Bedhaya Ketawang, Sacred & Mystical Dance from the Sky

Javanese culture has many types of traditional dances which have been passed down from generation to generation today. One of the traditional dances that are still preserved today is the Bedhaya Ketawang dance. Bedhaya Ketawang dance was inherited from generation to generation by the Surakarta Sunanate.

Bedhaya Ketawang
Bedhaya Ketawang, Photo via solopos

In ancient times, Yogyakarta and Surakarta were a unit that was incorporated in the Sultanate of Mataram. Until at one time, the Mataram Sultanate led by Sultan Agung Hanyakrakusuma later became an important figure behind the creation of the traditional dance Bedhaya Ketawang.

Based on the story in history, the Sultan who at that time was meditating suddenly heard a melodious hum that seemed to descend from the sky. Hearing that melodious voice and softly singing, Sultan Agung was amazed to finally summon four of his escorts to deliver the magical event.

After the incident, Sultan Agung was inspired to create a traditional dance which he named Bedhaya Ketawang, symbolizing the occult event experienced by Sultan Agung. The word Bedhaya means a female dancer who is in the palace while the word Ketawang means sky or something high and noble.

But there is another story mentioning that this dance is created from the love story of Panembahan Senapati and Kangjeng Ratu Kidul. After the fall of the Mataram Sultanate and the distribution of inheritance to the Surakarta Sunanate and the Sultanate of Yogyakarta, finally based on the Giyanti Treaty in 1755, the Bedhaya Ketawang Dance was officially declared to belong to the Surakarta Palace.

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Sacred and Full of Terms

Until now, the Bedhaya Ketawang dance is still often held at official palace events such as coronation and commemoration of the rise of the throne of Sunan Surakarta. This Bedhaya Ketawang dance cannot be presented in public because it is considered sacred and very official.

Each movement, as well as the song lyrics sung in this dance all, describe the figure of Kangjeng Ratu Kidul and his love for the King Panembahan Senopati.

Based on the trust of the local community, at the time the dance was performed, Kangjeng Ratu Kidul would appear and become the tenth dancer, accompanying nine women who danced this dance. Yes, this Bedhaya Ketawang dance must be performed by nine women because it depicts nine wind directions in Javanese mythology which are controlled by nine gods Nawasanga.

The dancers who are trusted to bring Bedhaya Ketawang dance must follow the rules and various conditions that have been determined, because this dance is sacred, official, and also believed to be a mystical thing.

The main requirement to become a Bedhaya Ketawang dancer is to be a pure virgin and not menstruate. She must request permission from Kangjeng Ratu Kidul by performing a “caos dhahar” ritual or preparing food and offerings. This ritual is usually carried out at the Sangga Buwana Stage, Surakarta Palace.

Besides, dancers must also fulfill other requirements, namely, inner sanctity. Dancers must fast for several days before the dance performance is held. The sanctity of the dancers is highly prioritized because that is how Kangjeng Ratu Kidul is willing to approach the dancers during the training period, especially those whose dance movements are still wrong or not perfect.

The dancers also have to wear special clothing in the form of dodot ageng or basahan with a bokor curl and decorated with jewelry consisting of centhung, garuda mungkur, sisir jeram saajar, cundhuk mentul, and dhadha arrive. At first glance, clothing dominated by green looks very similar to bridal clothing in Javanese culture. This illustrates that the Bedhaya Ketawang dance tells the romance between Kangjeng Ratu Kidul and the kings of Mataram.

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JC. Princen

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