Ketiban Sampur: A Javanese Idiom

I WAS BUT shocked when a fellow member of NBC (Nasi Bungkus Community) told me one Friday morning, "Masbro, sampean ketiban sampur ya. Dadi ketua panitia kurban." This is how her sentence would sound in English, "Ya bro, you're ketiban sampur. You've been appointed to be the head committee of kurban."

Our short conversation reminds me of a long forgotten idiom in Javanese. Ketiban sampur is a Javanese idiomatic expression that denotes a condition when someone is assigned to carry particular responsibility which he does not desire or expect. 

The origin of ketiban sampur 

Ketiban sampur is derived from a dance party known as tayub. The phrase is composed of two main words: ketiban and sampur. Ketiban indicates an unexpected windfall whereas sampur refers to the shawl worn by female dancers in the tayub. The narrow and long shawl is normally placed over their shoulders or tied to their hips when dancing.
Accompanied by traditional instrument called gamelan, the dancers will be dancing through the party and randomly pick a male guest to join them. The selection is made by placing a colorful shawl around his neck. The one receiving the shawl is called ketiban sampur as he has no idea he'll be selected.

Whenever you are assigned to something you must handle or a duty to complete but you actually never expect it, then you are ketiban sampur. While you can typically deny it, completing the task will be of great value.        


  1. Perumpamaannya pas sekali ya, Mas. Ketiban sampur dalam arti yang sesungguhnya (denotasi) memang benar-benar enggak ngira, ya (ya mungkin berharap dalam hati, sih, hehe..). Begitupun ketiban sampur secara idiom; enggak nyangka! 😁
    Makasih sharing ilmunya, Mas 😊

    1. Betul, Mbak. Mungkin ada yang diam-diam ngarep pas ada tayub walaupun tak terduga hehe.

  2. I love how you describe "ketiban sampur" in this article. So it means you are lucky enough to have that sampur in your shoulder, and you need to do the things with the sampur.

    1. Thanks a lot for reading this short post. It was indeed a fun task to complete and turned out to be a nice topic ti write for this blog.


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