Javanese Literature

Javanese Literature

 

the most ancient literature of Indonesia and one of the richest literatures of that country (seeINDONESIA: Literature).

Javanese literature, which is written in Javanese, was initially fed by two sources: local folklore and ancient Indian epics. The oldest Kawi text is the Chanda Kirana (c. 778), a collection of rules for writing poetry; it subsequently became the basis for the narrative poems known as kekawins. Between the tenth and 12th centuries, prose versions of the puranas, of Buddhist treatises, and of many books of the Mahabharata were written. Court poets turned away from Indian subjects and produced original works whose action was set in Java, such as Kanwa’s Arjuna’s Wedding (1035) and Triguna’s Krsnayana (1104). The 14th-century narrative poem Arjuna Wijaya, by Tantular, is regarded as a purely Javanese work. Prapantja’s narrative poem Nagarakertagama (1365) was the first work to present historical information about Java and to depict the life of the Javanese.

During the period of the Majapahit empire in Java, from 1293 to circa 1520, there developed a literature based on folklore and written in Middle Javanese. Notable works of this period were the cosmogenic prose treatise Tantu Panggelaran, the historical legend Chalón Arang, and the mock-chronicle Pararaton. Poetry was dominated by the indigenous Javanese metric system known as matjapat. The romantic epic, represented by narrative poems about Panji and Damar Wulan, occupied an important place.

Islam, which became established in Java in the 16th and 17th century, inspired hagiographic literature about the prophet Muhammad, Amir Hamzah, and Javanese devotees of Islam, as well as works on Arabic and Persian themes. The prose chronicle Babad Tanah Jawi was compiled in the early 17th century. Sufi tenets, both orthodox and heretical, became intermingled with Javanese mystical ideas and found expression in the philosophic narrative poems known as sulukah. The political instability in Java in the 16th and 17th century gave currency in literature to messianic ideas and legends of just rulers. Realistic elements also appeared, however, notably in the narrative poem Pronochitro (late 17th century). The fanciful mock-chronicle Baron Sakender ridiculed the Dutch East India Company (1602–1799), which had established a trade monopoly on the islands of the Malay Archipelago.

The second half of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th constituted the final period in the development of classical Javanese literature; known as the Javanese renaissance, it was characterized by an escape into the past. Nearly all of ancient Javanese literature and many Javanese and Malay literary works of the 16th and 17th century were translated into Modern Javanese. Important works of this period included the lyric and philosophic narrative poems Kitab Vichara Keras, by Yasadipura (died 1842), and Joko Lodang and Kolotido, by Ronggowarsito (1802–74).

In the late 19th century the development of book-making and the distribution of printed matter in Javanese fostered a rejuvenation of Javanese literature. An increasing proportion of works published were written in prose: numerous educative pamphlets, travel books, and didactic novellas; most of the novellas were based on subject matter taken from folklore.

In the early 20th century a major contribution to Javanese literature was made by the teacher, Enlightenment figure, and writer Padma Susastra (1840–1926), the writers Marta Arjano and Viroatmojo, and the writers associated with the official Balai Pustaka Publishing House. The Javanese aristocracy and the colonial system were harshly criticized by writers who took part in the national movement, such as Marko Kartodikromo (1878–1978) and Yosovidagdo (1888–1958). A new school of poetry, whose principal figure was Intojo, emerged.

In the second quarter of the 20th century, especially after Indonesian independence was proclaimed in 1945, many Javanese writers began writing in Indonesian. The most popular genre in Javanese literature today is the short story, which usually appears in the periodical press. The few novels that are written generally deal with everyday life, as in the works of such figures as T. Suroto and A. Saerozi.

V. V. SIKORSKII

References in periodicals archive ?
Raffles in his History of Java uses twenty-five pages to explain Javanese literature and another seventy pages to elucidate Javanese poetry.