Coromandel coast, India
traded to Indonesia
Ceremonial cloth and sacred heirloom
[leluhur or lelangit]
handspun cotton, natural dyes, mordants
207.0 (h) x 282.0 (w) cm
Gift of Michael and Mary Abbott 1988
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
A considerable number of Indian textiles, traded over centuries to the Indonesian archipelago, have survived in remote parts of the region. These highly prized heirlooms are found in the treasuries of prominent families, particularly in the Toraja districts of Sulawesi, the islands of the South Moluccas, and throughout the Lampung region of southern Sumatra.
Indian trade cloths are rarely worn, displayed instead on ceremonial occasions as items of immense value. They are associated with spiritual power and high authority, particularly those related to fertility and agricultural cycles. Bold designs on some large textiles made them especially well suited as hangings for walls and ceilings during ceremonies and feasts. Terms such as lelangit and leluhur suggest connections with the upper realms of the ancestors.