Kawi (from Sanskrit: कवि "kavi" lit. "poet") is a literary and
prose language on the islands of Java, Bali, and Lombok. Kawi is a
standardised form of Old Javanese, a language with a sizable
Sanskrit loanwords. Kawi is also the direct ancestor
language of modern Javanese. The name "kawi" is derived from the root
ku, which in
Sanskrit means “poet”, and, in derived forms, a
“wise, educated man”. The syllabic meter of Kawi poetry is sekar
kawi, which means “flowers of the language”, sekar itself deriving
Sanskrit "sekhara" (“garland”). All
Javanese languages are hierarchical and stratified, with strict social
conventions for appropriate language subsets to be used for one's
superiors or social and cultural functions. Kawi is commonly
considered the pinnacle language.[clarification needed]
1 Writing system
3.1 Prominent authors
5 See also
8 External links
Kawi uses a unique script for writing commonly called hanacaraka; the
more correct term is "Dentawiyanjana". It is a syllabic alphabet
consisting of 20 letters and ten numbers and a number of vowel and
consonant modifiers. The script of the island of Bali, heavily
influenced by neighboring Java, has a unique sub-form called Tulisan
Bali. Prince Aji Caka (an Indian migrant) is credited with
establishing the first known kingdom of Java, called
(Swarna Dvipa) and also introducing the
Kawi language was and the
twenty letters of the syllabic hanacaraka script. The Javanese also
credit the language to Aji Saka, a legendary hero of Medang Kamulan
Kingdom. The earliest known inscription of Kawi is found at Gunung
Wukir Temple in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia.
Kawi is not truly extinct as a spoken language. It is commonly used in
wayang golek, wayang wong and wayang kulit, in addition to high
activities such as a Javanese wedding, especially for the stylised
meeting ritual of bride's parents with groom's parents in the
ceremonies of Peningsetan and Panggih. Archaically or for certain
nobles very strongly attached to tradition, it is used for the
Midodareni, Siraman and Sungkeman ceremonies of the Javanese wedding.
The island of
Lombok has adopted Kawi as its regional language,
reflecting the very strong influence of neighbouring East Java. Today,
it is taught in primary school education as part of the compulsory
secondary language unit of National curriculum. Traditionally, Kawi is
written on lontar prepared palm leaves.
Kawi remains in occasional use as an archaic prose and literary
language, in a similar fashion to Shakespeare-era English, which has
such aesthetically and arguably more cultivated words as thy, thee,
hast and so forth.
There are many important literary works written in Kawi, most notably
Empu Tantular's epic poem, "Kakawin Sutasoma" (E.M. Uhlenbeck, 1964:
"A Critical Survey of Studies on the Languages of
Java and Madura",
The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff), from which is taken the National motto
of Indonesia: "Bhinneka Tunggal Ika". Although often glibly translated
as "Unity in Diversity", it is more correctly rendered as "[although]
scattered, remaining [as] one"— referring to the scattered islands
of the archipelago nation, not as an expression of multicultural
solidarity as may be perceived in modern times.
A more modern work is the poem "Susila Budhi Dharma", by Muhammad
Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo, the founder of Subud. In this work, he provides
a framework for understanding the experience of the latihan kejiwaan.
Famous poems, epics and other literature include:
Kakawin Tertua Jawa, 856
Kakawin Ramayana ~ 870
Kakawin Arjunawiwaha, mpu Kanwa, ~ 1030
Kakawin Bharatayuddha, mpu Sedah dan mpu Panuluh, 1157
Kakawin Kunjarakarna, mpu "Dusun"
Kakawin Nagarakretagama, mpu Prapanca, 1365
Kakawin Arjunawijaya, mpu Tantular
Kakawin Sutasoma, mpu Tantular
Kakawin Siwaratrikalpa, Kakawin Lubdhaka
Kakawin Banawa Sekar Tanakung
The following are notable authors of Kawi:
Sang Hyang Kamahayanikan
The first scholar to address Kawi in a serious academic manner was
Humboldt, who considered it the father of all Malay-Polynesian
languages. Furthermore, he deprecated misconceptions about Kawi being
wholly influenced by Sanskrit, finding that Kawi did not use verb
inflexion, thus differing from Sanskrit's highly developed
inflectional system. In Kawi language, the meaning of a sentence must
be grasped through word order and context. Humboldt further noted that
Kawi utilizes tense distinctions, with past, present, and future, and
differentiated moods via the imperative and subjunctive.
Numerous scholars have studied the language, including the Dutch
expatriate Indonesian Prof. Dr.
Petrus Josephus Zoetmulder
Petrus Josephus Zoetmulder S.J., who
contributed an enormous quantity of original texts and serious
scholarly study to the language, and his pupil and associate, Father
Dr. Ignatius Kuntara Wiryamartana. Other eminent Indonesian scholars
of the language include Poedjawijatna, Sumarti Suprayitna,
Poerbatjaraka and Tardjan Hadiwidjaja.
Bhinneka Tunggal Ika
Bhinneka Tunggal Ika for an example of this language
Old Javanese language
Johan Hendrik Caspar Kern
Laguna Copperplate Inscription
Laguna Copperplate Inscription – A 10th-century document from the
Philippines written in Kawi.
^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds.
Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for
the Science of Human History.
De Casparis, J. G., Indonesian Palaeography : A History of
Indonesia from the beginnings to c. AD 1500, Leiden/Koln,
Florida, Nancy K., Javanese Literature in Surakarta Manuscripts:
Introduction and Manuscripts of the Karaton Surakarta, Cornell Univ
Southeast Asia, 1993 ISBN 0-87727-603-X
Wilhelm von Humboldt’s "Über die Kawi-Sprache (On the Kawi
Language)": 1836 Vol 1, Vol 2, Vol 3
Poerbatjaraka dan Tardjan Hadiwidjaja, 1952, Kepustakaan Djawa'.
Avenir Stepanovich Teselkin,
Old Javanese (Kawi) Ithaca, N.Y., Modern
Indonesia Project, Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University, 1972
E.M. Uhlenbeck, 1964, di dalam bukunya : "A Critical Survey of
Studies on the Languages of
Java and Madura", The Hague: Martinus
Mary S. Zurbuchen, Introduction to
Old Javanese Language and
Literature: A Kawi Prose Anthology The University of Michigan, 1976
P.J. Zoetmulder, S.O. Robson, Darusuprapta, 1995, Kamus Jawa
Kuna–Indonesia, Jakarta: Gramedia dan Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en
Volkenkunde (KITLV). Bekerja sama dengan S.O. Robson. Penerjemah:
Darusuprapta dan Sumarti Suprayitna. ISBN 979-605-347-0
1992–1993, Bahasa parwa : tatabahasa Jawa Kuna: Yogyakarta:
Gadjah Mada University Press. Bekerja sama dengan I.J. Poedjawijatna.
Cetakan ulang dari edisi tahun 1954
About lontar (palmleaves manuscripts).