Have you ever heard of Kawi? Much of what is considered “classical” in Indonesian history, such as the Borobudur temple complex or the kingdom of Majapahit, is a product of Kawi Culture. In fact, Indonesian society emerged from the ancient traditions of Kawi Culture, which stretch back over a thousand years. The symbols and ideas of Kawi Culture continue to define Indonesian identity, such as in Javanese wayang, Balinese temples, and even the national motto Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, which is quoted from a Kawi poem. So what is Kawi, and why is it the classical civilisation no one has heard of?

To answer these questions, Dr Wayan Jarrah Sastrawan, joins Dr Natali Pearson. Jarrah is a historian who specialises in the premodern history of Indonesia. He has written and spoken widely on the history of Indonesia and Malaysia. His current research focusses on the development of social institutions and state formation in eighth- to tenth-century Java.