The Javanese people (Javanese: Ngoko: ꦮꦺꦴꦁꦗꦮ (Wong Jawa), Krama: ꦠꦶꦪꦁꦗꦮꦶ (Tiyang Jawi); Malay (both Malaysian and Indonesian): Suku Jawa or Orang Jawa) are an ethnic group native to the Indonesian island of Java. With approximately 100 million people (as of 2011), they form the largest ethnic group in Indonesia. They are predominantly located in the central to eastern parts of the island. There are also significant numbers of people of Javanese descent in most provinces of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Suriname, Saudi Arabia and the Netherlands.
The Javanese ethnic group has many sub-groups, such as the Mataram, Cirebonese, Osing, Tenggerese, Samin, Naganese, Banyumasan, etc.
A majority of the Javanese people identify themselves as Muslims, with a minority identifying as Christians and Hindus. However, Javanese civilization has been influenced by more than a millennium of interactions between the native animism Kejawen and the Indian Hindu—Buddhist culture, and this influence is still visible in Javanese history, culture, traditions, and art forms. With a sizeable global population, the Javanese are considered significant as they are the fourth largest ethnic group among Muslims, in the world, after the Arabs, Bengalis and Punjabis.
The Javanese culture is one of the oldest civilisations and has flourished in Indonesia. It has gradually absorbed various elements and influences from other cultures, including native reverence for ancestral and natural spirits, Hindu and Buddhist dharmic civilisation, Islamic values, and to a lesser extent, Christianity, Western philosophy and modern ideas. Nevertheless, Javanese culture — especially in the Javanese cultural heartland; those of highly polished aristocratic culture of the keratons in Yogyakarta and Surakarta — demonstrates some specific traits, such as particular concern with elegance and refinement (Javanese: alus), subtlety, politeness, courtesy, indirectness, emotional restraint and consciousness to one’s social stature.
Javanese culture values harmony and social order highly, and abhors direct conflicts and disagreements. These Javanese values are often promoted through Javanese cultural expressions, such as Javanese dance, gamelan, wayang and batik. It is also reinforced through adherence to Javanese adat (traditional rules) in ceremonies, such as Slametan, Satu Suro, Javanese weddings and Naloni Mitoni.
However, the culture of pesisiran of Javanese north coast and in Eastern Java demonstrates some slightly different traits. They tend to be more open to new and foreign ideas, more egalitarian, and less conscious of one’s social stature. Some of these northern settlements — such as Demak, Kudus, Tuban, Gresik and Ampel in Surabaya — have become more overtly Islamic, traditionally because these port towns are among the earliest places that Islamic teachings gained foothold in Java.
Javanese culture is traditionally centred in the Central Java, Yogyakarta and East Java provinces of Indonesia. Due to various migrations, it can also be found in other parts of the world, such as Suriname (where 15% of the population are of Javanese descent), the broader Indonesian archipelago region, Cape Malay, Malaysia, Singapore, Netherlands and other countries. The migrants bring with them various aspect of Javanese cultures such as Gamelan music, traditional dances and the art of Wayang kulit shadow play. The migration of Javanese people westward has created a coastal Javanese culture in West Java distinct from the inland Sundanese culture.