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by H.I.R. Hinzler, Dept. of SE Asian Languages and Cultures, Leiden University

Sources on food
For central Java, the period between the middle of the ninth century and the beginning of the tenth century, the only surviving indigenous written sources are the inscriptions. Of the visual sources, the most prominent are the reliefs on the monuments of Borobudur, Mendut and Prambanan (ninth-early tenth centuries), and a number of artifacts made of metal and gold.

The earliest inscriptions in which references to food, drinks and festive meals are given are the stone of Trui Tepusan (842 CE) with the smashing of an egg on a sacred stone, and Sri Manggala II (874 CE), a boundary stone, saying that the officials present at a ceremony were eating. Seven copper plates issued under King Kayuwangi between 877 CE and 880 CE give more detailed information on eating and drinking. After a period of silence about food, there are eleven inscriptions on copper issued between 901 CE and 907 CE by King Balitung, one copperplate without a date by his successor Dakûa (Barahàúrama), and one by by next ruler Tulodong issued in 919/920 CE (Lintakan). Three more copperplates, without date, but certainly issued in the early tenth century, make a total of twenty-four. The number of inscriptions from East Java, most of them issued later, with data on food and festive meals, is about the same, but the descriptions are even more detailed. It appears that if elaborate data on food and meals are given both in Central and East Java, this was done on copperplates, and not on stone inscriptions.

The reliefs of the Central Javanese Buddhist monument Borobudur, and a few reliefs on Mendut, particulary on the balustrades of the entrance stairs, constructed and reconstructed in the course of the ninth century show among others food and material culture. The same holds true for the reliefs on the Hindu counterpart, the complex of Prambanan. I choose the reliefs of the hidden base of Borobudur for a more detailed investigation, as more than half of the hundred and sixty panels show data on food including fruit trees, and vessels and pots for food; the Ràmàyaóa reliefs on the Siwa and Wiûóu temples of Prambanan (twenty-one of the twenty-four panels show food stuffs), and the Brahma temple, with six out of thirty panels).

If we assume that the objects and situations depicted in the scenes telling (Indian) Buddhist and Hindu stories, are based on Javanese life and lifestyle, and not a result of phantasy and idealizing of life in India, we may use the data from the reliefs as sources that provide us with an insight in the material culture of Central Java of that period.

Use of the visual sources
In the realm of texts, a comparison between the descriptions of and references to material culture, clothes, foods, scenery, etc. in the Old Javanese Ràmàyaóa (composed perhaps shortly before 928 CE), some later additions made in the fourteenth century, the “original” (the Sanskrit Bhaþþikàvya, a grammar around the story Ràma), and the Vàlmiki Ràmàyaóa, leads to my conclusion that the main lines, including the order of the events of the story in the Old Javanese text, were similar to that in Bhaþþi’s work, but that the details – the setting, references to trees, plants, clothes, dresses, food – were different from both Sanskrit works. These details are much more in agreement with the descriptions in other, Old Javanese works, in particular the poetry, composed in East Java between the eleventh and late fifteenth century, and may, therefore, refer to Javanese customs and ideas.

It is not impossible that a similar observation holds true for the visual arts in Java. Although the stories depicted on reliefs and on statues, are situated in India, the setting, and lifestyle of the figures depicted may be more Javanese than Indian.

With this in mind, I wish to try to relate the data on food and drinks in the texts – in this paper those of Central Java being the inscriptions as there are no poetry or prose works left – to the depictions on the reliefs, and – although scarce – archaeological finds in the form of objects and tools of this area between the ninth and the beginning of the tenth centuries CE.

The data on food conveyed by the inscriptions can be grouped as follows.
I. A reference to, or a description of the food and drinks consumed by a group of participants on the occasion of a ritual consecration of a freehold. The freehold consisted of land either for growing rice, vegetables, or trees, or for the construction of (religious) buildings to commemorate a deified king (deceased or still alive) or another (deceased) member of the royal family.

II. The enumeration of foodstuffs and utensils, some of them for cooking, offered to a particular divinity on the occasion of the same ritual consecration of the freehold.

III. References to hawkers, traders, craftsmen in the section of the limitation of the number of them or their masters in the freehold.

IV. References to officials dealing with food in the lists of witnesses present at the consecration of the freehold.

I. Festive meals
A meal is not consumed by an individual, but by a a group of people, mostly officials, as part of other festivities like music, dance, merry making. The inscriptions usually give neutral reference to eating, and/or drinking of the group. The terms always used for eating are mamangan, mangan, from pangan, food, eating, and manaðah, tinaðah, from taðah, food, meal. Sangu, food to take home, I found once. For drinking one term is to be found, manginum from inum, drink. All terms are indigenous, there are no Sanskrit loanwords.

Even in modern Javanese society it is not always clear whether the terms for eating and drinking are exclusive, or comprise the consumption of both food and drinks. I therefore want to investigate the implications of the terms. Both, eating and drinking, mamangan, manginum, are given in the same sentence in six inscriptions. The lines run as follows “the guests at the consecration ceremony of the freehold ate and drank in a festive tent in the yard (Lintakan 919 CE); “after the presents were handed out at the consecration ceremony of the freehold, the village heads of Mulak, the old and the young ate and drank” (Mulak I 878 CE); “the village heads were eating and drinking having received their presents” (Ratanira no date); “after the ceremony on the kulumpang stone, everybody present ate and drank; nobody stayed behind after they all had eaten, drunk and danced” (Kêmbang Arum 902 CE); “the drinking and eating was over in the afternoon, at the sixth time-beat” (Lintakan 919 CE). Two incomplete copperplates without a date (Gilikan I, and Dieduksman, the text of which is similar to Gilikan I) give mamangan and manginum after the ceremony on the kulumpang stone. In three of the abovementioned inscriptions the food and drinks served are also enumerated (Kêmbang Arum, Lintakan and Ratanira)

Manaðah is used rather frequently on its own in eight inscriptions in communications like: “after the meal, the kudur priest performed the oath ritual (Kwak I 879 CE); “after the witnesses had received their presents, they ate (Mantyasih I, III 907 CE); “the supervisor of the smiths offered a meal to the village elders (Salingsingan 880 CE). Poh (905 CE) gives tinaðah, and sangu, food to take home, and also provides a list of food. Kêmbang Arum has both terms for eating: mamangan in combination with manginum, and manaðah in an isolated reference, while both food and drinks are served.

A reference manaðah for eating, in combination with manginum for drinking, is to be found in two instances: Teleng I, II (904 CE) and Rukam (907 CE). ”those involved in the concecration were given a meal and drinks by an official (Teleng I, II); “after the ceremony at the holy kulumpang stone, the gràma wiku were given a meal and drinks (Rukam 907 CE). Rukam (907 CE) uses manaðah both isolated and in combination with drinking, and it also has a list of drinks that are served.

A conclusion is that mamangan is a more general term for eating that needs extra reference to drinking, while manaðah refers to having a more or less complete meal that also comprises drinks.

In one inscription a specific term is used for food that is taken home, sangu. “Each of the makudur priests received, apart from the regular gifts, food to take home “ (Poh 905 CE).

There are seven inscriptions in which the food and drinks enjoyed by the guests are specified . Among them are six inscriptions issued by King Balitung , and these contain the most elaborate information on the banquets served . The food of the inscriptions of Balitung consist of cooked rice, sêkul, with meat and fish. The meat may be of buffaloes, haðangan; sheep or goats, wêðus; boars, wök; oxen, sapi; barking deer, kidang; monkeys, wrai; bats, kaluang; . The fish are: ikan duri; kaðawas, a sea fish, and kakap, another sea fish identified as Latas calcarifer; ðêlag, a freshwater fish, probably a kind of pike; moreover shellfish, layar-layar, possibly a nautilus; shrimps, hurang; crab, gêtam. The vegetable dishes are called, gangan, and kuluban, but it is not yet known what these consisted of. Furthermore there are eggs, hantiga and dishes like amwil-amwil; hala-hala, kwêlan, and piningka, ðuðutan, atah-atah, the contents of which are mostly unknow to us. It is not clear whether eggs of chicken or ducks are meant. Hala-hala is always used in combination shrimps, hurang, but I am not sure whether it also represents a kind of shrimp or crab. Lintakan (919 CE) stresses that four water buffaloes, kêbo, and 3 tìkûukat, an unknown animal were served.

The meaning of gangan is still not clear to me. Zoetmulder (198: 491) translates it by vegetables, both in the field and cooked. I found it often mentioned in relation with meat, either animals or fish. In the OJR Ràwaóa offers Sìtà ‘gangan’, when she wishes to stay with him, and this appears to be all the contents of the ocean, rivers and forest. Animals, fish and shell fish are enumerated . In Kembang Arum (902 CE), and Rukam (907 CE) ‘gangan’is also followed by meat (buffalows, goats, cows, pigs). I therefore tend to translate ‘gangan’ by food in general, and not by vegetables, or vegetable dishes. The term ‘ginanganan’ meaning ‘to eat with vegetables’ according to Zoetmulder (1982: 491) is combined with dishes of which I do not know whether they contain vegetables or meat, except in the case of Rukam (907 CE), where it is combined with ‘ðalamman hinaryasan’, which is a vegetable dish made of young banana trunk.

Fully cooked, kêla-kêla, is said of meat, cooked in an earthenware pot, dinyun;. Baked, inaring, is said of fish; roasted dishes may be meant by sanga-sangan.

Harang-harang may refer to meat or fish prepared on charcoal, harêng, but this is not sure; it apparently is a category of food, because of it is called ‘saprakaraning harang-harang’, all kinds of, or the complete assortment of harang-harang .

There are also terms referring to conservation methods of meat and fish. Asin-asin refers to the way it is preserved: salted , which is said of fish. Dried, ðeng , is used for a particular method of preservation of meat and fish; the ðeng can be salted, ðeng asin, and unsalted, ðeng hañang; a third way is called tarung, ðeng tarung. It is not clear what is in it.

Rumwa-rumwah may be minced meat that is boiled. Kneaded, tetis is said of another dish that is unknown to us, ðuðutan. Two more ways of preparing are also not so clear: pasuktan, which must mean cooked in a particular way, and kasyan, the meaning of which is unknown so far.

The food was eaten from a plate made of leaf, ron, probably palm-leaf, or rather leaves, ron, put together with pins, sêmat, which had been handed over to the guests first, after which, in a particular phase of the ceremony, the party returned to their leaves to eat. “After the oath ritual, the wahutas, patih and ramas return to their leaves to eat” (Kêmbang Arum 902 CE).

The drinks were mostly alcoholic: tuak, palmwine was most popular; siddhu, fermented and distilled sugarcane juice, comparable to rum ; madhya, a term for any intoxicating drink , ciñca , a tamarind drink of which I am not sure that it is alcoholic, jàtirasa ; and duh ninyung, coconut milk , which could be the same as the duh nikang nyu drunk by the monkeys in the Old Javanese Ràmàyaóa (OJR XXVI, 23b). Jàtirasa is a bit problematic; by jàti, Skt jàtì, jasmin, may be meant. It is also a term for wine flavoured with jasmine flowers in ancient India (Achaya 1998: 59), whereas rasa as such may stand for an extract of sugarcane (Achaya 1998: 85).

The meals at the consecration ceremonies were very elaborate. They consisted of a great number of dishes. Kêmbang Arum (902 CE) has seventeen or eighteen dishes : rice, meat and dried meat, fish, shellfish, shrimps, vegetables, eggs, snacks, including vegetables, and five different alcoholic beverages; Mantyasih I (907 CE) has eleven different dishes, consisting of meat, dry salted meat, shrimps, an unknown dish, and eggs, but no specification of the drinks; Mantyasih III (907 CE, a shorter version of I) has five dishes, and Rukam (907) has twenty-six dishes consisting of rice, fish, shelfish, shrimps, crab, meat, vegetables, and three different types of drinks.

A list with the menus of the three inscriptons is given in Appendix I, and terms for the animals, fish, shrimps, vegetables, eggs and snacks is given in Appendix II.

The cooks of rice, madang, mangla, all men owing to their names, must have been important persons. They were present at the consecration ceremonies, and received gifts. It is not clear from the inscriptions whether a distinction can be made between rice that is cooked in water in a pot, and rice that is steamed in a steamer, kukusan, placed on a pot with water. Pangliwêtan is a pot for boiling rice . Such pots are mentioned in offerings for Brahma. Dinyun may have two meanings: cooked, and served in a pot. The term sêkul, cooked rice, in combination with the pot, dinyun, is followed by the number of pots to be offered to a god . Of the rice eaten by the guests is said that was heaped up, sêkul timàn matumpuk . No pots or containes are mentioned. It is possible that the foodstuffs heaped up in the bowls depicted on Borobudur – although it is hard to determine what they consist of – contain such rice. It may be the predecessor of the ‘nasi tumpêk’ that is served at celebrations in modern Java. The term wras or wêas, husked unboiled rice, is to be found in combination with a kukusan, rice steamer, as a measure in offerings to gods .

Fruit is not mentioned at all as part of the banquets, it is offered to the gods and the deified ancestors . The emphasis is on meat and fish dishes, all the food of creatures that are tended, bought, sold, caught, shot, collected, and killed by men and prepared by men. The alcoholic beverages are also made by men. Fruit, leaves and roots are usually collected by women and ascetics in the forest. This leads to the conclusion that the organisation of rituals including the preparation of the food was in the hands of men, although women were invited, and presents and food were also offered to them.

Nothing is said about the taste of the food. It can be deduced from the references to the ways of preparation: asin-asin for salted, hañang for unsalted meat. Salt, garam and salt from salt pans, garam paðak, was known. A term for suger, gula, is also found in the inscriptions, but not in combination with food. It may have been made from the juice of arèn or coconut palms, as is still done in rural Java. Terms for sour, asêm , or fragrant, aromatic, harum , dishes as will be found in later, literary texts from East Java, do not occur in the inscriptions.

The quantities of food seemed to have been of importance. This can be concluded from the fact that one could eat as much meat as one wanted, samenaka , and that the rice was heaped up , timan matumpuk , or that there were heaps of other dishes, matumpuk-tumpuk .

There are two moments in the course of the ritual during which a meal may be enjoyed: before (Mantyasih I, III) or after the oath (Mantyasih , Rukam, Kembang Arum) in front of the holy stones. In Mantyasih I (907 CE) the moment is even more specified. After the distribution of the gifts, and before the oath food is consumed. Úrì Manggala II (874 CE), says ‘after the gifts they ate together’, and Mulak I (878 CE) says that ‘after the distribution of the presents, they ate and drank’.

The meaning of eating together is given in Wuatan Tija (880 CE): after they had eaten together, they knew how strong the grant of the king was . The king had promised to send them wild pigeons yearly.

The food, or part of the food, for the meal enjoyed by the participants in the ritual consecration may have been presented by the king, whose name is connected with the edict. “Four buffaloes were send by the king – their value in silver is also given – and three tìkûukat (an unknown animal)” in Lintakan 919; by the head, raka, of a particular village “food and drinks were served to those involved in the consecration of a piece of land for the founding of a jetty shed and dwelling houses” (Telang II, 904 CE); the samgat, a high court official, of Kiniwang donates one water buffalo, one goat and rice at the ceremony of the consecration of a freehold for a caitya.

In the inscription of Salingsingan (880) a single animal, a water buffalo, haðangan, is offered as food by the head of the smiths to the heads, ramanta, of Kikil Batu as part of fixing the feudal obligations of a villaged called Sali . The king (Lokapàla) donated yearly wild pigeons, wuru-wuruhan, to the freehold in Wuatan Tija (880 CE). Live animals and food were also given to officials, apparently not to be consumed during the ritual, but to be taken home. “The patihs and the wahuta each receive buffalos (one) and goats (five) apart from other gifts at the consecration, others received food-to-be-taken-home, sangu” (Poh 905 CE). Gifts to a particular high ranked official, for instance the rakryan of the settlement, wanwa, who was responsible for the cooking, also consisted of food this time in the form of an earthen pot with fish, iwak ring pannay (Mantyasih).

The food was eaten by the officials present at the ceremony: the wahutas , patihs , ràmas, village elders or heads of the village of the consecration and neighbouring villages , the wahuta hyang kudur, a kind of priest, and his staff , the witnesses, sàkûi , the host of rakryan, wadwa rakryan , the taóða rakryans, rakas, samgat, tiruan, halaran, scribe, representatives of villages and their wives , and the gràma wiku, village hermits . In one inscription (Poh 905 CE) it is stated that the village elder, ràma, orders that monkeys and bats are shot with a blow pipe to be eaten by the wahuta hyang kudur, a kind of priest, and all the rakryan as well as the village authorities. Even the name of the person who shoots with the blow pipe is given.

We know from the Old Javanese Ràmàyaóa that hermits, wiku, were allowed to eat dear, måga (OJR IV, 19d), and that they could eat any animal not belonging to the group five-nails, watêk pañcanakha, to which monkeys, wre, belong (OJR VI, 19d).


The second source about food are the offerings, saji, presented to two holy stones. One stone represents Brahma, who is regarded as witness, sàkûi, of the consecration ceremony (Lintakan), and the other is the kulumpang or freehold stone. In a few inscriptions other gods, Haricandana, and the deified ancestor worshipped in a shrine, receive not only flowers but also food.

The offerings presented to Brahma at the consecrtion ritual are:

-husked, uncooked rice, bras, in a container, tamwakur, or sack, kampil ; unbolstered rice in a particular container, bras pàda

-cooked rice in an earthenware pot, sêkul dinyun, two dishes, papras

-the head of a buffalo, taóðas ning haðangan , or another animal called kumol, the outward appearance of which is unkown

-hens, hayam, in particular black ones, hayam irêng

-eggs; there were five eggs, hantrini, in the offering for Brahma in Lintakan (919) and an unmentioned number of eggs in Rukam (907);

-a copper cooking pot for steaming the rice, dang ; a metal oval shaped cooking pot, kawah ; a pot for boiling rice, pangliwêtan

At the annual worship of Brahma food in the shape of alingga, annalingga, has to be presented in Pintang Mas (878 CE).

For the kulumpang stone I found the following offerings related with food:

-unbolstered rice in a particular container, bras pàda ; unbolstered rice in a sack made of gêbang leaves, wras sakadut , and in a plaited bag, kampil

-a copper cooking pot for rice, dang

-eggs, hantiga, four in Kembang Arum (902CE); one egg, hantiga, hantlu, hantrini, has to be smahed on the stone when the oath is recited ;

-hens, hayam, are also among the offerings ; the neck of a hen is separated at the oath ritual in front of the freehold stone

To a god, Haricandana – it is not yet known who he represented – various fruits, phalaphali, and one tahil of bras has to be offered at his annual festival in the month of Màrgasira .

To the god, bhaþàra, of Baràhàúrama, one kukusan of four coloured rice, wras caturwaróa, and a plate made of leaves pinned together, ron sêmat

It appears that mostly uncooked rice – an exception is Lintakan 919, in various vessels or containers, the severed head of two types of domestic animals, a water buffalo, and a kumol), hens, eggs, and various types of cooking pots, mainly made of metal, are offered to Brahma. It is not clear whether by eggs those of chicken or duck are meant, and whether they are raw or boiled. The fact that one of the eggs, a raw one, is smashed against the kulumpang stone at the oath ritual, may indicate that raw eggs are meant. Comparison to present-day Hindu rituals in Bali shows a preference for henn’s eggs for offerings on the ground and for duck’s eggs for offerings on an offering table, as hen’s eggs are hierarchically ‘lower’ than those of ducks.

It is not impossible that, because Brahma is associated with fire, the food offerings to him are untouched by fire yet. The gifts of pots and vessels suggest that the food stuffs should be prepared in them.

The list of offerings to Brahma is far more elaborate than those for the other stone (kulumpang, sìma), which may indicate that Brahma, who is called a witness, of the ceremony, plays a prominent role at the consecration of a freehold. It is not impossible that Brahma is regarded as possessor of the earth or grounds, and that in case of erecting a religious building on the grounds of the freehold he may have been associated with the brahmapuruûa concept that is known from India, although this term is not found in Old Javanese written sources.


In the section of references to hawkers, traders, etc. we gain insight in the products that were manufactured, like salt, garam; palmsugar, gula; oil, lênga. The animals that were tended, bought and sold for slaughter were water buffalos, cows, ducks. There were rice dealers, makacapuri wêas; and manufacturers, and sellers of cooking utensils, pots made of terracotta, dyun, or metal, dang. From the references to the catchers of birds – with various types of snares, mamisandung, manuhab, it appears that this was an important activity. It is not clear whether birds were caught because they damaged the crops, because they were to be sold to be kept in cages as for instance parrots, or because they were eaten. In later textual sources from East Java the meat of particular birds is recommended, quails, rice birds, because they give one great strength (Ramayana XXVI, 25b).


Among the officials present at a consecration are “heads of the husked rice, mùlawuddha or hulu wras” (Kembang Arum, Poh), and cooks, mangla (Gilikan II, Kwak I, I, II), or madang (Poh 905). They all receive presents.

Chicken, ducks, birds, insects were not specified among the food of a festive meal. The meat consists mainly of domestic animals, and in a few cases of animals of the forest obtained after a hunt: deer – although these were also kept in palace gardens -, monkeys and bats. Fruit, nor betel and its accessories are enumerated as closure of the meal. Data on how the food tasted can be deduced from the terms , ‘non-salty’, ‘salty’ also from the fact that manufacturers of salt , garam, are mentioned, and sweet, as there are manufacturers of sugar, gula.


Now we have some insight in food stuffs that were important on a ritual and administrative level through the inscriptions, it would be interesting to compare the results of this investigation to what is shown on the reliefs of Central Java of this period.


The reliefs of Borobudur, in particular on the hidden base, show a number of scenes of daily life, in connection with good and bad behaviour of humans and punishments of hell in the afterlife.

To skin an animal, a female goat probably, while its young is still small and probably in need of the milk of the mother, is shown as an example of sinning (panel 86). The animal is hung upside down from a tree, and the butcher, holding a knife, is skinning it. We know from the written sources, that goats, wêðus, are bought up for slaughter and eaten at rituals, and that castrated goats, wêðus gunting belong to the ràjamangsa (see for instance the East Javanese edict of Waharu IV 931 CE). On panel 93 a variety of animals, deer, kidang; oxen, sapi; ducks, aóðah; peacock,mrak, mayura; squirrel, sêmal, pundah are shown, most of them are edible.

Hunting is also depicted: a man with a blow pipe, tulupan (panel 91); someone who kills an animal with a club or a knife (panel 91); hunting with a bow and arrow (panel 118). In this panel parrots are shot. They may have done harm to the crop.

A person holding a pig or boar on a lead, suggests pig breeding (panel 9). From somewhat later inscriptions from East Java (beginning with Waharu IV 931 CE), we learn that keeping and eating castrated boars, karung pulih, was a privilege given to officials. This food belonged to the category of ràjamangsa, as well as eating turtles, baðawang and baning. Turtles being cooked in a cauldron, kawah, are shown on panel 89. They also belong to the ràjamangsa.

Dogs, asu, represented on panels 87, 88, 92, were on the one hand domesticated animals, and a man’s friend, on the other hand they were eaten, as we know from East Javanese literary sources, but it was regarded as impure meat (Nitiúàstra II, 12c).

The deer, kidang, on panel 109, identified as a muntiacus muntiac Zimm. (Hofenger 1984: 333 ) was regarded as delicious food, fit for ascetics.

On the panels of the upper galleries of Borobudur we find the water buffalo (panel III 71), or haðangan.

Fish and fish cooking
Various ways of fishing are shown on the relief panels: fishing with a net in a pond (panel 109); fishing with a spear (118); fishing by putting a basket over the fish (1, 118); breading fish in a pond (109).The fish are identified by Hofenger (1984: 318) as carps with spikes, Bargridae. Carrying fish on a pole, pikulan, home, to the market,or to a ritual, is shown on panels 109 and 118, and finally preparing a fish for cooking. The fish carried on a pole, on panel 109 is, according to Hofenger 1984: 117; 345, a carp (Cyprinus carpio L). A man holding a knife, is doing something with a fish on a stone (panel 2). Does he remove the scales? Next to him a male person is blowing the fire under a cooking pot. This may indicate that the fish will be cooked. Another way of cooking fish is shown on panel 89: a large fish and three turtles are being cooked at the same time in a large cauldron supported by stones (89). The fish is identified by Hofenger (1984: 313, 315) as a sweetwater carp, Silurus. It appears very difficult to attribute Old Javanese names to the fish depicted on the reliefs. There are several hundreds of terms for fish in Old Javanese texts, and many of them can be eaten, but so far none of them have been identified as carps, nor are their Latin names known.

The cauldron is shown several times on Borobudur (102, 110), while human sinners are being cooked in it. From literary sources is known that such a cauldron is called kawah, and that it is made of copper, tambra.

A smaller vessel, it could be a kawali, in which something, probably water is cooked, is shown on panel 89. The fire is accelerated by a man blowing through a bamboo tube. A similar tube held by a man is shown on panel 15, in which another vessel on a tripod is shown. Another male takes something out of the vessel with a spoon and puts it on a plate.

Among the trees depicted on the reliefs of the hidden base are many that bear fruit: coconut palm, nyu (panel 97), banana palms, gêðang, pisang or punti alas, wood banana (panels 26, 61, 67, 68, 105, 118), even a tree with a flower, tud, that is usually eaten by hermits (panel 61; cf. OJ Ram. XV, 46c); Bananas are also offered as gifts (panel 59); mangga trees, poh, with and without fruit (61,62, 91, 109,117, 123 ), rose apple, jambu, trees (87, 88, 109), according to Hofenger 1984 the variety Eugenia malacensis L); a kenari tree on panel 89 (Hofenger 1984: Canarium commune L.); ketapang trees (panels 86, 89; Hofenger 1984: termialia catappa); a breadfruit tree, kukap (panel 92; Hofenger Artocarpus communis G. Forst), a jackfruit tree, nangka or panasa (panel 50). Bananas on plates offered by servants to masters are shown on panel 106, and tying jackfruits (Arthocarpus integra) together on panel 50. Pinang, or pucang (Steinman 1934: 58; Areca Catechu) is depicted together with a mangga tree and rice on panel 61, and on panel 34. The manggistan, manggis or mangguûþa in Old Javanese, Garcinia Mangostana L, is found on panel 56; the durian, or duren on panel (x).

It is remarkable that although hardly any mention is made of fruit in the inscriptions, on the reliefs, and in the Old Javanese literary text so many different fruits, including the eating of it, are mentioned. This may indicate that fruit was regarded as a common foodstuff, not special enough for mentioning in a description of a festive meal in an inscription

Growing rice, pari, rats in a rice field, sawah, are shown on panels 57, 65, 167, 122. Steinman (1934: 583 ), however, identifies it as particular variety of millet (musa paradisiacal). It seems much more likely that rice was depicted on the reliefs; the term millet is hardly used in Old Javanese texts including inscriptions. Rice was quite a common crop in the ninth and tenth centuries, as we know from the inscriptions.

Sugar cane
Sugar cane, têbu, is shown on panel 12, although Steinman (1937: 585) rejects this identification, and on 105 and 117.

A stall on a market, pêkên, is probably depicted on (50), as well as people carrying food on a pole, pikulan, to the market place.

There is only one instance in which is shown that a meal is served to a group of male figures in a pavilion. Dishes with food – it is impossible to determine which kind of food is served – , and a water spout, gêndi, are depicted on panel 122.

Bowls, etc.

A wealth of bowls, pot, cups, vessels, some placed on top of each other upside down, are shown on the reliefs . Many of them are put in front of couches in pavilions, but depicted as if they are under the seats. This seemed to be the convention for showing things placed in front at that time. These bowls and dishes may have been used for putting food (meat, fish, vegetables, fruit) in, or drinks (alcoholic beverages, water) at festive meals. They also seen to indicate a person’s wealth.

Water pots with spouts, gêndi, and water containers are also shown on many reliefs (panels 12, 27, 55, 82, 83, 110, 144, and 14, 33, 66, 106, 107, 113, 134, 138, 139, 144, 153, 149, 154 respectively). The water pots with spouts were used to pour water in a flat drinking vessel, with one part of the rim curled up like a grip, which was held by the receiver (panels 12, 144), or in a cup (panel 14). Terms used for drinking vessels or cups are tahapan and pàtra, but I do not know how they looked like. A scene in which three men are depicted, two of them holding the flat drinking vessels, and one holding a tube, in which I recognize a bamboo drinking tube, bungbungan, or gayung, is to be found on panel 90.

As a conclusion it can be said that the hidden reliefs of Borobudur show rice, animals and fish as food, and drinking scenes, that we recognize from the descriptions of festive meals of the inscriptions, as well as various types of fruit. It appears from the later East Javanese literary written sources that fruit was mainly eaten by sages and hermits, and presented to visitors in hermitages (see for instance Ram IV, 16c,d; V,11a; XVI, 14).


There are two reliefs on the wings of the staircase to the firss terrace of Mendut, which show food. On the left wing of the staircae, the central panel of the fourth row the following scene is depicted. On the left two men with bows and arrows, shoot a turtle, biting in a stick carried by two flying geese. More towards the right hand side of the panel three men fight to catch the turtle, that has fallen on the ground. A buffalo, haðangan, to the left, has turned his back to the scene. There is a scene with a women cooking rice in a rice steamer, consisting of a metal pot, dang, with water and a woven bamboo strainer, kukusan, on a stove on the right hand side of the central panel of the left wing, third row. Two pitchers, probably made of terra cotta, with spouts, gendi, are placed in front of the stove. Such pots usually contain water.


The third important source of visual information are the Ràmàyaóa reliefs of the Úiwa and Brahma temples, and the Kåûóàyaóa reliefs of the Wiûóu temple of the Prambanan temple complex. There are 24 panels on the Úiwa temple, 30 on the Brahma temple, and 30 on the Brahma temple. Many of these reliefs show food stuffs.

Úiwa temple
Fish, crabs (panels 1,23, 24) , deer (panel 12), fruit (mangga, durian, coconuts, banana) on panels 1, 4, 6, 12, 113,7),

pots with drinking water (panel 1, 19), drinking pots with a spout, gendi (panel 4,

Offerings in a hermitage (panel 4), in a palace during an audience scene (panel 6); in a palace at a consecration ritual of a prince (panel 7)

A kitchen with buildings for food storage is depicted on panel 13; there are two baskets, tamwakur, kampil?, with rice corns, probably husked rice, bras, in it, one which is tipped over so that the corns are falling on the floor, and a spoon, in which a rice-spoon can be recognized, is on the floor as well.

A drinking tube, resembling the bamboo bumbungan, is shown on panel 16;

Brahma temple
The Brahma temple shows figures collecting leaves (probably vegetables) and fruit in baskets (panel 23), and panel 30 gives a full view of a festive meal on the occasion of the crowning of one of Rama’s sons, Kusa, as king. There are three different vessels for liquids, the top and middle ones are gendi. They could have contained water, or alcoholic beverages; there are flat trays with food: fish, crabs, cubicles on sticks, in which I recognizes sate on skewers. There are also fruit trees and dishes with fruit, like mangga ( (Ie, IVb, VIj, XIIIa), banana (XIIIa,b). Those who eat the food are a group of five sitting men, with matted hair, crowns, beards and jewellery, probably representing the royal priests and sages, purohita and ràjàåûi.

Wiûóu temple

On panel five two women pounding rice in a rice pounding block, lumping, are shown. The pounding sticks, lêsung, may be made of wood, while the pounder represents a stone block.

On panel six , center, Bàlaràma is shown standing in the water, probably of a river, trying to catch fish with his hands. He is holding a big fish in his left hand. The head of two large fish between the waves are behind him. Panel twenty shows a river with fish, the heads of which are depicted between the waves.

Panel seven shows shepherds and cows.


Food, in the form of prepared meat of as far we can judge domesticated animals, fish, shellfish, crab, shrimps, eggs, cooked rice and alcoholic beverages belong to the realm of celebrations, like the consecration of a freehold, a coronation. This is shown in the written sources as well as in the visual sources. The food is consumed by guests invited for a ritual or royal celebration, and it is not impossible that the meat dishes that are served belong to the category ‘royal food’, that can only be consumed by members of the royalty or those who have received a privilege from the king. Offerings to gods, in the case of the inscriptions Brahma, and the (god of) the holy freehold stone, consist of unprepared meat (heads of domesticated animals), raw eggs of domesticated fowl, uncooked rice. These are not depicted on the reliefs. Fruit, presented on trays, bound together in bundles, belongs to the realm of hermitages, and palaces, and are presented to visitors and guests during audiences shown on the reliefs of Borobudur and Prambanan. No mention is made to this type of food in the inscriptions, however in the later, literary written sources, starting with the Ramayana, there are many passages dealing with it.

It appears that the terms for the majority of the food stuffs are indigenous words, and that so far only in the case of alcoholic beverages some Sanskrit loan-words are used.

By comparing the terms for vessels, trays, bags, pots, etc. and their uses as conveyed by the texts, to the pictures on the reliefs, and the scarce archaeological finds, it is possible in some cases to determine which object is meant by a particular term.

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