Traditional Sculpture of Central Java
This website is dedicated to the wonderful and mystic sculptures of Central Java called "Loro Blonyo" which can be translated as "inseparable couple".
I first ran into these remarkable religious pieces of art during a sabatical leave which took me to Yogyakarta in 2006. I was looking for an "traditional" souvenir and my guide Ali showed me a this wooden set of dolls, man and women and told me the fantastic story about my soon to be first set of Loro Blonyo's.
I realy liked the story and bought this pair. I asked him if we could buy some more sets resulting in some more beautifull sets of Loro BLonyo's. In the years after that I bought a even more sets and now I thought it is time to give them the attentione they deserve resulting in this website.
The story of Loro Blonyo -
After my first set of Loro Blonyo I tried to find as much information as possible about these beautifull pieces of art. Here followes what I learned:
Islam is the official religion of Java. The good Muslim answers the call to the mosque on Friday, observes the fasting month of Ramadan, says his prayers daily, reads the Koran, and makes his pilgrimage to Mecca. Yet this same Muslim may have a knowledge and feeling for Hindu-Buddhist philosophy and a deep interest in the religious dramas of the Ramayana, and he may, if his son is sick or if he is about to move into a new house, hold a selametan (ritual communal meal) to propitiate those ancient spirits that have influenced all Javanese life since long before Hinduism, Buddhism or Islam came to this island that is the heart of modern Indonesia.
The religion of Java is thus a remarkable accommodation, within the over-arching Islamic system, of centuries-old mystical ans aesthetic Indian influences and still pervasive beliefs in animistic spirits and ancestor worship stemming form the earlyiest prehistory of the Javanese people.
An especially interesting example of this syncretism is the statues, made both of wood and terracotta, representing the goddess Dewi Sri and her consort Sadono. In the pantheon of Javanese gods and goddesses, Sri was the goddess of fertility ans protectress of rice fields, hence a deity of great importance. She was clearly an adaptation of the Indian goddess Sri Devi, the female form of Vishnu and goddess of prosperity, fertility and beauty. In bronze statues dating form the Central Javanese Period (A.D. 650-950) Sri is depicted with a stalk of rice and in a gift-bestowing posture.
The Story of Loro BLonyo - evolved
In Central Java, mainly in the areas surrounding the kratons (royal palaces) in Surakarta (present-day Solo) and Jogyakarta, and over a long period of time, the representation of Sri evolved from a classical Indian form to one that was much more human in appearance and more Indonesian, with reference to posture and dress, in conception. The use of bronze gave way to wood and terracotta. In this process of change the consort Sadono was added, apparently for no other purpose than to provide companionship for Sri, at least so far as the protection of rice fields was concerned; but his importance in the Javanese mind is suggested by the fact that Sri was never seen alone and the Javanese name for the sculptural pair is loro blonyo which means "inseparable couple".
The ritual use of Sri and Sadono as it developed in the four princely courts of Surakarta and Jogyakarta was limited to aristocratic or wealthy families for the simple reason that a house of considerable proportions was needed. The traditional house of the Javanese nobility or upper class consisted of three parts, pendopo (an open-air, pillared, low roofed pavilion in which guests would gather), pringgitan (the middle part of the house, corresponding to the living room and dining area of a modern house), and dalem (the inner part of the house). The dalem itself comprised three parts, for on its right and left side where bedrooms, while the middle part of the dalem was traditionally used only for ceremonial functions such as weddings and funerals.
Loro Blonyo and Krobongan
The ceremonial bed or krobongan once funrnished the central room of the royal house and well-to-do homes of Central Java. It was not used for sleeping, but served as a resting place for the goddess of fertility, prosperity and rice, Dewi Sri, the good female emodiment of the Hindu God Vishnu.
The statues, loro blonyo, inseparable couple, which sat in front of the bed represented Dewi Sri and her consort, Sadono. They are some times referred to as the bridal couple, and during wedding ceremonies were, indeed replaced by the real bride and groom, who copied the dress of Sri and Sadono in the hope of recieving the goddess's blessings for a prosperous and fruitful marriage.
Both bride and groom were clad in fine batiks, their skin rubbed with a yellow paste made from herbs and sweet-smelling flowers. The bride's hair was to cut to resemble the petals of the lotus bud, the lotus symbolizing perfect beauty and purity. A dark green mark on het brow pointed to the inner core of het being. Briede and bridegroom sat solemnly and godlike in front of the krobongan during the last moments of the wedding rites.
In Jogyakarta, Dewi Sri sat on the right, with her consort on the left. In neightboring Surakarta, their positions were reversed. In Jogyakarta, the couple sat on their heels, while in Surakarta they sat cross-legged. Bowls, platters and lamps were placed about the goddess and her consort for their comfort. They would have held water, food, and sirih pinang, the ingredients for making the betel quid. The oil lamp in the center was kept lit at all times.
Although thse elaborate ceremonial beds are no longer to be found in the homes of the wealthy, they still mark the exact center of the kraton, the royal palace and mini replica of the universe. Royal weddings continue to focus on the bed; in other cases, the central rites of the wedding ceremony may take place in front of an ornate settee backed by a gold-and-velvet-draped screen, or in the living room of a private home.
Krobongan means 'decked out in fancy trappings', dirobyong. The bed is also known as pedaringan, rice storage bin, and petanen, place of agricultural activity.