Lying in the shadow of the aptly named “Fire Mountain” (2914 meter-high active volcano, Mt. Merapi) is the seat of the once mighty Javanese Empire of Mataram, Ngayogyakarto Hadiningrat. Yogyakarta (Yogya) came into being in 1755, when a land dispute split the power of Mataram into the Sultanates of Yogyakarta and Surakarta (Solo).
Prince Mangkubumi built Kraton of Yogyakarta and created one of the most powerful Javanese states ever. The Kraton is still the hub of Yogyakarta’s traditional life and despite the advances of the 20th century, it still radiates the spirit of refinement which has been the hallmark of its art and people for centures.
Yogyakarta is one of the supreme cultural centers of Java. Full Gamelan orchestras keep alive the rhythms the past, classical Javanese dances entrance with visions of beauty and poise, shadows come to life in the stories of the wayang kulit and a myriad of traditional visual art forms keep locals and visitors alike spellbound.
Yogya has an extraordinary life force and charm which seldom fails to captivate. Contemporary art has also grown in the fertile soil of Yogyakarta’s sophisticated cultural society. ASRI, the Academy of Fine Arts, is the centre of arts in the region and Yogyakarta has given its name to an important school of modern painting in Indonesia, best illustrated by the renowned impressionist, the late Affandi. The province is one of the most densely populated areas of Indonesia.
It stretches from the slopes of mighty Mount Merapi in the north to the wave-swept beaches of the powerful Indian Ocean to the south.
Places of Interest
Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat Palace
The palace court with its grand and elegant Javanese architecture lies in the center of the city between the Winongo and Code Rivers. The palace grounds, courtyards and buildings stretch from north to south, in line with Mount Merapi.
One passes through the palace meeting hall, the Pagelaran, where formal meetings of palace officials are held, to the Manguntur Tangkil hall where the Sultan holds audience.
The palace today retains the atmosphere of a by gone era through the installations of lifesize wedding and palace meeting dioramas, traditional Javanese gamelan orchestras, antiques and heirlooms which adorn the royal buildings.
Just west of the kraton, are the ruins, pools, arches and underground passages of the former pleasure gardens, the Water Castle. Built in 1758 by Sultan Hamengkubuwono I, the central courtyard with the nymph-baths has been restored.
The Water Castle is located in the old part of the city within walking distance from the Bird Market. A number of batik workshops line the avenue leading to the pleasure garden’s entrance.
The tombs lie within three main courtyards perched on a hilltop. Entry into the smaller courtyards housing the tombs of the princes is allowed only by visitors wearing traditional Javanese dress, which can be hired on the spot for a modest fee. (Monday 09.00 a.m. to 12.00 p.m. and Friday 13.00 p.m. to 16.00 p.m.) The cemetery is closed during the Moslem month of Ramadhan.
This magnificent Hindu temple derives it name from the village where it is located, seventeen kilometres east of Yogyakarta. Locally known as the Loro Jongrang Temple, or the Temple of the Slender Virgin, it is the most magnificent and beautiful Hindu temple in Indonesia.
Prambanan is believed to have been built by King Balitung Maha Sambu in the middle of the nineth century. Its parapets are adorned with bas-relief depicting the famous Ramayana story.
It has eight shrines; the three main ones are dedicated to Shiva, Visnhu and Brahma. The main temple of Shiva rises to a height of 130 feet and houses the magnificent statue of Shiva’s consort, Durga. The Ramayana ballet is performed on an open air stage during the full moon in the months from May to October.
Kalasan Temple, this unique Buddhist temple is located some 16 km east of Yogyakarta, on the south side of the main road between Yogyakarta and Solo. It was built in honor of the marriage between king Pancapana of the Sanjaya Dynasty and a Princess of the Cailendra Dynasty, Dyah Pramudya Wardhani.
It is elaborately ornate, with finely carved reliefs preserved with “vajralepa”, from the sap of a local tree.
600 m northeast of the Kalasan temple sits the slender and beautiful Sari Temple, formerly a Buddhist sanctuary (Vihara) where Buddhist priests used to live, meditate and teach their followers.
The Struggle for Independence Museum
Located on Jalan Kolonel Sugiyono in Yogya, the museum features reliefs depicting the history of the struggle for independence and a collection of historic articles from that time.
Yogya Kembali Monument
At Yogyakarta’s northern ringroad is the Monumen Yogya Kembali, established to commemorate Yogyakarta as the capital of the Republic of Indonesia in 1949. The monument has three floors.
The first floor holds a museum, a library, an auditorium and cafeteria. On the second floor are 10 dioramas depicting the highlights of the struggle to recapture Yogyakarta from the occupation of the Dutch Armed Forces. On the balustrade are 40 reliefs depicting the history of the Indonesian people’s struggle for independence.
This museum, founded in November 1935 and designed by the Dutch architect Kersten, is built in the traditional Javanese style of architecture. On exhibit are weapons, leather and wooden puppets of wayang theatre, masks, statues, textiles, curios and old Javanese gamelan instruments. The museum is situated on the northern side of the city’s main square in front of the Sultan’s Palace. Open everyday except Mondays.
Kotagede, a picturesque town about five kilometres southeast of Yogyakarta, was once the seat of the mighty Mataram empire. Since the 1930’s Kotagede has become famous as the center of the Yogya silverwork industry. Kotagede is easily reached by four wheeled horsedrawn cart, taxi, bus, or car. There are a number of workshops where visitors are welcome to watch the famous silversmiths at work.
Set in a lush garden off the main road between the airport and the city stands the Affandi Museum. Affandi was Indonesia’s foremost impressionist painter who built a private museum for his own paintings and of those of his daughter Kartika.
Southwest of Yogyakarta lies the village of Kasongan, known throughout Indonesia for its artistic pottery and earthenware.
Batik Research Center
Situated on the eastern outskirts of the city, the Batik Research Center has an interesting permanent exhibition of batiks in classic and modern designs. Both the hand-drawn and hand stamped batik processes can be seen here.
A popular seaside resort 27 kms south of Yogyakarta on the Indian Ocean, Parang Tritis is famous in Javanese mythology as the home of the Goddess of the South Seas, who was married to Panembahan Senopati, founder of the Mataram Kingdom.
Every year the sultans of Yogyakarta make special offerings to her in a beachside ceremony called “Labuhan”.
A pleasant escape from the city, this resort on the slopes of Mt. Merapi is surrounded by enchanting countryside. The “Telogo Muncar” waterfall and charming bungalows for rent make this a perfect place to get away from it all while traveling.
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