Most of us have heard of India’s Kama Sutra and Tunisia’s Perfumed Garden. Every ancient agricultural society has its own celebration of fertility, sensual pleasure, and romance.
Java is no exception. But with the advent of sociopolitical conservatism in Indonesia, it is hard to imagine the existence of a Javanese sex book that “keeps it real” without losing its civilised finesse and religious compass.
Serat Centhini is a poetic anthology of Javanese tales and wisdom, commissioned by Prince Pakubuwono V of the Surakarta Sunanate in 1814. In the interest of compiling a written record of the entire Javanese cultural heritage, the Prince sent two royal scribes on a journey across Java, and another one to Mecca.