EXPLORING JAVA’S CRADLE OF CIVILISATION

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Prambanan temple compound. GT2/Say Tola

“Beyond exploration, travelling enhances our understanding of the world, other cultures and ways of life, and helps us become better global citizens,” says American travel editor Veronica Stoddart. There is no need to argue with that notion. Travelling brings one new taste of life and different food for thought. Through a familiarisation trip organised by the Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Indonesia, Say Tola embarked on a five-day trip to the city of Yogyakarta with media teams and travel agencies from Laos and Myanmar to discover the gems of the soul of Java Island.

Once you hear of Indonesia, Bali almost immediately comes floating. Everyone just loves Bali! But there is another island in the storied Southeast Asian country where you won’t only have a wonderful holiday but also learn deeply about original forms of art, culture, tradition, history and identity of Javanese people. Yogyarkarta, located on central Java, bears magnificent temples and historical sites that make the small but bustling city the cradle of civilisation of the island.

Kraton Ngayogyakarta Hadinningrat (Sultan’s Palace)

‘Kraton’ is originally a Javanese word that refers to royal palace. The Kraton Ngayogyakarta Hadinningrat is a grand palace complex in the city of Yogyakarta Special Region which was built in 1755- 1756 during the reign of Sultan Hamengku Buwono.

Once you arrive there, you will easily see that the Kraton, which is presently divided into seven parts. Each Krata was built for different purposes such as for the coronation of the Sultan, for regulating rules and laws, as waiting room, as real palace, as court training and as public spaces. Upon reaching the gate, a traditional Javanese musical instrument called gamelan plays to welcome you.

Inside the palace, you will get to understand deeply about the achievements of the Sultan, especially the Sultan Hamengkubuwono IX, who successfully brought many changes in Yogyakarta. After declaring independence from the Dutch, this king also changed the political system from monarchy to republic, and claim equality between men and women. He also became the first governor of Yogyakarta.

From one spot to another, you get to see a lot of photos and things of the ninth Sultan since his early childhood; paintings that depict the philosophy of the Javanese; traditional clothes of Javanese called ‘Batik’; royal carriage and royal stories inside different museum of the palace. The palace is open from 08:30am to 12: 30pm except on Fridays and Saturdays when it closes at 11:00am.

Taman Sari Water Castle

Taman Sari Water Castle. GT2/Say Tola

Two kilometers south of Kraton is another interesting spot that you can visit on foot. It is called, ‘Taman Sari Water Castle’. It is the former royal garden of the Sultanate of Yogyakarta. Though the place is currently under renovation, the place used to serve as a place to rest, to meditate, to work, to hide and to defend the Sultan’s family.

Taman Sari used to have four different areas: an artificial lake with island and pavilions located on the west, a bathing complex in the centre, pavilion and pool on the south and smaller lake on the east.

In the present day, only the central bathing complex is being preserved, whilst the other areas have changed into residences of the local people in Kampung Taman. Both Taman Sari and Kraton are part of the World Heritage tentative list.

Prambanan

Temple of Shiva at Prambanan temple compound. GT2/Say Tola

At about ten miles north east of Jogja, venture back to the eighth and ninth centuries, to a time when Buddhism and Hinduism vied for the Kingdom’s hearts and minds. If you are a culture enthusiast, Prambanan will be the best option for a destination for you.

Prambanan or Rara Jongggrang is situated close to the sacred mountain ‘Mount Merapi’. This mystical temple was built since ninth century and was considered as the largest Hindu temple site in Indonesia and one of the biggest in Southeast Asia.

Historically, this temple complex was built as a gift to Trimurti, consisting of three form of gods: Brahma (God as creator), Vishnu (the preserver) and Shiva (Transformer). The construction manifested the return of Hindu dynasty in Java.

Inside this 47-meter high temple, there is a statue of Shiva standing on the lotus flower. In Hindu belief, Shiva is the most vital god as it represents both destruction and creation. On the wall of this temple are stone carvings of the Ramayana stories.

Shiva on lotus. GT2/Say Tola

Close to Shiva temple, there is a temple of Vishnu that is carved by the story of Krishna. Last but not least, the temple of Brahma that shows the ending part of the Ramayana on its wall.

However, though Prambanan is the finest temple that shows Hindu architecture, the roof of the temple is relevant to Buddhist religion.

Situated close to the Mount Merapi – an active volcano and cause of earthquakes – Prambanan temple has been gradually devastated. But the people of Java restored and reconstructed the heritage site. Prambanan’s strength also resemble the strong belief of the people of Java.

Ratu Boko Temple

Ratu Boko Temple. GT2/Say Tola

Located about only three kilometers south of Prambanan, Ratu Boko settles on a hillside plateau that you should not overlook. It is not really a temple, but a remnant of a grand palace. Built on two levels, this place is surrounded by a large stone gate. As said, it was built since the eighth century by Buddhist Syailendra Dynasty but was taken by Hindu Mataram kings – making it both significant for Hindus and Buddhists alike.

This place attracts both local and international tourists especially on late afternoons when people can get a perfect view of the sunset.

More interesting spots in Yogyakarta in next week’s Travelogue.

 

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