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Javanese also known as “Orang Djawa”, “Tijang Djawi”, “Wong Djawa” Pitek, Emily


The Javanese are Indonesia's largest ethnic group, and live primarily in East and Central Java (Martin, 2010). Java has a longtime history of contact with other cultures. Indian and Chinese influence and trade have been present since the eighth century, and have brought Islamic and Buddhist religious beliefs. The Dutch gained control over Java in the eighteenth century, which lasted until Indonesia gained sovereignty in 1949 (Martin, 2010). With such a variety of contact, the Javanese religious beliefs are, unsurprisingly, predominantly syncretic. Three main religious traditions are present: the santri (purer Islamic subtradition), the prijaji (mainly stresses Hindu beliefs), and the abangan (integration of animism, Hundu, Buddhist, and Islamic beliefs) (Geertz, 1960:5). This entry focuses on the syncretic beliefs of the abangan Javanese. It is important to stress the variation and complexity of spiritual life in Java, as Java is "not easily characterized under a single label or easily pictured in terms of a dominant theme. It is particularly true that in describing the religion of such a complex civilization as the Javanese any simple unitary view is certain to be inadequate..." (Geertz, 1960:7).

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