The Kawung motif has been traced back to as early as the 9th Century, where it adorns elements of the Hindu temple in Yogyakarta. The symbol derives from the cross section of the fruit from the Arenga pinnata, a native South East Asian palm tree. The fruit when opened, reveals two large seeds and four symmetrical cavities remain. The palm is highly respected for its multitude of uses. The sap is boiled down to sugar or fermented into vinegar, fibres thatched into long lasting ropes and roofs, leaves woven into baskets and furniture, starch and fruit eaten for nourishment.
The motif symbolises the hope to keep in mind one’s origins, and be useful to society like the Aren palm tree.
The four symmetrical cavities of the fruit also represent the compass directions, characterising one’s stability in life. Many Javanese also believe that the centre of the Kawung symbol, between the four cavities, represents the universal energy source of life.
The motif is therefore linked to power, wisdom and justice and was reserved to be only used by the royal families, and forbidden to be worn by the public.