Hanacaraka: Crash Course

Hanacaraka: Crash Course

Hhmm, after joining 3rd Java Summer Camp last July, I don’t know how, I am just kind of obssessed+curious with anything traditional. And I am being me, obsessing over something then, blam!

Read: Dalan Malioboro

My country, Indonesia, actually use latin alphabet, not like Thailand, for example, who has native way of writing. Other than national language, bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian or bahasa as people like to call it), there are many local languages in my country. When I say many, I mean MANY. Although number of indigenous language is apparently not the first one in the world (which is held by Papua New Guinea with 820, but hey, we are close second with 726). The biggest one is Javanese (language), used by Javanese (people). Javanese is used other than in Indonesia, in a few other countries like Suriname and New Kaledonia.

Although rarely-used nowadays (in my city, Yogyakarta, still used for street names, old buildings, keraton/ sultan’s palace, newspapers and magazines (Oh Djaka Lodang and your crossword), and of course the Javanese language subject), Javanese actually has its own writing system usually called Hanacaraka or Carakan. Hanacaraka is still in the same root with Sundanese’s Cacarakan and Balinese’s alphabet (can be seen by the similarity)

Alphabet in hanacaraka is syllables with consonant (plain consonant). The basic form of the consonant is the a vowel (voiced between normal a and o, like o in stop)



This alphabet also forms a poem telling a story about two equally matched knights who fighting each other and the died. When I was a child, if I am not wrong, the story was about Ajisaka’s two knights. Ajisaka told one of them to carrying something (his weapon?) to other place and emphasized that there would be no one other than Ajisaka could ask the weapon back. It turned out that Ajisaka needed it and sent out the other knight to get the weapon back. They were very chivalrous knights, they obeyed Ajisaka. The one bringing the weapon didn’t want to give the weapon and the one sent to get it didn’t want to get back with no weapon. They fought each other. Because they are equally strong, it was a stalemate, and in the end two of them were dead. Knowing that, Ajisaka felt very proud and then made a poem, later known as the alphabet.


The fighting

Hanacaraka (there are knights)
Datasawala (They have fights with each other)
Padhajayanga (There were equal in strength)
Magabathanga (They were died)

Back to the alphabet. For vowel, there is addition for the standard characters, named sandhangan swara (lit: vowel appendage). There is difference between é and ê like e in thermometer (the former is with taling, the latter with pepet)


Sandhangan Swara

For the four special syllable-final consonants, you can use diacritics


Sandhangan Panyigeg

There is also spesial character (aksara ganten) for re (named pa cerek) and le named nga lelet


Aksara Ganten

For the others, you can use pasangan (lit: pair). You can put it according to the position in the picture near the end consonant.



For making sentences (independent sentences, title, or paragraph) there are opening and ending character. You can also use pangku for syllable-final consonant (other than the four) in the last of the sentence (period mark). (Actually there are more of these, but they aren’t actually used other than in poem)



There are also aksara murda (roughly: capital letter) for the beginning of sentences, names, and titles. There are also their pair (pasangan)


Aksara Murda

There also aksara swara (lit: vowel character) for writing non Javanese vowel


Consonant cluster for writing cluster with r and y


Aksara Mandaswara

There are also numbers, same way of writing with roman writing system, but with no thousands divider. Before and after number there are also characters for indicating that you indeed write number, named pada pangkat


Javanese Numeral


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For imported words, there are consonant like kh, f, and v. There are characters for them, named aksara rekan (lit: friend character)


Aksara Rekan

It seems hard, isn’t it? It is because you cram all of it in your brain. Hanacaraka is a basic local contents in elementary school curriculum in provinces with Javanese as local language. It is normal if you just know hanacaraka, pasangan, and sandhangan and don’t know aksara swara, rekan, etc.

Other thing to mind, is that you write it following how you pronounce/ read it. Example, my handle name

crimsonsnow written as krimsansnou



As long as you just want to write, it is okay if you just master the basic three. But if you want to write it right, you must know how to use the other ones. Just try first by copying the characters.

If you want to write Hanacaraka with computer, you can use Hanacaraka font that can be downloaded and used. Remember that the one you type in keyboard doesn’t give the same result with the hanacaraka produced, especially in Pallawa.


Or program like

For further reading,you can open the links on Wikipedia javanese_script.

If you want an online version,: Sastra has an online one

Posted on August 3, 2011, in Culturing, Learning and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. cool.. matur nuwun…

  2. Yoo. Sami-sami (lit: Your welcome).

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