The Javanese are Indonesia’s largest ethnic group and the third largest Muslim ethnic group in the world following Arabs and Bengalis. They live primarily in the provinces of east and Central Java but are found throughout Indonesia’s islands. “Wong Djawa” and “Tijang Djawi” are the names that Javanese use to refer to themselves. The Indonesian term for them is “Ornag Djawa.” The word Java is derived from the Sanskrit word “yava”, meaning “barely, grain.” The name is very old and appeared in Ptolemy’s “Geography”, from Roman Empire of the A.D. 2nd century.

The Javanese dominate many facades of Indonesian life. They control the government and the military. The also control large sectors of the economy because of Indonesia's most lucrative export crops are grown on Java.

There are approximately 83 million Javanese, the majority of whom live in Jawa Timur and Jawa Tengah provinces; most of the rest live in Jawa Barat Province and on Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and other islands. (Altogether, some 110 million people live on Java.) Although many Javanese express pride at the grand achievements of the illustrious courts of Surakarta and Yogyakarta and admire the traditional arts associated with them, most Javanese tend to identify not with that elite tradition, or even with a lineage or clan, but with their own village of residence or origin. These villages, or desa, are typically situated on the edge of rice fields, surrounding a mosque, or strung along a road.

Javanese Dominance in Indonesia

Although Indonesia consists of many people coming from different areas of the country from east to west, most Indonesians are Javanese. Hence Javanese (Bahasa Jawa) is used a lot in the workplace among coworkers. The Javanese custom/culture also dominates the workplace. [Source: Canadian Centre for Intercultural Learning, ||||]

Since Javanese is the more dominant culture, in the workplace or at home, foreigners have to keep in mind that Javanese are more sensitive people and their language/ is more high context than any other Indonesians who come from other areas in Indonesia. They will not be straight forward when they want to convey something to you. When supervising a project, it is recommended to closely monitor your subordinates, ask them about the progress of the project regularly, just in case they have any problems or need help etc. because Javanese are very polite people. It is very hard for them to ask for help and to be the bearer of "bad news". ||||

During the Suharto years there was a government program of forced migration for population control, which some say was an attempt to force Javanese dominance on the rest of the country. This program has largely contributed to a lot of the ethnic tensions throughout the country. Also, because of the economic disparities between regions and provinces there is a lot of domestic migration as people try to go to where the jobs are (mainly Bali and Jakarta). In Bali, it is not uncommon to hear contemptuous comments about the Javanese (as there are so many that have come for work) and if there is a theft in the office, for example, the Javanese will be the first to be blamed. ||||


The Baweanese live on Bawean Island, north of Java. Also known as the Bawean Islanders, Boyanese, Oran Boyam, Orang Babiam, Ornag Bawean, Orang Boyan, they are closely related to the Madurese, hail from Madura island and speak a language closely related to Madurese but regard themselves as a distinct ethnic group. [Source: “Encyclopedia of World Cultures, East and Southeast Asia” edited by Paul Hockings (G.K. Hall & Company, 1993) ~]

There are believed to be around 60,000 Baweanese. They are fishermen and farmers and the men are known for leaving the island to work, often to Singapore and the west coast of Malaysia. Traditionally they used the money they made for Hajj pilgrimages to Mecca but that no longer is the case. Today they work to make money for themselves and their families and sometimes bring their families along on the Hajj.


The Tenggerese are a people who live around Mt. Bromo. Tracing their ancestry back to Majapahit Empire, they still practice their own religion, a mix of Hinduism, animism and volcano worship. The fled to the Bromo area to escape the surge of Islam that occurred after the collapse of the Majapait Empire in the 16th century. [Source: “Encyclopedia of World Cultures, East and Southeast Asia” edited by Paul Hockings (G.K. Hall & Company, 1993) ~]

Mt. Bromo is sacred to Tenggerse people of eastern Java. Periodically they make offerings of animals, meat and vegetables to ensure the volcano remains calm. Sometimes when the volcano starts to rumble, the local population doesn't try to escape, instead they go to the top to make offerings to placate the volcano God. The Yadnya Kasada is a festival held in the month of Kasada on the traditional Hindu lunar calendar. This ceremony is to honor Sang HyangWidhi, the God Almighty, Roro Anteng, daughter of King Majapahit, and Joko Seger, son of Brahmana.

On the fourteenth day of the Hindu month Kasada — usually around November or September — the native people of the area, the Tenggerese, gather at the rim of Mount Bromo's active crater to present offerings of rice, fruit, vegetables, flowers, livestock and other local produce to the God of the Mountain. The Tenggerese are adherents of a religion which combines elements of Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism. In this Kasada ceremony the Tenggerese ask for blessing from the supreme God, Sang Hyang Widi Wasa.

The Tenggerese are descendants of princes of the 13th century Majapahit kingdom live in the highlands of Mt. Bromo. Though the majority of Javanese have converted to Islam, this unique community still clings to their beliefs from the ancient days of Majapahit till today. Like the Hindu Balinese, the Tenggerese worship Ida Sang HyangWidi Wasa, the Almighty God, along with the Trimurti gods, Siwa, Brahma and Visnu, with added elements of Animism and Mahayana Buddhism. [Source:]

One month before the Yadnya Kasada Day, Tenggerese from numerous mountainous villages scattered across the area will gather at the Luhur Poten Temple at the foot of Mount Bromo. One distinct feature that sets the Luhur Poten Temple apart from other Hindu temples in Indonesia is that it is constructed from natural black stones from the nearby volcanoes, while Balinese temples are usually made from red bricks. These temple ceremonies are prayers to ask for blessings from the Gods, and often last long into the night.

When the Yadnya Kasada day arrives, the crowds that have travelled together up the mountain, throw offerings into the crater of the volcano. These sacrifices include vegetables, fruit, livestock, flowers and even money, and are offered in gratitude for agricultural and livestock abundance. Despite the evident danger, some locals risk climbing down into the crater to retrieve the sacrificed goods, believing that they will bring good luck.

The origin of this ritual stems from an ancient legend of a princess named Roro Anteng and her husband Joko Seger. After many years of marriage, the couple remained childless, and therefore meditated atop Mount Bromo, beseeching the mountain gods for assistance. The gods granted them 24 children, under the condition that the 25th child must be thrown into the volcano as human sacrifice. The gods’ request was observed, and so the tradition of offering sacrifices into the volcano to appease the deities continues until today, although instead of humans, chickens, goats and vegetables are thrown into the crater for sacrifice.

Describing the event in 2014, NBC reported: Tenggerese worshippers trek across the "Sea of Sand" to give their offerings during the Yadnya Kasada Festival at crater of Mount Bromo on Aug. 12, 2014, in Probolinggo, East Java, Indonesia. The main festival of the Tenggerese people, Kasada lasts for about a month, and on the 14th day the Tenggerese journey to Mount Bromo. There they make offerings of rice, fruits, vegetables, flowers and livestock to the mountain gods by throwing them into the volcano's caldera. [Source:]

1) A Tenggerese worshipper carries his son as he climbs Mount Bromo to collect holy water during the Tenggerese Hindu Yadnya Kasada festival on Aug. 11. 2) Tenggerese worshippers prepare a chicken for offering to the Tenggerese shaman as they pray at Widodaren cave on Aug. 11. 3) Tenggerese worshippers collect holy water at Widodaren cave on Aug. 11. 4) Tenggerese worshippers trek across the "Sea of Sand" with a goat for offering at the crater of Mount Bromo on Aug. 12. 5) Non-Hindus carry nets as they wait on the edge of the crater to catch offerings cast down by Hindus during the Kasada ceremony at Mount Bromo, on Aug. 12. The ceremony is a way for Tengger Hindus to express their gratitude to God for good harvest and fortune. The offerings include vegetables, chickens, fruits, goats, money and other valuables. 6) A bird is thrown by Hindu worshippers over the crater of Mount Bromo during the Yadnya Kasada Festival on Aug. 12. 7) A Tenggerese worshipper carries vegetables for offerings at the crater of Mount Bromo on Aug. 12. 8) A Tengger tribesman prays at Mount Bromo during the annual Kasada ceremony in East Java on Aug. 12.

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Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated June 2015

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