Buton Palace Fortress, The Largest Fortress in The World

Not many people are aware that the Buton Palace Fortress is, in fact, considered to be the largest and most unique fortress in the world. Situated in the town of Bau bau, in Southeast Sulawesi Province, the fortress is listed in the Guiness Book of Records of September as the largest fortress in the world which was similarly acknowledged by the Indonesian Museum of Records (MURI). Encompassing a total area of 23.35 hectares, the fortress is a symbol of the glorious era of the Buton Islamic Kingdom that ruled over the area for over 4 centuries.

The Buton Palace Fortress, which was originally known as Wolio Palace, took the shape of the letter “dhal” in the Arabic alphabet, which is taken from the last letter of Prophet Muhammad’s pbuh. With an average height of 4 meters and width or thickness of 2 meters, the battlements encircled a traditional Buton Village that covers an area of about 2,740 meters and continues to be preserved to this day of authentic old traditional houses.

The Buton Palace Fortress, Southeast Sulawesi
The Buton Palace Fortress, Southeast Sulawesi (Source : touristplacesinindonesia.blogspot.co.id)

The Buton Palace Fort is a legacy of the Buton Sultanate that was built in the 16th Century by the 3rd Sultan of Buton, named  La Sangaji, who held the title Sultan Kaimuddin (1591-1596). The fortress was initially constructed as a brick fence to separate the palace complex from the houses of commoners. During the reign of Sultan Buton IV, called La Elangi or Sultan Dayanu Ikhsanudin, the simple fence was rebuilt into a more solid fortress.

The fortress has quite unique architectural features which was consteucted mainly of limestone. It has 12 entrances called Lawa, and 16 cannon emplacements called Baluara. Situated on the top of a relatively high hill, the fortress proved to have been an effective defense post during its era. One of its unique features is that it was constructed following the stacked stones design, bonded together using a mixture of chalk and egg white. This is the only building in the world where such substance was actually used for a fortress.

Buton Palace Fortress, Southeast Sulawesi
Buton Palace Fortress, Southeast Sulawesi (Source : triptrus.com)

Inside the fortress is a mosque which was constructed in a manner similar to the fort itself. While, in front of the mosque stands a 33 meter high wooden flag pole estimated to be over 400 years old. Although it is made of wood, the flagpole does not look weathered and is still in perfect condition.

ACTIVITIES

If you wish to bring home some of the finest souvenirs of Bau bau, you can go to the showroom of The National Handicraft Board at the Transito Hallway or to the Bravo Souvenirs Shop in front of Hotel Imperial Wua-wua. Here, you can find over 100 types of Buton distinct handwoven fabrics and other unique handicrafts.

There are some accommodation options that you can find in Bau bau.

From the peripheries of the fortress you can enjoy the fascinating scenery on the town of  Bau-Bau and watch ships enter and leave the Buton Strait. The fort’s  location on top of a high hill truly makes this a vantage point to enjoy the magnificent surroundings of Buton.

Inside the fortress you can see interesting objects such as old steel cannons that were once used by the military forces of the Buton Sultanate.

The gates of the fortress, called lawa, connect the palace with surrounding villages. The 12 gates are said to represent the total number of orifices in the human body. Each of the gate has its specific name which is attributed to the person guarding it. Therefore, the names of the 12 gates are: lawana rakia, lawana lanto, lawana labunta, lawana kampebuni, lawana waborobo, lawana dete, lawana kalau, lawana wajo (bariya), lawana burukene (tanailandu), lawana melai (baau), lawana lantongau, and lawana gundu-gundu.

Buton Palace Fortress in Southeast Sulawesi
Buton Palace Fortress in Southeast Sulawesi (Source : beritagar.id)

The other special feature of the fortress is the baluara or cannon emplacements. Of the 16 Baluara, two have a storage area or locally called ‘godo’ which is used as arsenal to store gun powder and other firearms. Just as the Lawa, the Baluara also have their own specific names which are: baluarana gama, baluarana litao, baluarana barangkatopa, baluarana wandailolo, baluarana baluwu, baluarana dete, baluarana kalau, baluarana godona oba, baluarana wajo/bariya, baluarana tanailandu, baluarana melai/baau, baluarana godona batu, baluarana lantongau, baluarana gundu-gundu, baluarana siompu and baluarana rakia.

Buton Traditional Village

The Buton Traditional villages inside  the fortress area have authentic old houses that are still well preserved up to this day. Various traditional ceremonies as well as art and cultural performances are frequently staged here. Within these villages, you can still observe some of the traditional ways of life of the Buton people which have been handed  down the generations. The people who live here are descendents of the royal families of the Buton Sultanate.

Popua Stone and Buton Palace Great Mosque

Other interesting legendary remains here are the Wolio Stone and the Popaua Stone. The Wolio Stone is a dark stone where the Buton people are said to have found a beautiful Princess named Wakaa-Kaa and made her queen. The crowning of Wakaa-Kaa as  queen is believed to have taken place on the Popaua stone on which she stood, located only about 200 meters from the Wolio Stone. Planted  almost level to the ground, the Popaua Stone shows indentations that resemble human feet believed to be the footprints of the Princess. When princess Wakaa-Kaa was crowned she stood under a ceremonial umbrella that spun seven times. Since that moment, following tradition, the kings and queens of Buton were crowned standing on the Popaua  stone even after Buton turned into an  Islamic Sultanate.

The Popaua Stone is situated on a hill near the Buton Palace Great Mosque. Behind the preacher’s pulpit is an entrance to a cave known as “pusena tanah”. Locals believe that an ‘adzhan’ or call to prayers was heard from inside the cave, which was the reason why the mosque was built on that particular spot.

GET THERE

The town of Bau-bau on Buton Island can be reached in an hours flight from the city of Kendari the capital of Southeast Sulawesi. There are also flights from Jakarta through MakassarSouth Sulawesi. Express Air operates twice a day, while Wings Air operates daily.

Port Murhum serves as the city’s and the island’s, main access for transportation. Direct sea connections are available from Jakarta and Kendari. The following passenger ships of the Indonesian state-owned passenger ships company PT Pelni serve Bau-Bau: KM Bukit Siguntang, KM Ciremai, KM Dorolonda, KM Kelimutu, KM Sinabung, and KM Lambelu.

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