A striking part of traditional Javanese clothing is the Blangkon. This headgear is worn by men.The Javanese culture, and also the Blangkon, is spread over the middle and east of Java. Originally, the Blangkon came from the southern part of Central Java.
A Blangkon is made with batik. Originally Javanese men wore an iket. This is a batik cloth that is draped around the head, like a turban. Basically the Blangkon is an easier form of the iket, because it is already in the form of a headgear.
Types of Blangkon
There are several types of Blangkon, with different forms. All these Blangkons are originally from another area in Central Java. The best known is the Blangkon from Jogjakarta. Striking on this Blangkon is a kind of egg-shaped additive on the back. This is called the mondolan.
Javanese men used to have long hair, which they rolled up and tied up at the back of their head. Because of western (eg Dutch) influence, short hair became fashionable. Then the shape of the rolled up hair was added to the headgear. Other types of Blangkon do not always have a mondolan.
There is also a type of Blangkon Bayumasan, which looks a lot like the Blangkon from Solo or Surakarta.
The legend of the Blangkon
The precise origin of the Blangkon is not entirely clear. However, there are several theories and legends left. One of the legends is that Aji Saka was the first person to wear a Blangkon. According to legend, he used his Blangkon to defeat Prabu Dewata Cengkar. This was a huge demon, the king of Java. The Javanese people were terrorized, and people often had to be sacrificed. One day Aji Saka made himself available as a sacrifice. As last words before he would be sacrificed, he said:
"Oh, great king of Java. He, who gives people a prosperous life and the richest man in the world. I am honored to make one last wish for you before I die. Your highness the great king of Java, the only thing I want is a piece of land, the same size as my Blangkon. "
The king allowed it. When Aji Saka put his Blangkon on the floor, he asked the king to take the other end of his cloth. The canvas was getting bigger, which meant that the king had to walk backwards. Eventually the Blangkon covered Java and the king stood at the end near the beach. Aji Saka kicked the king into the sea and Java was liberated. The Javanese could now live in peace and chose Aji Saka as the new king. The Blangkon now became a symbol for the Javanese.
The history of the Blangkon
Besides the legend of Aji Saka, there are also some more credible stories about the origin of the Blangkon. Around the 8th century of our era more and more merchants came to Java, including from China and India. Muslim traders from West India often wore a turban, and this would have inspired the Javanese (at that time not yet Islam) to wear a similar headgear. As said before, this was in the beginning a simple folded headscarf, the iket.
The reason for the switch to the Blangkon is the presence of the Dutch from the VOC. In the 17th century, the Javanese people fell into crisis because they were at war with the Dutch, and also because they had to work for the Dutch (instead of for themselves). The batik fabrics became rare, and it became useful to make a Blangkon that lasts longer than a simple cloth.
The Blangkon nowadays
The Blangkon nowadays is mainly worn on official occasions such as weddings, culture ceremony, etc. It is part of the traditional Javanese clothing that further consists of a beskap (Javanese coat), kris (dagger)