BY GEORGINA KEKEA
BELOW the foot of Merapi, one of the most active volcanoes on earth lays the city of Yogyakarta in Indonesia. Officially one of Indonesia’s 32 provinces, Yogyakarta is one of the foremost cultural centres of Java.
Established way back in 1755, classical and contemporary Javanese dances, wayang kulit (leather puppet), theatre and other expressions of traditional art will keep any visitor spellbound. Local craftsmen excel in arts such as batiks, silver and leather works.
Outside of the Sultan’s Palace, craftsmen and women alike all stand in anticipation for visitors to buy their products.
‘You like, you like,” they will say and are very persistent in their sales.
The Sultan’s Palace known as the ‘Kraton’ in their local dialect is the centre of Yogyakarta’s traditional life.
Despite the advance of modernity, it still emanates the spirit of refinement which has been the hallmark of Yogya’s art for centuries. This vast complex of decaying buildings was built in the 18th century and a walled city within the city with luxurious pavilion and in which the current Sultan still resides.
“According to traditions, only a son must inherit the position of Sultan. Not girls,” a tour guide of the Sultan’s Palace explained.
“The current Sultan now has no son. Only five girls so we do not know what will happen now. Even a grandson cannot inherit. The next inline has to be borne from the man’s side,” she said.
Tour guides in Kraton are mainly volunteers who wish to serve the Sultan. Most are old aged people who have long retired and decided to serve their Sultan while they wait for their afterlife. Their beliefs are quite strong and most carry out their duties with pride and humility.
Another famous site, now classed as a world Heritage site is the Borobudur temple. The monument is built centuries ago and is one of the most famous Yogyakarta places of interest ever since.
The monument consists of nine stacked platforms, six square and three circular, topped by a central dome. There are 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. 72 Buddha statues surround the central dome. It is the world’s largest Buddhist temple as well as one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world.
“So now it is part of UNESCO’s world heritage sites where they have assisted with 25 million dollars for restoration of this monument,” tour guide Jean Sridar says.
Srider says in the year 1006 AD, a violent eruption of Merapi ruined the Borobudur temple. Years later the same explorer that founded Singapore also re-discovered the Borobudur Temple in 1814, some 800 years after the Merapi destruction. Since then restoration work has continued till now.
“It took 200 workers and two months to clean this monument,” Srider said. He said after that, it took them 30 years to bring stones to restore the temple.
The Borobudur temple is a place for the Buddhists to pray, fast and meditate. Also it is one of the favorite tourist destinations during Yogyakarta tours.
Yogyakarta is often called the main gateway to the Central Java as where it is geographically located. It stretches from Mount Merapi to the Indian Ocean. It is widely known to historical records that the civilization, art and culture had developed in the 8th to 10th century era. Because of its culture richness and heritage, Yogyakarta has long been known as the cradle of Javanese culture.