There are star clusters
Glowing in the horizon
From Yogyakarta I brought home a pair of batik grompol sheets which I ordered 6 months ago. Happy I must be!
Grompol is a Yogyakartan special classical batik pattern. No other regions can claim otherwise.
Let’s talk about batik grompol today.
Disclaimer: 1) while the primary interpretation is based on what I learnt from the masters; many of it is my own thought based on what I understand on symbols and signs of Javanese, Islam and Hinduism that intertwined in my upbringing. So please be critical. 2) too much information, too little time for me to summarise. Please expect disconnected ideas, connect them by yourselves.
Grompol batik pattern is a sub-category of ceplok pattern in which one geometry pattern is clustered (squares, triangle, circle, lines, etc). In Javanese language ceplok literally means clustering, grouping, gathering based on the same characteristics or criteria (size, colour, shape, pattern, lines, etc). So hypothetically ceplok pattern is always about gathering, uniting, getting together.
Grompol pattern is characterised through the clustering of of 4-petal flower, a flower pistil in the middle, a seed with 4 couples of 3-ceceg and 5-ceceg (ceceg is a terminology used to describe dots in batik pattern) and “wrapped” by a square with 8 points that almost looks like octagram.
4-petal flower is a symbol of fertile or healthy life. The 4 petals of the flower can be related to four points of the compass: east, west, north and south.
Flower pistil symbolises the centre of life, potential growth in human being. It can also represent the sun, the soul, the heart as centres of discourses to be applied based on contexts.
Flower which is the beauty before fruition is representing an expectation that human being should optimise their state of beauty which in Javanese almost always refers to the developed wisdom in human being manifested as kindness to fellow creature on earth before one dies.
A round seed surrounded by 4 couples of 3-ceceg and 5-ceceg symbolises seed of life that should be well protected from all directions.
The seed can be interpreted the same as the flower pistil in the middle of a flower. It is generated from the pistil fertilised by the pollens. It is the centre of life, potential growth in human being. It can also represent the sun, the soul, the heart as centres of discourses to be applied based on contexts.
The round shape of the seed indicates the completeness, thoroughness, integration, centredness, perfection, full cycle.
Ceceg is one type of isen (ornament in empty spaces among primary patterns of batik) in batik. Isen is more popular in Central Java than other regions, isen can be in the form of dots or lines or the combination of both repeatedly put in the intended empty spaces without changing the primary pattern, even there is an intension for isen to highlight the primary patterns.
3-ceceg can be interpreted as Trimurti, the three balancing power of Brahma, Wisnu and Siwa (Siva) which are the 3 powerful powers of creation of the universe, preservation of the universe and destruction of the universe.
5-ceceg can be interpreted as 5 types of self regulation: knowing one’s own identity and personality, connecting to inner self, managing the humane desires, living through good sources of life (no corruption, sharing to the needy) and self reflection through traveling or pilgrimage. A human being is expected to continuously strive for perfection of these five without expecting the perfection to happen.
Points of the Compass
Octagram represents 8. Number 8 in Javanese wisdom is about welfare and authority. Number 8 also represents 8 gods guarding the 4 points of the compass in which 1 direction is guarded by 2 gods of specific authority. The compass itself has 9 points – 1 the centre, 8 the directing points.
The 1 point in the middle is sat by Siwa. 8 points are sat by other gods based on what they manage in the natural realm. Those 9 (1+8) are called Dewata Nawa Sanga (nine guardian gods) in Balinese and Javanese culture. Those 8 are wellknown as Asta Dikplaka (eight gods of 8 directions).
- North (Uttara): Wisnu or Kuwera guarding the north, Sambhu or Isana guarding east north – gods of rain
- East (Purwa): Iswara or Indra guarding east, Mahesora or Agni guarding south east – gods of music
- South (Dakhsina): Brahma or Yama guarding the south, Rudra or Nritti guarding south west – gods of winds and growth
- West (Pascima): Mahadewa or Baruna guarding west, Sangkara or Bayu guarding north west.
Number 1, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9
Like in other cultures, Javanese gives significant role to numbers in their game of meaning.
- 1 – siji, setunggal, tunggal, ika, eka: It can mean uniting, integrating, the first, the earth, the sun, the moon, queen, king, country or any other thing perceived as singular or superior.
- 3 – telu, tiga, tri: It can refer to 3 life (spirit life, physical life, life after life), attitude/behaviour/work, celebration/luxury/merriness
- 4 – papat, sekawan, catur: Number 4 in Javanese culture signifies creativity and intelligence, endurance, perseverance and victory. The 4 points of the compass also represent something about those 4 directions. The power of sun in the east, the power of mountain in the north. The power of luck in the west. The power of maximum ability in everything in the south.
- 5 – lima, gangsal, panca: self integration, self regulation, supernatural powers
- 8 – wolu, asta: Number 8 signifies high rank, respected people, physical forms, dragon as symbol of authority
That it is a ceplok type signifies the clustering, gathering, integrating of certain characters. So this batik is message and prayer for uniting of between or among family members. It is also a message and prayer of integration of human being internal wisdom – a state of maturity. Batik grompol is often worn by bride and groom in their wedding day due to its very sacred meaning of ultimate protection and potential growth through a gathering.
The uniting or integration should be based on clarity of wisdom and protection. It is the wisdom personally and culturally harvested and nurtured. The beholder, owner, wearer of batik grompol is expected to realise that this pattern is a message and a prayer that they are well protected at the same time expected to extend the given protection to all directions as the gods of all points of compass spread their protection to the universe.
The pistil of the flower as the potential growth in human being put as a compass centre in human being life can be interpreted that human being integrated wisdom has as strong power as Siwa who is sitting at the centre of the compass/chakra. Although described as destroying god, Siwa is actually symbol of re-creating, re-cycling. His being sat in the centre of a chakra (wheel, cycle) is significantly describing him as recreation/recycling agent who then distributes the re-created/re-cycled material to different function around him to be re-governed wisely by “different gods” (remember the 8 gods of all directions).
A human being should be able to learn, re-learn and un-learn one’s own life experience and lessons then to better redo or re-process the way one solves problems or to simply treat other creatures.
The round seed means a centred human being who has achieved the understanding of integrity, full cycle of life. It doesn’t mean the human being is flawless; it means the human being is aware of one’s flawedness yet accepting the state of imperfection of being human. And through the acceptance the human being keeps bettering one’s self in treating one’s self, fellow creatures and the nature. This is an everlasting interaction and intertwining between micro cosmos (jagat alit in Javanese language which represents human being) and macro cosmos (jagat gedhe, the universe).
And all in all, a human being shall pray to his God or make one’s self sure that to any direction one is heading to, one is safe and peaceful. Religious human being will live through guidance and protection from God. Spiritual human being will find inner centre in one’s self whatever one calls it and focus on what one is doing in honesty and sincerity. Free thinker will boost one’s self confidence and focus on what one is aiming with integrity.
So batik grompol has helped me understand that all my fellow human beings are essentially doing the same things as what I am doing in my life, just explained through different perspectives; and we are only of different pace and timing.
What a beautiful batik pattern. What a beautiful meaning.
my beautiful grompol batik cloths were born through the golden hands and soul blessed to this beautiful lady, Ibu Tien Wartienah
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