Javanese people are like to make some symbolization in various aspects. It shows that they are mysterious, hidden, and blur. But, based on the characteristic of Javanese, it will be agreed. There are many things can’t be separated from symbol. Songs (Macapat), and also stories (babad, kakawin, suluk, etc) often use symbolizations to ease the listeners or the readers to understand. Symbolizations can also be used to avoid the straight purpose, which sometimes can make disagreement between each other. Javanese basically avoid the confrontation with others.
One unique Javanese symbol maybe is Sengkalan (Suwito, in his paper says ‘Javanese Chronogram’). Sengkalan is used to substitute the numbers to write the year when a situation happens in the past. Sengkalan is act like ordinary numbers, start from zero to nine. Every number has their own word that reflect the number itself. For example, the number ‘one’ can be changed by word janma, tunggal, eka, tunggal, etc (all the words that reflect the ‘one’).
It seems complicated, but here below is the Macapat (Javanese song) that can be used to ease how to make Sengkalan:
Janma buweng wani tunggal Gusti/Panganten dwi akekanthen asta/Gegeni putrid katelune/Papat agawe banyu/Buta lima amanah angin/Sad rasa kayu obah/Wiku pitweng gunung/Gajah wewolu rumangkang/Dewa sanga anggengganda terus manjing/Dhuwur wiyat tanpa das//
The Macapat (Dhandhanggula) above shows the word that can be used to substitute the numbers. It starts from one (janma, buweng, wani, tunggal, Gusti), until zero (dhuwur, wiyat, tanpa, das). But actually, still many words can be used. The song is just to simplify which word will use to make Sengkalan.
Sengkalan is divided into two kinds, first is Sengkalan Lamba and the second is Sengkalan Memet. Sengkalan Lamba is sengkalan which is using the words to change the numbers. For example Sirna Ilang Kertaning Bumi (1400 saka, same with 1478 M, the time when Majapahit drowned). While the Sengkalan Memet is sengkalan that use the statues, ornaments, or paintings. For example, in Kraton Yogyakarta there is two dragon statues with the tail become one. It reads Dwi Naga Rasa Tunggal (1682 or 1756 M, the time when Kraton Yogyakarta first appear).