Parang, batik on cotton by UK batik artist Marina Elphick.

Parang Batik Motif

A brief history of this ancient batik motif and my own experimental interpretations.

Parang, batik on cotton by British batik artist Marina Elphick. Curigo motif, Parang Barong, and Kuwang used in this batik art work.
Parang, batik on cotton by UK batik artist Marina Elphick. Several Parang batik motifs are included in this abstract batik, demonstrating the strength of the parang design. I felt inspired by the shapes and arranged them with other stylised motifs using bold colour.

Having spent many years as a batik artist, using this versatile and rewarding technique to make batik portraits and paintings, it has only recently become important for me to explore its traditional history. Last year during my trip to Yogyakarta I saw a wide range of batik, from early traditional to current contemporary and throughout I recognised recurring motifs.

Parang Rusak with Kawung motif bands, from Danar Hadi Museum, Solo.
Parang Rusak with Kawung motif bands, from Danar Hadi Museum, Solo.

I have written about the ancient forbidden motif Kawung in an earlier post, this time I am focusing on the even more prestigious and well known batik motif of Parang.

Batik Barong, worn by the King. Photo taken in The Danar Hadi Museum in Solo.
Batik Barong, worn by the King. Photo taken in The Danar Hadi Museum in Solo.
Parang Rusak worn by a royal Sultan.
Parang Rusak worn by a royal Sultan.

The Parang was once one of the “Larangan” designs, a proscribed and prohibited motif reserved for the royal courts of Yogyakarta and Surakarta, some Parang were worn exclusively by the King. Traditional Parang from Yogyakarta consisted of slanting parallel rows of dagger- like segments, arranged repetitively on contrasting colours of cream white, brown and indigo. It was known as the sword pattern or the tongue of fire and was related to the “Keris” ceremonial dagger, promoting strength, power, authority and speed. The characteristic curved lines of Parang could also be translated as waves in the sea, symbolising the power and greatness of nature. Legends emphasised the supernatural power of the Parang to bring victory in war, protection and healing of the sick.

Parang Tudang, Winotosastro.
Parang Tudang, Winotosastro.

There are several variations of this striking diagonal design with its sweeping lines and rows of “Mlinjon”, lozenge shaped circular motifs. They range in size from the 2cm “Klitik” to the giant 12cm Parang Barong.

Parang Klitik, a design worn by princesses of the royal court of Yogyakarta. Photo courtesy of Barang Tempo Doeloe.
Parang Klitik, a design worn by princesses of the royal court of Yogyakarta. Photo courtesy of Barang Tempo Doeloe.

Parang Klitik was worn in the past only by princesses and symbolised subtle and wise behaviour, calm and tenderness, an elegant feminine design said to give the wearer strength in her principles. Klitik is a delicate rendering of Parang, a small motif creating an overall textural pattern with a lightness of character.

Parang Rusak, photo taken in Danar Hadi Batik Museum, Solo.
Parang Rusak, photo taken in Danar Hadi Batik Museum, Solo.

Parang Rusak or “broken knife” design is widely associated with Sultan Agung, the 17th-century ruler of the court of Mataram. It was worn by the royal family on state occasions, seen as having symbolic royal power and cosmic energy. It was meant to encourage wisdom and nobility, control desires and win over evil. The design has strong diagonal lines and softly folding parang shapes.

Parang Barong, a motif worn only by the King. photo courtesy of Ruang- Budaya.
Parang Barong, a motif worn only by the King. photo courtesy of Ruang- Budaya.

Parang Barong was a sacred pattern worn only by the King and the name was derived from the translated words rock and Lion. This pattern was bold, consisting of large flame or blade like shapes arranged in strong diagonal bands. This motif would remind the ruler to be responsible, honest and just, giving him power and dignity.

Parang Barong, photo taken in The Danar Hadi Batik Museum
Parang Barong, photo taken in The Danar Hadi Batik Museum, Solo
Parang Curigo, photo from Batik Shuniyya.
Parang Curigo, photo from Batik Shuniyya.

Parang Curigo is worn by women to show their loyalty to their husbands, curigo means suspicion ! It is said that the wearer will have intelligence, dignity and serenity.

Parang Curigo, from the Danar Hadi Museum, Solo.
Parang Curigo, from the Danar Hadi Museum, Solo.

Parang Baris was a traditional Central Javanese motif of stylised daggers in slanting bands, without the mlinjon of other Parang designs. ( Mlinjon are the circular shapes at the ends of the blade segments.)

Parang Baris, photo courtesy of Sulis Batik.
Parang Baris, photo courtesy of Sulis Batik.

My own Parang Batiks

Firebird with Parang tongues of fire, batik on cotton by British batik artist Marina Elphick. Motifs Parang, Kuwang and Ceplok are used in this contemporary batik art work.
Firebird with Parang tongues of fire, batik on cotton by UK batik artist Marina Elphick.

Parang motif arranged as fire, with Phoenix like bird rising from the flames. The Ceplok and Kawung symbolise immortality and the long journey to eternal life. In my work over the past month I have endeavoured to understand the Parang motifs. Using the various designs in non traditional colours and experimenting with the juxtaposition of images and other motifs I am discovering new territory for my batik. I am finding it very inspiring and feel I have only started revealing the enigmatic history of these ancient motifs.

Blue portrait with Parang Curigo and Kuwang by UK batik artist Marina Elphick. Contemporary take on Traditional batik motifs. Batik artist known for her life like portraits.
Blue portrait with Parang and flowers, batik on cotton by Marina Elphick.

Parang Curigo, Parang Barong, Semen and Kawung batik motifs dominate the background of this portrait in batik. Semen is a motif that means to sprout or grow and is filled with stylised flowers, birds and animals.

Green Parang batik by British artist Marina Elphick.
Green Parang, batik on cotton by UK batik artist Marina Elphick

Batik motif Parang translated as a modern batik artwork in green and purple. The Kawung symbolise a journey to eternal life and wisdom.

Butterfly on blue with Parang Curigo, Ceplok and Megamendung cloud motifs. Batik by British batik artist Marina Elphick. Batik art based on traditional batik motifs, interpreted in a contemporary way. Batik artist known for her life like portraits.
Butterfly on blue, with Parang Curigo, Ceplok and Megamendung cloud motifs. Batik on cotton by UK batik artist Marina Elphick.

In this batik the butterfly is surrounded by motifs that suggest symbolic fertility, life force and protection.

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6 thoughts on “Parang Batik Motif

  1. I simply adore the places you take these **parang motifs and mix them in a wonderfully creative way alongside other traditional Jogya motifs.
    ** all time fave motif of mine.
    I moved to Yogya and supply people around the world with whatever they require. But yours are something else again. Love them.

    Like

    1. Thank you, I was inspired greatly by my first visit to Yogyakarta, seeing tradiational batik motifs alongside very modern approaches to batik.I enjoy the strength and simplicity of the Parang motif, which holds ancient symbolic meaning, my challenge is to combine it with other motifs and my own designs and interpretations.
      Thanks for your comment ☺️

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Perhaps indeed there is mystic power in these motifs. It would’nt surprise me in the slightest. Perhaps this is why we can feel drawn to them (no pun intended) I do wish I had tge discipline to try out some creativity for myself. Jave dabbled in creativity in the past, Now based in Jogya , it would be almost a sin not to atleast try to rekindle my love for art expression. The guy down the road, airbrush and renovates vintage Vespa Bikes. One of his paint jobs was Parang Rusak. I wish I could post a photo up here for you. If you visit Jogya again , then you must let me know. Perhaps our guest house will be taking visitors ? Lovely indeed to see your work. It does inspire me to pick up some utensils and get stuck in again. Thank you both.
    Christopher.

    Liked by 1 person

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