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Published: Monday, Aug. 9th, 2021

The Javanese Siraman Wedding Ritual - An Illustrated Look

Illustrations by Jessica Levey

The Siraman is a common Javanese wedding custom of ritual bathing. It’s a joyful event, and usually takes place a day or two before a wedding ceremony, as part of a traditional multi-day procession. 

 

‘Siraman’ comes from the Javanese word siram, which loosely translates to bathing, or to cleanse or splash with water. Brides and grooms both participate in the siraman, each in a separate room. 

 

The ceremony is similar to the Bappai or Badudus ceremonies of Bali -- words which translate closely to bridal shower, a symbolic showering of the bride to ensure the wedding and marriage go well. 

 

During the Siraman ritual, the bride and groom are dressed in ceremonial clothing and bathed in specially prepared water by their parents and other elders. 

 

Traditionally, the water would come from several sacred sources, but modern families often use the water from a single chosen spring or well. The water is poured into a large metal bowl and prepared with a special blend of flowers and colored powders, and accompanied by a traditional shampoo and conditioner. 

 


Illustration of a golden metal bowl, filled with water and flower blossoms, including rose, ylang ylang, and jasmine.

A bowl of water infused with rose petals, champaca, jasmine, and ylang ylang.

 

 


The flowers are usually native Indonesian varieties and might include melati putih (an aromatic white jasmine flower), champaca (a sacred, fragrant yellow-orange flower from the magnolia family that blooms June through September), and cananga (a yellow flower that’s very similar to ylang ylang).  

 

Illustration of the jasmine wedding flower, delicate white blossoms  Illustration of the magnolia wedding flower, yellow and orange with bright green leaves  Illustration of the ylang ylang wedding flower, yellow with green stems

(Melati putih, champaca, and canaga, from left to right)

 

 


The traditional shampoo and conditioner is often made of tamarind juice and coconut milk. (Interestingly, both of these natural ingredients became popular DIY hair care products in the West after centuries of use elsewhere, and can be easily found in the U.S.) 

 

 

Illustration of coconut milk and tamarind seeds

Coconut and tamarind seeds smell amazing and naturally cleanse and condition the hair. 

 


The ceremonial water is poured over the bride and groom’s heads and shoulders by their parents and other elders with a decorative ladle or spoon, traditionally made of coconut shell.

 

This is done to cleanse the couple’s minds and spirits in preparation for the spiritual bond of marriage. The tradition is also a way for young couples to symbolically say goodbye to their parents and their lives as single people, and to welcome their new roles as married people.

 

 

Illustration of an Indonesian groom and bride with water poured over them in siraman

Siraman is a joyful celebration!

 


The Siraman is just one part of a traditional multi-day Javanese wedding procession, which might also (but not always) include a Peningsetan ceremony (when the groom’s family visits the bride’s parents), a Midodareni ceremony (the bride’s preparations), the Akad Nikah and Ijab ceremonies (wedding procession and pledge), a Panggih ceremony (a ceremonial ‘meeting’ of the bride and groom), and others. 

 

 

For more reading : Here’s an interesting article from the University of Washington, describing an intercultural Indonesian marriage that embraced both Javanese (Central Java in Indonesia) and Minangkabau traditions (West Sumatra in Indonesia).

 

And if you enjoy family, community, music, and delicious foods, the Javanese wedding reception following the formal vows is not to be missed!

 

Watch the video below to see scenes from a reception that includes many traditional and modern elements (including elaborate makeup, clothing, and decor) for a truly stunning event. 

 

 

 

 

P.S
This article is meant to be an introduction only. Because cultural and religious customs are deeply personal, historical, and vary by family and region, this description isn’t definitive. If we got something wrong, or if a part of this ceremony should be clarified, let us know!
 

 


 

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