Batik Cirebon – History, Patterns, Making-Of

Batik is a vital icon in Indonesia. This is an Indonesian technique of creating art and craft using wax and dye.

Batik, categorized as an ancient tradition, has been practiced for centuries in many parts of Indonesia, including in West Java known as Batik Cirebon. 

The History of Batik Cirebon 

Batik Cirebon is closely related to the empires in this area. Those are Kasepuhan Sultanate and Kanoman Sultanate, two of the beautiful royal palaces in Indonesia.

Like other types of batik – such as batik Yogya and batik Solo – batik Cirebon, which is a part of the incredible facts of Java Island, was also first used by the Royal Family.

Then it appeared on the common people brought by “abdi dalem”, the palace maids. 

At the beginning of its existence, batik artists were only the princesses in the sultanates. They made batik during their leisure time.

Batik patterns that were produced at that time were Paksi Naga Liman, Siti Inggil, Kanoman, Taman Kasepuhan, and Taman Sunyaragi. 

Those patterns then are known as batik Keratonan. Not all people can wear those kinds of patterns as the patterns show the hierarchy of the royal family. 

Therefore, Cirebon people outside the palace learned how to create batik so that they could sell it. The patterns made by Cirebon commoners are named batik Pesisiran. 

The Patterns of Batik Cirebon 

As it is mentioned above, there are two kinds of batik Cirebon, batik Keratonan and batik Pesisiran. 

Batik Keraton has strict ornaments which has a symbolic value representing the social status of the wearers, and religious meaning.

Meanwhile, batik Pesisiran is less strict and more changeable as it follows the market’s trends and demands.

Moreover, the history of trade in Indonesia shows that batik Cirebon also got exposed by foreign people who came to Cirebon a long time ago for trading. Then, it influenced the ornaments of batik itself. 

1. Mega Mendung 

Mega Mendung

This pattern is the icon of batik Cirebon and also becomes one of the popular types of batik patterns in Indonesia.

This pattern seems moderate and simple, but it is believed to radiate the charisma of its wearer.

It is inspired by the shape of clouds and is colored for five to seven layers.

Five colors represent the pillars of Islam and seven colors represent the skies that the Prophet of Muhammad passed by in Isra’ Mi’raj.

2. Taman Teratai 

taman Teratai

This is one of the patterns of batik Keratonan since the lotus (teratai) represents the real lotus in the palace.

To accompany the lotus, there are elephants, dragons, and birds in some variations.

Taman Teratai is also usually used for the traditional ceremony in West Java.  

3. Patran Kembang 

Patran Kembang

This pattern consists of creepers, branches, leaves, and flowers which are drawn on it. 

4. Lenggang Kangkung 

Lenggang Kangkung

It is defined as the movement of kale spinning plants. This pattern is inspired by the kale plants on the surface of the water. 

5. Kapal Kandas

Kapal Kandas

This batik Cirebon pattern depicts the passengers on the ship. The ship is illustrated by the shape of lines and flowers also animal decorations.

This pattern is usually used by an established person so that he does not experience failure and can anchor safely. 

The Making of Batik Cirebon 

Batik artists making batik Cirebon
Batik artists making batik Cirebon

To make batik Cirebon, there are nine steps to follow: 

1. Potong

Cut the material as needed. Batik Cirebon uses a fabric named mori.   

2. Angetel 

This step is to remove the starch from the raw material, the mori. Then, wet the mori with peanut oil, soda ash, cleaner liquid, and water.

Flatten the solution to all parts of the fabric and dry it in direct sunlight. Next, give the solution again and redry the fabric.

This process is repeated for up to three weeks. After that, you can wash it thoroughly. It aims to make the color soak into the mori fibers perfectly.

3. Anglengreng

It is time to draw the pattern!

Patterns are drawn using pencil and then redrawn with hot wax, which is made from a combination of paraffin or beeswax. Sometimes, it is also mixed with plant resins. 

The hot wax is applied using a pen-like tool called a canting, a water scoop that is made of bamboo, bronze, and iron material. 

4. Isen-Isen 

After you draw the pattern, give variation to the ornament that has been drawn in the anglengreng step. 

5. Nembok 

Nembok means that you block the background that does not need to be colored. 

6. Ngobat 

In this step you color the batik that has been blocked using color liquid.

7. Anglorod 

After the batik has its color, you need to remove the wax that closes the pattern by boiling it.

The areas that have the color will be contrasted with the pattern that is closed by the wax.

8. Angumbah 

The next step to do is washing the fabric until it is clean.

9. Pe

After you make sure that the fabric is thoroughly clean, the final step is to dry the fabric.