Things You Need to Know about Blangkon
Indonesia has been getting a lot of attention from many tourists from all around the world. Hence, it is a bit unfair if you do not get yourself familiar with the culture of Indonesia. If you are interested in studying more about Indonesia or you are planning to go to Indonesia soon, then you might want to keep on reading this article. We will be giving you all of the information that you need to know about Blangkon.
The History of Blangkon
Now, speaking about Blangkon, you need to know first about the history of one of the traditional clothes in Indonesia, especially in Java. Blangkon, also called Belangkon, is a kind of traditional headgear that is mostly used by Javanese men. This headgear is made from Batik fabric and has a shape like iket kepala or headband. Since long ago, the Javanese has already worn a headgear that is a cloth that is tied around the head with the top open. Although when and how Blangkon starts to be worn is still unclear, some sources said that Javanese people have been using a headgear since the inception of Javanese culture. This thing is first mentioned in the story of Aji Saka who managed to defeat the giant ruler of the land of Java. For your information, Aji Saka was known as someone who created the Javanese calendar around 1950 years ago.
The Beginning of the Use of Blangkon
As we have stated before, when and how the Blangkon starts to be used is still unclear. Below are several theories explaining the beginning of the use of Blangkon:
The Influence of Arabic Culture
This theory stated that the reason why Javanese people are using Blangkon is because of the acculturation of Hindu and Islam cultures by the Javanese people. According to the historical record of Muslims, Arabian people from Gujarat entered Indonesia through the trading route. However, their followers were still few due to Indonesia was still under the rule of Hindu and Buddha kingdoms. These traders from Gujarat were seen wearing a wide and long cloth which was rolled up and tied around their head. People call this headgear as Surban.
This is when the Javanese people were being inspired and started to use a headband just like the Arabian people at that time. Although, it was quite complicated to use this headgear. Before you wear iket or band, you needed to roll up your hair back. Then, the band was folded until it covered your head right on your forehead and above your ears.
The second theory of the beginning of the use of Blangkon is due to the economic crisis. Here is the thing, in the past, the headband was not always permanent like in today's fashion. Also, due to the economic crisis, cloths then became very expensive and rare. Hence, the Keraton or palace officials ordered the artists to create Blangkon which is a permanent headgear that uses a bit cloth so it will be more economical and practical.
Pakem or Rules of Blangkon
In making Blangkon, there are a few rules or pakem that need to be followed. Blangkon is made from a square cloth that is called iket or udeng cloth. The width and length of the cloth are around 105cm x 105cm. On the modern Blangkon, the cloth that is used is only half of the first cloth. The standard size of Blangkon is measured from the length between the transverse lines from the right ear to the left ear through the crown of the head and the forehead. With that being said, the smallest Blangkon is in size 48 and the biggest Blangkon is in the size 59. Regarding this matter, in the past, Blangkon were not allowed to be made by just anyone. This is due to the pakem or rules that are already set on the making of Blangkon. Only artists that expertise regarding pakem can make Blangkon. The reason why pakem or rules are very important in the making of Blangkon is that these pakem or rules will affect the value of the Blangkon. The more fulfilling those pakem or rules, the bigger the value of the Blangkon. These pakem or rules are also applicable to the wearer.
The Values and Philosophy of Blangkon
The use of Blangkon for the Javanese people has its meaning and value. This headgear is considered as a very important thing from men, head, hair, and face.
The first value or meaning of Blangkon is that this headgear acts as a form of self-control. For those who are not familiar with Javanese culture, in the past, many Javanese people lengthened their hair. However, they were not letting their hair become messy. Hence, these people tend to tie their hair back with a string of cloth or rolled up in the back of their heads. They would let their hair loose inside their house or in a fight. This is because loosening our hair is considered as a form of emotion or anger. Therefore, by using Blangkon, they will always be reminded to be gentle and hold back their emotions.
Two Sentences of the Shahada
The second value or meaning of Blangkon has a relation with the two sentences of the shahada. Blangkon is linked to the values of Islam which are the two sentences of the shahada. Two pieces of cloth in the back of Blangkon symbolize shahada to Allah and shahada to Rasulullah SAW. These two pieces of cloth then tied together as a unity and form the shahada sentence. As Blangkon is worn on top of the head, it means that we put the shahada sentence on the top and honorable place. Meaning, everything from the outside of our head or minds need to be based on the strong faith to Allah and Rasulullah and also need to heed the rules of Islam.
Types of Blangkon
There are two types of Blangkon in Java, Indonesia. The difference between these two types is on the bulge. The bulge is adapted from the use of the headband on Javanese men in the past. As we have stated before, most Javanese men have long hair so they need to roll or tie their hair before wearing Blangkon. This hair roll looks like a bulge or mondolan which is hidden under the headband. As our hair represents a feeling. By hiding our hair under the headband meaning as a symbol to hold back our emotions to mind other people's feelings.
You can see Yogyakarta's Blangkon with bulge or mondolan in this picture below:
And Solo's (Surakarta's) flat Blangkon Type is like this picture below :
The first Blangkonis the Blangkon Trepes or Flat Blangkon which is originated from Solo. The second Blangkon is Blangkon Mondolan or Bulge Blangkon which is originated from Yogyakarta. The reason why these two are different is due to the splitting of the Mataram kingdom because of the Dutch colonial tactics that utilized the internal conflict of the kingdom so they split into Solo and Yogyakarta. Each of the kingdoms then develops in their ways. The people of Solo, which are closer to the Dutch, has been knowing how to shave their hair so they can change the shape of their Blangkon.