Historically, the different types of batik in Java can be categorised by location and can be divided into two broad categories: batik pesisiran (coastal) and batik pedalaman (rural). In coastal Javanese regions, such as Pekalongan, Cirebon, and Indramayu, batik was seen as a wearable good with economic value. Given its proximity to trade and foreign influences, coastal batik is also more varied in design. The batik patterns found here are brighter and more varied in colours, adorned with motifs of animals such as birds, butterflies, and flowers.
In comparison, the treatment of batik pedalaman is more serious and spiritual. It is rich in tradition and classical elements, and is seen as a heritage treasure developed for the royal families of Surakarta and Yogyakarta. In fact, royal decrees have been issued in the court of Mataram in Surakarta, Central Java, throughout the 18th century that stipulated which patterns were considered larangan—forbidden to the general population and reserved exclusively for the sultan and his family. These palace motifs expressed notions of power, fertility and safety—qualities which the sultan was expected to embody.
Rural batik is usually made up of just two—at maximum three—colours created through the use of natural dyes, made out of tree bark or leaves. The meaning behind the design is often incredibly spiritual and philosophical, with colours and patterns representing specific cosmic spaces, such as the relationship between humans and God/s. As Hinduism was an integral element to the royal courts of Java at the time that batik developed, Hindu mythology and its symbolism of colours can also be seen in batik design. For instance, blue symbolises worldly knowledge, whilst white symbolises the mandala and black is the colour of Lord Vishnu.