Javanese Religion

Doctrines "It is particularly true that in describing the religion of such a complex civilisation as the Javanese any simple unitary view is certain to be inadequate" and there is "much variation in ritual, contrast in belief, and conflict in values... behind the simple statement that Java is more than 90 per cent Moslem" (Geertz 1960, 7).
There are two types of Javanese Islam. The most popular is Agami Jawi, "Javanese religion," which Geertz calls Abangan. The second type is a puritanical Islam known as Agami Islam Santri, "Santri Islam religion," called Islam Santri by Geertz. Sufism or mystical Islam has been of great doctrinal importance in Javanese religion.
Agami Jawi is a complex blending of doctrines and practices. It has a wide range of concepts, views, and values, many being Muslim in origin, such as the belief in God Almighty (Gusti Allah), the prophet Muhammad (kanjeng nabi Muhammad), and other prophets (para ambiya). All actions and decisions are done "in the name of God" (bismillah).
The wali sanga, the nine semihistorical first missionaries of Islam, religious teachers, and some semihistorical figures have their sacred graves (pepundhen) venerated. Religious leaders, healers, wayang puppeteers, and village leaders can become saints while still alive.
The most important Javanese work on the nature of God and man is the seventeenth century Dewaruci, which has a mystical pantheistic view. God can enter any human heart though he is as wide as the oceans and as endless as space. This view became interwoven with Islamic concepts by those who wrote the Serat centhini and the magico-mystical suluk books.
Many Hindu-Buddhist gods called dewata with Sanskrit names are incorporated in Agami Jawi. Dewi Sri comes from Sri, the consort of Vishnu, and in Java is the goddess of fertility and rice.
There are traditional pre-Hindu elements in the religion. Semar is the divine trickster acting as an intermediary between the gods and man, and in the wayang, the shadow-puppet play, he is a clown who is servant and guardian to the heroes of the Bratayuda, the Javanese version of the Mahabharata. Spirits are central to traditional Javanese belief and include ancestral spirits, guardian spirits who are the soul's twin, and guardian spirits of holy places such as old wells, old banyan trees, and caves. There are also ghosts, spooks, giants, fairies, and dwarfs. Magic gives magical power to certain persons and parts of the body, plants, rare animals, and objects. Traditional concepts of death and the afterlife have been influenced by Islam.
At the centre of Javanese religion is the slametan ritual, a communal feast.
Agami Islam Santri doctrines are determined by dogmatic Islamic concepts. The shari'ah, Islamic law, is applied and the dominant legal school is that of al-Shafi'i. Besides the obligatory prayers five times a day, there are voluntary personal prayers called ndonga which can be at any time.
History Before the coming of Indian religions the early religion of Java was based on ancestor worship, spirits, magical power in natural phenomena, and saced objects used by man.
Trade from South India brought Hinduism in about the fourth century CE. Indian culture and religion was to completely dominate Java for centuries. The first traces of Hindu-Javanese and Buddhist-Javanese civilisation date from the eighth century. From the eighth to the early fifteenth century temples (called candi after a name of the goddess Durga) were built from the Dieng Plateau in Central Java to Candi Kedaton in East Java. The main concentration is in Central and East Java. Near Yogyakarta, the cultural capital of Java, is located the large ninth century Saivite temple of Prambanan as well as the largest Buddhist stupa in the world, Borobudur, built in the same century. The proximity of such important religious complexes shows that Javanese Hinduism and Javanese Buddhism lived peacefully together. Indian civilisation was developed in these ancient empires of Central Java from the eighth to the tenth centuries and in the ancient empires of East Java from the eleventh to the fifteeenth centuries. In East Java this civilisation was more characteristically Javanese.
During the fourteenth century another religion came from India. This was Islam arriving from Gujarat, first becoming established on the north coast of Java at Demak and Gresik. Trade was the main factor involved and a number of powerful Islamic trading cities developed. With a background of mysticism in Javanese Hinduism, mystical Islam or Sufism proved attractive and influenced early Javanese literary works. Puritanical Islam came later with pilgrims returning from the haj, pilgrimage, to Mecca. These mercantile cities undermined the declining Majapahit empire of East Java. Muslim wali or holy men spread Islam into the interior of East and Central Java. The Mataram empire of Central Java resisted Islam, which reached there by force in the second half of the eighteenth century. Hindu-Buddhist centres in Central Java only superficially accepted Islam, and developed the syncretistic Agami Jawi.
Between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries the Javanese mystical and pantheistic view of God was mixed with Islamic elements.
There have always been numerous kebatinan kejawen, spiritual movements. Kebatinan means the search for truth from the Arabic batin, truth. From the late 1960's there has been a considerable increase in the kebatinan movements.

Symbols Buddhist and Hindu symbols are found all over Java, reflecting centuries of Indian civilisation. Many of the ancient temples are built in the form of Mount Meru, the cosmic mountain of Indian mythology which is the axis of the world. Borobudur is the supreme example of this. This stone mountain with its thousands of carvings in galleries stretching over five kilometres is a micocosm of life with the different levels of the monument representing the different levels of existence. The central stupa at the top is the symbol of heaven. Many of the deities in Agami Jawi are of Hindu-Buddhist origin.
The puppet figures in the wayang are based on the Mahabharata, though the wayang predates Hinduism coming to Java. The puppets perhaps once represented deceased ancestors. The clown Semar is a survival of early times. Islam banned the human form, causing the puppets to become ugly and grotesque and unlike humans. They became so stylised that they are symbols rather than actual human figures.
Nearly every town on Java has a mosque and minaret, together with the traditional use of Islamic symbols. Those who have been on the haj to Mecca wear a white peci on their head.
The very important slametan ritual is a communal feast which symbolises the mystic and social unity of all taking part, and besides friends, relatives, neighbours, and colleagues, this includes spirits, ancestors, and gods.
Batik may have come from Turkey or Egypt in the twelth century. For seven centuries it was the preserve of women in royal families, who regarded it as a spiritual discipline and form of meditation. The symbols used in batik designs are endless and include ancient stylised symbols as well as traditional, Indian, Chinese, and European motifs, which vary from region to region.

Adherents Java has a population of 110 million. 97.3 per cent of these are officially Muslim. The remainder are Roman Catholics, Protestants, or Buddhists. In South Central Java there are recent converts to Hinduism (Koentjaraningrat in Eliade 1987, Vol. 7, 559). Only 5-10 per cent follow Agami Islam Santri with 30 per cent following Agami Jawi. The rest are only nominal Muslims called abangan, whose religion is based more on animism, mysticism, Javanese Hinduism and Javanese Buddhism. In Central Java there are large areas that are still Hindu-Buddhist (Dalton 1988, 155).
In 1982 the province of Central Java had 93 kebatinan movements with a total of 123,570 adherents. Nineteen of the most important ones are in Surakarta with about 7,500 adherents. The four largest movements are Susila Sudi Darma (SUBUD), Paguyuban Ngasti Tunggal (PANGESTU), Paguyuban Sumarah, and Sapta Darma. Kebatinan movements can be found all over Java, though, and are divided into aliran kecil, small movements of not more than two hundred adherents, and aliran besar, large movements with thousands of adherents (Koentjaraningrat in Eliade 1987, Vol. 7, 562). There are estimated to be 148 religious sects on Java, mainly in Central and East Java (Dalton 1988, 155)
The Sultan of Yogyakarta is looked upon as a god by his followers.

Main centre
 Islam: Jakarta; the Muhammadiyah movement of Agami Islam Santri: Yogyakarta; Kebatinan movements: Surakarta; Buddhism: Borobudur; Hinduism: South Central Java.