems like my great grandmother has sawat/semen design. or maybe it’s just my eyes..
    well, nice post!

    • Thanks redno-chan (big hug), i started to write in this blog since last year to honestly, but i renewed the page and tried to write frequently.
      I love batik very much…
      the last batik, Alasalasan looks so luxurious right, i like it too. I hope i can have it soon 😀

      • ur blog is great. got lots of post. kinda jealous since i can’t write this much like urs ^^ and the great thing is u wrote lots of post bout java culture especially jogja..
        u know, feel weird since both of us can talk javanese yet here we are talking in english. hahaha 😀

  2. Retno, u make me proud of myself 😉

    btw iyo ik, biasa ne nggo bhs Jawa wae lho yoooo, hahahahahaha

  3. Very good info can be found on this web site.

  4. The parang design looks awesome!

  5. Cemukiran FTW 😀

  6. Thankyou this is a clear and informative blog and is helping me in my research into traditional Javanese motifs. I visited Yogyakarta for the first time last November and was amazed by all the beautiful batik !
    I am a Uk batik artist and I hope to interpret some of the designs in my work, my blog is http:/

  7. There’s a place near KLCC where i went for batik painting workshop. Batik is one of the most important traditional handicrafts in Malaysia. The place is called MyBatik, and i had a really relaxing and good time there with my family, as the environment of the place is serene, in the midst of hectic Kuala Lumpur. I did “canting” and also colouring of batik, and my kids really enjoyed the cultural entertainment too. Those who are interested can go to for further information. An experience not to be missed!

    • Thanks for sharing your experiences in KLCC. I wonder is there any different between Malaysian and Indonesian’s batik, so does their similarity. In my blog, i wrote about Indonesian’s Batik.


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