Javanese people
800px-Javanese Dance Ramayana Shinta 2
Total population
Over 100,000,000 (2011 consensus)
Regions with significant populations
Majority Populations
Indonesia Indonesia 115,533,657 [1]
Minority Populations
Malaysia Malaysia 4,300,000 [2]
Singapore Singapore 209,000 [3]
Netherlands Netherlands 300,000

Javanese, Indonesian, Malaysian


Islam Mostly Folk Islam and Sunni Islam, a minority following Shia Islam, Ahmadiyyah Community, Christianity Christianity and Animism

Related ethnic groups

Malays, Sundanese people, Balinese people, Madurese people, Tionghoas, other Austronesian groups of Indonesia, Filipinos, other Austronesian peoples

The Javanese people (Javanese: Wong Jawa (Ngoko) or Tiyang Jawi (Krama), Indonesian: suku Jawa) are an Austronesian ethnic group native to the island of Java in Indonesia. Javanese people constitute the largest single ethnic group in Indonesia, with populations of Javanese descent living in surrounding countries such as Malaysia and Singapore.

The ancient Javanese kingdoms flourished as a result of extensive contact with other ancient Asian civilizations such as those from the Indian subcontinent that persisted through maritime Southeast Asia's golden age of Islamic sultanates. While most Javanese people identify as Muslim with a Christian and Hindu minority, the influences of Hinduism, Buddhism and Indian culture still remain an integral part of modern-day Javanese culture, as the overall culture of Indonesia is rather very Indian-influenced. 


Early History & Ancestry

220px-Borobudur ship

An illustration of a ship on a Borobudur relief.

Like the Malay people and most other Austronesian groups of Indonesia, the ancestors of the Javanese people resulted from migrations and back-migrations between Taiwan, Philippines and Borneo. The early Javanese people were Animists, a religion that was common among the Austronesian peoples of the early times. As a result of the latter introduction of Islam, many Indonesians also contain Arab (mainly Hadrami ancestry).

Golden Age of Buddhist/Hindu Kingdoms

Indian traders arrived in Sumatra and Java which brought over Hinduism and Buddhism to the islands. Gold was one of the most abundant metals in the region, allowing the Javanese civilizations to enjoy an era of prosperity and growth. The earliest discoveries of the Austronesian civilizations in Southeast Asia came through the accounts of Chinese travellers to the Malay Archipelago. According to a Chinese monk named I-Tsing (Chinese: 義淨)
Buddha statues

Ancient Buddhist statues and monasteries found in Borobudur

also "Yi Jing" or "I-Ching", another Chinese traveller from the Tang Dynasty had discovered central Java and stayed there for three years. I-Tsing referred to this kingdom as Kilingga (Chinese: 訶陵), who came to be ruled by a queen named Shima who was notorious for capturing thieves. Other regional powers ruled by Javanese kin.[4][5] kings included the Medang Kingdom (752-1045 A.D.), the Kadiri Kingdom in East Java (1045-1221 A.D.), the Sunda Kingdom in West Java (669-1579 A.D.) which was replaced by the Singhasari Kingdom in 1222 A.D., ending its reign of power in 1292; not out of existance. The Majapahit Empire would follow Sanghasari's downfall, and become the superpower in Southeast Asia and the largest kingdom ever recorded in Southeast Asian history. As the Javanese came to the height of their power, the Malays were exerting their 
220px-Prambanan Trimurti

The Prambanan temple complex, built by Sanjaya dynasty, the dynasty that ruled the Mataram Kingdom.

influence in the region as well. This resulted in a never-ending power struggle between Javanese and Malay rulers.  The Singhasari armies defeated the Melayu Kingdom from Sumatra in 1290, and become the regional power in southern Indonesia. The Srivijaya Empire, a Malay kingdom which had been the previous regional power, was also defeated by the Javanese armies and their allies. The Javanese limited Srivijaya's borders to no more than Singapore, which eventually formed into the Kingdom of Singapura. Kublai Khan, the khan of the Mongol Empire and emperor of China's Yuan Dynasty, challenged the ruler of Sangsahari. Mongol armies arrived in what is now Trowulan, and were defeated. The Mongols retreated to beat the upcoming monsoon, or they would have to face staying in Java for six months and have to deal with enemy raids. Trowulan was renamed Majapahit, and eventually the Sanghasari become Majapahit. In 1309 A.D., a man named Jayanegara came to the throne of Majapahit. Jayanegara was known to be an immoral ruler who married stepsisters. Majapahit finally reached the height of its power in 1350, when Hayam Wuruk and his prime minister, Gajah Mada took power. Majahapit's full extent covered almost all of western and central Indonesia, all of Borneo and the southern Philippines. In 1389, Hayam Wuruk died. Like many dynastic situations, the decline of the Majapahit Empire was a result of disputes between who would take the throne.[6]

Age of Islamic Sultanates 1200-1600s and present

Arab traders from the Hadramut region in Yemen arrived in Indonesia, mostly Sumatra, as early as 674 A.D. and introduced Islam. However, Arab intentions were focused merely on trade. It is Chinese Muslim and Indian Muslim traders were mostly 

The Sultanate of Demak Mosque, built with traditional Javanese architecture

responsible for the mass spreading of Islam in Indonesia, and of the Javanese people. Islam became concentrated in modern-day Gresik, Ampel Danta, Tuban, Demak and Kudus. The Wali Songo, a group native Muslim missionaries, became a driving force in the spread of Islam - followed by Chinese Muslims such as the famous eunuch Zheng He who made many voyages to the Malay Archipelago. Islam reached the Javanese thrones, converting the royalty. The lower-ranking royal figures, the traditional "rajah" and "datu" kept their positions, but most became subjects of sultans, missionaries or emigrated elsewhere in Southeast Asia to become sultans themselves to rule independent kingdoms. The earliest alleged sultanate in Indonesia was the Sultanate of Demak (1475-1548), found by a Muslim named Raden Patah. Demak became the new power in the region. When the Portuguese attacked and tried to conquer the southern Malay Archipelago, Demak established strong relationship and allyship with Malacca, a Malay sultanate that covered Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula; also another regional power. When the Portuguese conquered Malacca, armies from Demak attacked the Portuguese armies and rendered them unable to convert natives to Catholicism. Sunan Gunangjati, was member of the Wali Songo, emigrated from Demak to northern Sumatra and found the Sultanate of Bantam. As sultan of Bantam, he also established allyship with Demak. In 1548, Demak eventually declined in power as a result of civil war. The Kingdom of Pajang (1568-1586) shortly replaced the Sultanate of Demak according to Javanese legend, after the victors defeated a vengeful and ruthless enemy from Demak. In 1586, the Sultanate of Mataram (1588-1681) was established, built on the site of the former Hindu Mataram Kingdom. The sultanate reached the height of its power under the reign of Sultan Agung Hanyokrokusumo and like Demak, declined in power due to civil war. The Sultanate of Mataram was among of the last independant sultanates in Indonesia before and through colonization. The Sultanate of Yogyakarta (1755-1945) was one of the only standing sultanates in Indonesia amid Dutch colonization.

Colonial Era 1500s-1945

The Malay Archipelago and all of Asia were involved in extensive spice trade for centuries and consequently became targets of European expansion. They were known as the "Spice Islands", islands that were bountiful in all

Diponegoro, a Javanese prince was the first native to resist colonialism

sorts of spices and metals such as gold. Southeast Asia was also known as the "East Indies". The Dutch, British, Spanish and Portuguese empires all ordered European voyages to the Asia-Pacific region. The first and most successful wave of Europeans to discover and arrive in the archipelago were the Portuguese. Portuguese sailors and traders arrived in the Indonesian island of Maluku. Eventually, the Portuguese planned to colonize the islands, conquering Maluku and sweeping west until they reached Malacca in Sumatra and Malaysia. Although the Portuguese successfuly conquered Malacca, they could not convert its people to Roman Catholicism. The Malay people from Malacca resisted conversions, with aid from Javanese armies in Demak, the Portuguese retreated from Malacca and handed it over to the Dutch, who gave Malacca to the British and colonized Indonesia instead. Spain then started to fund voyages to the Malay Archipelago. Spanish and Portuguese soldiers were known as conquistadors. Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese conquistador failed to gain support from the Portuguese monarchs, so he worked for Spain instead. Magellan set out to look for the Spice Islands of Indonesia. Along the way, he captured and enslaved a Malaccan who he named "Henrique" (commonly known as "Enrique" in Spanish contexts) after converting him to Catholicism. Henrique was tought to speak Portuguese/Spanish and helped Magellan converse with the local natives in the Malay language, the lingua franca of the region. In 1521, instead of finding the Spice Islands, he discovered the Philippines - giving Spain their biggest discovery in the Asia-Pacific region. He died in the Philippines when he was killed by native armies in the Philippine island of Mactan. Back in Indonesia, the Dutch and British cooperated to soften relations between themselves and the natives. The Dutch hired Javanese and Malay sultans to govern under their subject which allowed Indonesia to remain Dutch territory for centuries. In 1927, a Javanese revolutionary known by the name Sukarno began Indonesia's struggle for independance against the Dutch Empire. Of course, Sukarno faced imprisonment yet he continued the struggle for independance.

World II and Modern Days 1942-present

Japanese Invasion of the Pacific

In 1942, the Japanese Empire invaded the Indonesian archipelago as a result of their sweep through the Asia-Pacific region, which started on 1941. He saw the Japanese invasion as an oppurtunity to free Indonesia from the Dutch using the power of patience, hospitality and collaboration - and it worked. To Sukarno's advantage, the
Sukarno speech

Sukarno delivering a powerful speech

Japanese quickly obliterated the Dutch forces in Indonesia. Facing even more luck, the Japanese generals treated Sukarno with respect. The Japanese used Javanese laborers to build railrways and airfolds for the Japanese armies, necessities that would be of Japan's advantage in the war. The Japanese Empire put Sukarno on a high position and to enforce cooperation in Indonesia. In 1944, the Japanese were rapidly beginning to lose their territories as the Americans began to sweep through the Asia-Pacific region. Sukarno's plan had come into fruition - the Japanese prime minister openly promised Indonesia its independance, without deciding an exact date. In 1945, upon the fall of Japan, Sukarno finalized his moves for an independant Indonesian state and became its first president. Unfortunately, Sukarno's presidency backfired on him when political instability, civil unrest and overall political corruption got hold of his position as president. Indonesia also experienced border troubles with Malaysia during Sukarno's presidency, since Sukarno did not support the creation of Malaysia as a state. Sukarno sent Indonesian troops to the Malaysian borders, resulting in a scuffle between the militaries of both countries. In 1967, Sukarno was overthrown and sent to exile under leadership from Suharto, his top-military general and close colleuge during Indonesia's struggle for independance against the Dutch Empire. Suharto replaced Sukarno as Indonesia's president. Under Suharto's presidency, Indonesia experienced a fairly joyful economy and a stabilized enviroment.

Asian Financial Crisis

However in 1997, Southeast Asia experienced one of the biggest financial crisises. Indonesia was one of the most affected along with Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and South Korea. Inflation skyrocketed in Indonesia. Accusations pointed the finger towards the Tionghoa (Chinese-Indonesians), who dominated much of Indonesia and Malaysia's economy. This resulted violent riots all across Indonesia in May of 1998. Many ethnic Tionghoa residents lost their
May race riots

Native Indonesians (Javanese and Malay alike) destroying Chinese property during the May 1998 riots in Indonesia

houses to angry mobs. Religiously, Christians (who were mostly Tiongho with a few native groups in Ambon and Java) also became victims of de facto religious persecution in Indonesia. Many Christians experienced abductions and violent killings. Many churches in Java were shut down and burned. Suharto could no longer bear the pressure from this, and resigned as president of Indonesia. It isn't until Mahithir Mohamad became Malaysia's prime minster that recovered Southeast Asia from financial crisis. Today, Indonesia's economy is generally improving. The Javanese people would provide the main driving force in Indonesian politics and its history. Its current president, Joko Widodo, is Javanese. Indonesia currently runs on a democratic government. 


The Javanese language is from the Austronesian family of languages, which is native to Java. It is Indonesia's most
Javanese script

Stone inscription with Javanese script in Gresik

spoken local language. The Javanese language is renowned for the different dialects and structuring that depends on the formality of a conversation, not geographic differences as other languages. There are three main dialects of the Javanese language, they are Ngoko, Madya, and Kromo. The Ngoko dialect is used for informal and casual conversations, the Madya dialect is used between strangers and the Kromo dialect is used for formal conversations. Currently, the Javanese language is written in the Latin script. There is a traditional script that is used to write the Javanese language, but its official usage was changed to Latin. The traditional Javanese script is a Brahmic-script, which was also used for other Austronesian language such as Malay and Balinese, an Indian-influence writing system. When Islam arrived in Indonesia, the Javanese language was written in the Arabic script known as pegon which was usually used in education and Islamic poetry, it is similar to Jawi which was used to write in Malay and other languages in Southeast Asia and the Malay Archipelago.[7] Additionally, because Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian) is the national language of Indonesia, Javanese people learn to speak Indonesian as a second language. As for Malay (Melayu) or Bahasa Malaysia, it is spoken by the Javanese diaspora in Malaysia, where they are considered to be ethnic Malays by Malaysian definition since they are Muslims and Malay-speakers. Most of the Javanese diaspora in Malaysia are assimilated, and usually only speak Malay, their knowledge of Javanese is limited to a few words and phrases or none at all.


411px-Jogja kraton

Sultanate's palace in Yogyakarta

Most Javanese people are adherents to Islam. There are many followers of the traditional Sunni section of Islam, with Shia (who contain Arab ancestry) minorities and a section known as the Ahmadiyyah Muslim Community which originated from India and Pakistan. Muslims of this particular section believe that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, a religious leader from India and the founder of the movement, was the promised prophetic Imam Mahdi of Islam and the Messiah of Christianity and Judaism. Members of the Ahmadiyyah community follow Six Articles of Faith (traditional Muslims believe in Five Pillars). It is theorized that this movement later influenced the African American organization Nation of Islam. Most Javanese people follow a form known as "folk Islam". Folk Islam is a combination of Islam and pre-Islamic folklore and traditions. Historically most Javanese people were Buddhists and Hindus, these traditions are still very significant to Javanese culture. A devout Muslim would oftenly see these practices as shirk (Arabic: شرك) which means "sinful", yet - a Javanese Muslim would not which was created a cultural divide between Muslims outside of Indonesia and those of Indonesia. The Javanese people are much loosely-governed by Islamic laws than the Malays who are much more devout Muslims. There is also a group practicing Christianity in Central Java. Javanese people who are adherents to Christianity range from Protestants, Evangalists to non-denominational groups.

Religious Violence in Indonesia

The melting pot of different religions and religious sections in Indonesia has indeed cost a price. Javanese Christians and those of the Ahmadiyyah Muslim Community have suffered much religious violence at the hands of Muslim militants such as the Laskar Jihad and the Jemaah Islamiah who used both Indonesian, Malaysian and southern Philippine militants to carry out acts of terrror against Christians and Ahmadiyyah Muslims which was characterized by beheading, abducting and inhumans acts of torture.[8] The Indonesian militants who conducted these acts of terror were those who wished the eliminate the folk practices of Indonesia and did not sit well with the beliefs of the Ahmadiyyah communities - and had a strong desire for a strict Sunni Islamic state in Indonesia. These violences included the burning of Christian churches in Java as well as the destruction of Ahmadiyyah mosques by angry Sunni protestors.[9][10] This violence has somewhat quelled, along with the believed-disbanding of the Laskar Jihad.

Art, Music and Architecture


Javanese people enyjoy a great deal of art in their history, most of its traces its influence from Buddhism, Hinduisn and other origins from the Indian Subcontinent. One of the most popular types of Javanese art is the wayang which is a puppet-form of art used mostly for theatrical performances. Wayang wong and wayang topeng are two forms that depict episodes from the famous Indian epics, the Ramayana or Mahabharata. Wayang golek is a doll-form of this art which uses small rods to connect parts of the body. Buddha and Hindu statues were also common, at least in the ancient Javanese world prior to Islam's arrival. Batik is a popular form of wax-art from Java, used for fabrics.


Main Article: Music of Indonesia at

Traditional Javanese music is mostly dominated by the gamelan, which is a type of gong usually made from bronze, iron, bamboo, or bars made of wood.[11]


Main Article: Arcitecture of Indonesia at


See Article: Javanese Cuisine

Javanese cuisine is divided into three main groupings which are the common dishes, Eastern and Central dishes each influenced by historical Javanese kingdoms of Indonesia. It is also one of the least foreign-influenced cuisines
Gudeg yogya

Godeg yogya

of Southeast Asia, of course let alone a little Malay influence and the historical Indian origin. Indonesia is home to many open-air markets, and Javanese people usually buy fresh ingrediants from these open-air markets. Vegetables are also very predominant in Javanese cuisine, and since most Javanese people are Muslims, the food coincides with Islamic culinary laws known as Halal (Arabic: حلال) which omits pork or alcohol from any dishes. Like other Asian and Austronesian groups, rice is the common staple ingredient in Javanese cuisine and served with every meal. In general, the staple spices include: cloves, nutmegs, gudeg, chili, turmeric, ginger, teak leaf, curry and coriander. Common fruits include native and mostly tropical fruits such as jackfruit, guava, coconuts and pineapples.  The use of banana leaves, a common tradition among Austronesian ethnic groups of the Pacific is also popular in Javanese regions, usually to wrap foods or give foods a certain appearance or as a substitute to plates. Common Javanese
Sate blora

sate blora

dishes include tumpeng, which is an assorted dish with a cone-shaped rice in the center. Sayur asem is a tamarind soup that contains vegetables, can be served hot or cold and sayur lodeh is a stew made of coconut-milk. Pepes is a wrapped-food, which can contain meat or seafoods with a spicy paste, wrapped in banana leaves and then grilled. Tumis sayuran is a stir-fried vegetable dish. Gudeg yogya is a stew that contains young jackfruit, hard-boiled eggs and sometimes served with a side of spicy beef. Bakso solo is a Chinese-influenced dish which is a meatball dish served in soup and noodles. Ayam goreng is a chicken dish that is first put in a spicy stew and then deep-fried until done, it is usually served raw vegetables and sambals. Soto kudus is a turmeric-flavored soup. Lumpia semarang is another Chinese-influenced dish, and consists of meats and bamboo shoots. Satay, a Malay-originated snack is also popular in Java, and is known as sate blora. Popular desserts from Central Java include srabi solo, is a pancake made of coconut milk and can be served with toppings such as bananas and chocolate sprinkles. Central Java is also renowned for its production of quality tea. Teh poci tegal is a tea served with rock-suger. East Javanese cuisine is known to contain a of salt and follows naming traditions of certain towns. Pecel madiun is a salad that is made with boiled vegetables, and dipped in a spicy peanut butter sauce. Soto madura is a beef and offal soup, with turmeric as the flavoring. Bakso malang is the East Javanese version of the Central Javanese dish bakso solo and contains more varieties in the meatballs.[12]

Notable Javanese People or those of Javanese Origin

Raden Wijaya

Raden Wijaya
Javanese ruler and king who was of Singhasari royal origin, but eventually found and the powerful empire that would become the Majapahit Empire

Hasyim Asy'ari

Hasyim Asy'ari
An Indonesian ulama and founder of the Sunni Islamic organization , the Nahdlatul Ulama


An Indonesian national heroine who pioneered women's rights movements of Indonesia


An Indonesian military leader who led Indonesia to its independance and became its first president, Indonesia's most important national hero, unfortunately his presidency would crumble at the hands of cited corruption which led to his house arrest


Indonesian military leader who became the first Chief Commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces, and an instrumental figure in the Indonesian National Revolution


Bung Tomo
Indonesian military leader who was a key figure in the national revolution against the Netherlands, he was known for his time battling the British forces, he also used the Japanese occupation to his advantage beat the British
Joko Widodo
An Indonesian politician and former businessman who is the currenet president of Indonesia. He is known commonly as "Jokowi", and was the mayor of Surakarta before being the Governer of Jakarta. He succeeded Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as president

Hamengkubuwono IX

Hamengkubuwono IX
Indonesian politician who served as the vice president under Suharto and the first Governer of the Special Region of Yogyakarta, and the ninth sultan of the Yokyagarta Sultanate, he also served as the Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia from 1966 to 1967


The second president of Indonesia who overthrew Sukarno and became the New Order regime, he held the political positions as Indonesian president for 31 until the unstable 1998 economic pressure forced him to resign

Ahmad Zahid Hamidi

Ahmad Zahid Hamidi
A Malaysian politician, currently the Minister of Home Affairs, former Defence Minister and a member of the Parliment of Malaysia and United Malays National Organisation.


A French-Indonesian singer and songwriter from Jakarta, she sings in four genres that include rock, pop, urban and world. Her 1997 album Snow on the Sahara became the best-selling album by an Asian outside of Asia, her 1989 song Mimpi is considered in the list of the 150 Greatest Indonesian Songs, a judge in the show X Factor Indonesia, she became the highest-paid Indonesian judge, she has also been appointed as a global ambassador to the United Nations twice 


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