Bedhoyo Ketawang Dance

According to Wedbapradangga, the creator og Bedhoyo Ketawang dance is Sultan Agung (1613-1645) the first king and the most glorious king of Mataram Kingdom with Kanjeng Ratu Kencanassari, the ruler of the southern sea or also known as Kanjeng Ratu Kidul. Before the dance created, Sultan Agung ordered gamelan expert to create a gendhing, called as Ketawang. It said that the creation became perfect after Sunan Kalijaga gave favor to this gending. Bedhoyo Ketawang dance then performed in coronation of new king and once a year to commemorate the coronation day or Tingalan Dalem Jumenengan.

Bedhoyo Ketawang performed in the period of Sri Susuhunan Paku Buwana XII, only the philosophy value has changed. The performance has transformed in its mystical or political aspects. The performance is still like the old ritual , yet the value has shifted into a cultural heritage which should be conserved. The costume of this dance is dodot Ageng with Banguntulak alas alasan motive making the dancers look graceful. Gamelan accompanying this performance is very special, gamelan Kyai Kaduk Manis and Kyai Manis Renggo. Gamelan instruments consist of Kemanak, Kethuk, Kenong, Kendhang Ageng, Kendhang Ketipung and Gong Ageng. Those instruments have special sacred names. Two Kendang Ageng are named as Kanjeng Kyai Denok and Kanjeng Kyai Iskandar, two rebab are named as Kanjeng Kyai Grantang and Kanjeng Kyai Lipur, a gong is named as Kanjeng Kyai Kemitir. Bedhoyo Ketawang in the period of Sri Susuhunan paku Buwana XII was performed in the second day of Ruwah Month or Sya’ban in Javanese calendar.

Bedhoyo Ketawang is a masterpiece. It is classified as dance for ceremony, Sacred, religious and love and marriage dance.

Ceremonial Dance

Bedhaya Ketawang is not only entertaining performance, as it is only performed for a special event and in an official ambience. The atmosphere will be very sacred, as the dance is performed only in coronation and coronation commemoration day.

Sacred Dance

Bedhaya Ketawang was created by a king and queen of other realm. People even believe that when this dance performed, the creator comes to dance with the dancers. It said sometimes in rehearsals, she comes to correct the dancers, and the dancers can feel her appearance.

Religious Dance

This can be seen from the lyrics of the dance performance ‘ …tanu astra kadya agni urube, kantar-kantar kyai, …yen mati ngendi surupe, kyai?” (……if die, where is the purpose, Kyai?).

3. Love and Marriage Dance

The dance symbolized love of queen of southern sea to Sultan Agung. This is shown in hand and body moves, on how to hold sondher and the like. All the dancers are dressed as if they are bride to meet groom. In the lyrics can be clearly seen that the song shows love felt by the queen to the king. If the words felt, for current opinion, can be considered as impolite as it can easily evoke sense of desire.

The dance was actually 2.5 hours and in the period of Sinuhun Paku Buwana X became only 1.5 hours. For everyone involved directly and indirectly in the performance have special obligation. A day before the performance all relatives of Sinuhun should purify themselves, heart and soul. This was not easy, yet they follow the obligations as Bedhoyo Ketawang is a sacred heritage.

For the dancers the rule is more strict, as according to belief, they will make direct contact to Kanjeng ratu Kidul. Therefore they should be in consecrated condition in the period of rehearsal or on the performance time. As mentioned earlier, Kanjeng Ratu Kidul present can only be felt by those who are touched by her, if they do not dance correctly. Thus, in rehealsals are held on Anggarakasih (Selasa Kliwon), every dancer and all gamelan players and pesinden should be in consecrated condition.

Preparations for Bedhoyo Ketawang should be done carefully. If they are in period (menstruation), they should not register. There are stand-by dancers. There are also prohibitions for the dancers that usually dancers with mature sould are selected, that their absorption and persistence are more guaranteed.

Who is the creator of Bedhoyo Ketawang, that the dance is considered as very sacred? Even humming the song is prohibited. According to tradition, Bedhoyo Ketawang is considered as the creation of Kanjeng ratu Kidul Kencanasari , the ruler of invisible realm in Java. Her palace is under the Hindian Ocean. The center of her region is Mansingan, Parangtritis, Yogyakarta. Everyone is afraid of her. All of her rules may not be broken.

Yet, according to RT Warsadiningrat (abdidalem niyaga), actually Kanjeng Ratu Kidul only added 2 dancers, become 9 dancers, and then presented to Mataram. Further, he stated that the creator was Bathara Guru, in year 167. In the beginning formed 7 goddess formation to dance Lenggotbawa. And gamelan which accompanied this only 5: pelog , pathet lima:

1. gending – kemanak 2, laras jangga kecil /manis penunggul;
2. kala – kendhang
3. sangka – gong

4. pamucuk – kethuk
5. sauran – kenong.

If so, Bedhoyo Ketawang is Siwaistic and the age of this dance is quiet old, older than Kanjeng ratu Kidul. According to G.P.H. Kusumadiningrat, the creator of  “lenggotbawa” is Bathara Wisnu, when he was sitting in balekambang. Seven beautiful jewels were created by him and then changed to be seven goddess, they danced and encircled Bathara Wisnu clockwise. Seeing this, Bathara was so happy. As it was improper that god turn his head right and left, then he created so many eyes, which are located scaterred on his body.

According to Sinuhun Paku Buwana X, Bedhoyo Ketawang delineating love, lust and affection of Kanjeng Ratu Kidul to Panembahan Senopati. All the moves show gentle persuasion and flattery lust, but it can always be circumvented him. The queen then asked Kanjeng Ratu Kidul, that he would not go home, yet stayed in the ocean and sit on Sakadhomas Bale Kencana throne, a throne which was deposited by King Ramawijaya in the ocean bottom.

Sinuhun did not follow the intention of Kanjeng Ratu Kidul, as he wanted to reach sangkan paran. Yet he would like to take her as his wife, until his descendants.  His descendants who reign java will marry him on their coronation. She was asked to come to the island to teach Bedhoyo Ketawang dance to the king’s dancers. The rehealsals take place on Anggarakasih day and teh queen will turn up.

Gendhing accompanying Bedhoyo Ketawang is called as Ketawang Gedhe. This gendhing can not be played as klenengan as officially this is not gendhing but including tembang gerong Gamelan which consists of kethuk, kenong, kendhang, gong and kemanak. In the musik kemanak sound is very loud and clear. The dance is divided into 3 parts. Oddly, in the midst of all parts of the barrel changed to slendro dances briefly (up to two times), and then back again to pelog, until the end.On the first part, accompanied by Sinden Durma, and then to Retnamulya. When accompanying the dancers to enter and exit to Dalem Ageng Prabasuyasa, the gamelan is added with rebab, gender gambang and suling, which create harmonious atmosphere.  During the dance, keprak is not used at all. Dancers enter Pendapa Ageng Sasanasewaka from Dalem Agung Prabasuyasa, walking one by one. They encircle Sinuhun who sits on dhampat (throne). The difference between this dance to the others is that the dancers always encircle Sinuhun, he sits on the right side of the dancers. In common bedhaya or srimpi, dancers enter and exit from the right of Sinuhun and return on the same path.

There is another dance which is also sacred, entitled as Srimpi Anglirmendhung. The dance  less old than Bedhaya Ketawang. The similarities of the dances are:
a. MENDHUNG = means cloud ; and cloud is located in the sky (=TAWANG)
b. Kemanak is the main instrument to accompany the dances
c. The dances are divided into 3 parts.

According to R.T. Warsadiningrat, Anglirmedhung was created by K.G.P.A.A.Mangkunagara I. There were only 7 dancers and later dedicated to Sinuhun paku BUwana. Yet for the will of Sinuhun Paku Buwana IV, the dance was changed a bit, becane Srimpi with four dancers only. This dance is as sacred as Bedhaya Ketawang though this can be performed wherever and whenever, unlikt Bedhoyo Ketawang which is performed once a year and in certain place only.

Here are the distinctions of Bedhoyo Ketawang:

1. The dance is onlu performed in Anggarakasih day. Even the rehearsals are held also only in Anggarakasih days.

2. The dancers always encircle Sinuhun clockwise, when entering and leaving Dalem Ageng.

3.The costume of the dancers and lyrics of teh sinden. The dancers wear dodot banguntulak. As the lower layer they wear purple cindhe kembang with pendhing and bunta. The make up resembles as bride make up. The hair bun proned and decorated by centhung, garudha mungkur, sisir jeram saajar, cundhuk menthul and tiba dhadha (garlands which is hung on the right chest).

4.The lyrics sung by singers depicts seduction that can stimulate the sense of lust. From there it can be estimated that Bedhaya Ketawang can also be classified in the “Fertility Dance” in the temple, which describes the essence of hope to have many offspring.

5.Gamelan-barreled pelog, without keprak , that Bedhaya Ketawang can be classified as a classic dance.

6.Assembled dance and different role name. In the beginning of the lane once, we see the dancers sitting and dancing in the order illustrated below in

In performing this role the dancers are called:

1. Batak
2. Endhel ajeg
3. Endhel weton
4. Apit ngarep
5. Apit mburi
6. Apit meneg
7. Gulu
8. Dhada
9. Boncit

When dancing the assembles are not constant, yet changing, according to the scene delineated. On the closing scene, the dancers sit creating 2 lanes with three dancers each lane. In this formation, Bedhaya Ketawang is ended and then continued by accompaniment and returnto Dalem Ageng, with encircling Sinuhun clockwise.

7. Bedhaya Ketawang also can be related to astronomy, as in the lyrics of the song:

Anglawat akeh rabine Susuhunan, nde,
Anglawat kathah garwane Susuhunan, nde,
SOSOTYA gelaring mega, Susuhunan kadi Lintang kusasane.
(In the visit, Susuhunan does a few marry ,
In the visit, Susuhunan has a few empresses
Jewels scattering in the extend sky
Susuhunan is ruling, like stars)

The king’s dominion is like stars. Javanese also recognize astronomy and know name of stars like: Lintang Luku, Lintang Kukusan, Gemak Tarung, Panjer Rina, Panjer Sore.

Bedhaya Ketawang is  considered being created by queen of the invisible realm. People even believe that everytime this dance performed(rehearsal or real performance), the creator always presents. Not everyone can see her. As it is considered as sacred, it is assumed that this dance is a dance which is danced in a temples.


Who is Kanjeng Ratu Kidul? Is she real or she is just in fairytale? She is invisible, and usually people know about her orally.

According to story believed by people, her name was Dewi Ratna Suwida, a princess from Pajajaran Kingdom, daughter of Prabu Mundingsari, from his wife, Dewi Sarwedi, the grand daughter of Sang Hyang Suranadi, great grand daughter of king of invisible realm in Sigaluh. The princess escaped from palace and meditated on Mt Kombang. When meditating , reat power showed, she changed to be male, then to be female and again. She did not marry and became queen of all invisible creature in Java. Her palace is under the Hindian Ocean. This was because she was the descendant of invisible creature.

After the princess became a queen, she was entitled as Kanjeng Ratu Kidul or Nyi Rara Kidul. And some call her as Mbok Lara Mas Ratu Kidul, Lara derives from rara means virgin girl/ unmarried.

Once upon a time, Dewi Ratna Suwida who was very pretty got a leprosy sickness. To cure this she should bathe and soak in a lake nearby to the ocean. One day, when she was washing her face, she saw the reflection of hers on the water surface. She was shock to see her face was very ugly, then she jumped to the ocean and never returned ashore, she turned to be invisible creature.

Other story tells that people name heer Kanjeng Ratu Angin angin. According to a research, she was not only the queen of invisible realm but also queen of the southern coast of Java, from Yogyakarta, Banyuwangi, and then separated by Danamulya village (Christian village). The leader of Paga village sais that his coastal village has a tradition to  put offering to the southern sea for Nyi Rara Kidul. The offering is put in a small hut called as sanggar. Coastal of Lumajang also annually hold goat sacrifices for her. Mr Welter, a Dutch who was the deputy of Raad van Indie said that when he was a controler in Kepajen, he saw annual offering in Ngliyep, held specially for Nyai Lara Kidul.

In Pacitan there was a belief that people should not wear light green clothes. Green is believed to be the color of Nyai Rara Kidul’s cloth. If it is broken there will be a disaster. It said that there were Dutch family ignored this and they even made a fun of it. They went to the southern sea with green clothes and suddenly big wave came to them.

According to vision of Theosophist from US, Kanjeng Ratu Kidul was not a male or female. She was a goddess of nature or goddess of ocean.