Javanese rooms design is influenced by cultural factors. The agrarian culture is one of factors which influenced considerably in directing room function.
Agriculture activities are activities which passed long process for thousands and even hundred of years in human history. The glorious day of agrarian community begins when food gathering period replaced with its role in Industrial revolution, when human quit gathering food as they found better way to live by cultivating farms and tame animals.
Agrarian community and settling culture have close relation, as on that period human start to farm and quit living in nomaden life. There was a settle necessity, to build a house and this evolved as simple settlement. This was the reason why agrarian culture influenced in rooms design in traditional house, one of them is Javanese house.
For Javanese society, farming is not only an occupation but also the soul of life itself. Javanese belief before the arrival of Islam was influenced by agriculture activity, so was the chambers in their houses. Dewi Sri legend owns a special chamber in the house, the middle chamber. This chamber is used to fulfil the need for ritual related to farming and Dewi Sri.
The middle chamber or senthong tengah was separated with partition, located on the rear part of the house and a room with one door to enter and exit, sometimes is not completed with door but only put with curtain. There are 3 senthong or chamber in Javanese house. Javanese house always faces south, and the 3 chambers lining up called as senthong kulon, senthong wetan and sethong timur.
In Omah, book written by Revianto Budi Santosa, Javanese house rooms from Yogyakarta was described in detail. Sethong Kulon or western chamber is used to store crops, Senthong Wetan eastern chamber to store farming tools . And Senthong Tengah is empty and there is only one bed to story precious belongings and not used for any activities.
Senthong Tengah is considered as the best place in the house and treated as sacred place where Dewi Sri visits. This room has mystical nuance, silence and separated from worldly activity of human. In this chamber, periodically the house owner do ritual to ancestor spirits which is personified as Dewi Sri. Offering is put here to honor the protector of paddy so paddy crop will be harvested in good amount and gives prosperity to the family.
Middle chamber in Javanese house has big role as the bridge between house, farms, and protector spirits . But as time goes by, this chamber loses is losing its role. The advent of modern religion to Java is one of its reasons, as monotheists do not recognize offering rituals and the like.
Perkembangan selanjutnya menunjukkan senthong adalah yang paling pertama “hilang” fungsinya. Revianto memberi contoh pada salah satu rumah yang ia amati, karena alasan finansial keluarga maka senthong tengah adalah ruang yang terpaksa disewakan. Hal ini mereka lakukan karena senthong tengah dianggap tidak lagi memiliki fungsi penting. Pada rumah yang lain, fungsi senthong tengah menjadi tempat menyimpan benda-benda peninggalan yang sudah tidak terpakai tapi harus dilestarikan. Ruang ini kini hanya menjadi nostalgia kebudayaan yang pernah jaya di masa lalu.
Dewi Sri is a symbolic character in Javanese society as the result of animism and Hinduism assimilation. Javanese farmers believe that Dewi Sri deeply and reflected in how they treat paddy. Dewi Sri symbolizes house, farm, stability and prosperity.
In Javanese legend, Dewi Sri was cursed by her father as sawah snake. She then traveled and always left message to everyone to give offering in petanen (middle chamber) so their need will be fulfilled. That is why senthong tengah was considered as sacred and in this chamber usually is hung dragon snake picture which symbolizes prosperity. Long time ago, when there was a sawah snake entered a house, the house owner considered it as a sign of a good crop. So farmer would treat the snake well and even gave it offerings.