Reading the Lontars: Endangered literature practices of Lombok, eastern Indonesia


  • Peter K. Austin


The Sasak, who live on the island of Lombok in eastern Indonesia, have a literary tradition of writing on the dried leaves of the lontar palm (Borassus flabellifer) which they share with their western neighbours, the Balinese and Javanese. The lontar manuscripts are written in Kawi (a form of middle Javanese), or Sasak, or a mixture of both. Historical evidence suggests that this tradition originated from contact between the Sasak and the Javanese and Balinese, both of whom dominated various parts of Lombok at different times. Compared to research on Balinese and Javanese literary traditions (Rubinstein 2000, Brandes 1901-1926, Creese 1999, McDonald 1986, among others), there has been very little work done on Sasak lontar (with the exceptions of van der Meij 1996 and Achadiati et. al. 1999), and virtually nothing has been published about the performances (called in Sasak pepaòsan) associated with reading lontar (in Sasak mace). This paper reports on aspects of the Sasak tradition in its sociolinguistic context, and briefly and incompletely describes a performance observed in southern Lombok in 2002.


SasakLombokIndonesialiterary traditionlontar manuscriptsKawipepaòsanmacesocio-linguisticscultural context
  • Year: 2010
  • Volume: 8
  • Page/Article: 27-48
  • DOI: 10.25894/ldd214
  • Published on 31 Jul 2014