The province of Central Java, around the city of Yogyakarta, is the most famous part of Java and is, in fact, its cultural centre. This is in part because of the presence there of a variety of religious influences-Buddhist, Hindu, and other indigenous beliefs, which resulted in the construction of the impressive temples of Borobudur, Prambanan and the Dieng temple complex.
Yogyakarta or simply Yogya, is one of the foremost cultural centers of Java. Located at the foot of the active Merapi volcano & It stretches till the Indian Ocean, Yogyakarta was in the 16th and 17th centuries the seat of the mighty Javanese empire of Mataram., from which present day Yogyakarta has inherited the best of traditions. The city itself has a special charm which seldom fails to captivate the visitor. This province is one of the most densely populated areas of Indonesia. The city came into being in 1755, after the division of Mataram into the Sultanates of Yogyakarta and Surakarta (Solo). Gamelan, classical and contemporary Javanese dances, the
wayang kulit leather puppet theater and other expressions of traditional art will keep the visitor spellbound. Local craftsmen excel in the arts of batiks, silver and leather work.
The 300 year old city of Yogyakarta is the cultural heart of Java. Here also is Indonesia’s oldest palace ‘The Kraton,’ still the domicile of Jogya’s royalty. Even now the current Sultan of Yogyakarta retains remarkable political prestige. Yogyakarta offers an abundance of Javanese art, painting, silverwork, batik handcraft, traditional Javanese dances, as well as contemporary art. The city is the cultural centre not only of Java, but of the whole of Indonesia. From Yogyakarta one can travel easily to the Borobudur Temple and Prambanan temples, which are half-day trips from the city. Yogyakarta is situated between the foot of the still-active Merapi volcano and the mystical Indian Ocean, home of ‘Loro Kidul,’ Queen of the South Seas.
Next to the traditional, contemporary art has found fertile soil in Yogya’s culture oriented society. ASRI, the Academy of Fine Arts is the center of arts and Yogya itself has given its name to an important school of modern painting in Indonesia, perhaps best personified by the famed Indonesian impressionist, the late Affandi.
Yogyakarta is often called the main gateway to the center of Java where it is geographically located. There is daily air service to Yogya from Jakarta, Surabaya and Bali as well as regular train service and easy accessibility by road.
The most famous of Indonesia’s temples is this huge Buddhist pyramid. This is a Buddhism’s largest shrine in Indonesia, built in the 9th century. Located north west of Yogyakarta, Borobudur Temple was completed in the second half of the ninth century. Like the Hindu temple complexes Prambanan and the Dieng plateau, Borobudur was unknown and neglected for almost a thousand years, covered under thick layers of volcanic ash. From a far Borobudur Temple looks like a huge but ordinary stone construction. But from nearby we can see that it consists of hundreds of wonderfully detailed statues and sculptures, representing Buddhist teachings mixed with images of Javanese life of a thousand years ago.
Prambanan is a ten-century old Hindu temple. This temple is dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva, locally called Candi Loro Jonggrang, which means ‘slender virgin.’ From an architectural point of view this beautifully sculptured spire, fifty meters high, indeed resembles a ‘slender virgin.’ Like the Buddhist stupa in Borobudur Temple, Prambanan was abandoned when the Buddhist and Hindu Javanese inhabitants moved to East Java.
Seventeen kilometers east of Yogyakarta, it is believed to have been built by King Balitung Maha Sambu in the middle of the ninth century. Its parapets are adorned with a bas-reliefs depicting the famous Ramayana story.
The first open-air theater on the southern side of the temple was built in 1960 and the new theater on the western side of the temple in 1988. During full moon evenings in the month from May to October, the Ramayana ballet is performed right here. The temple complex of Prambanan lies among green fields and villages. It has eight shrines, of which the three main ones are dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. The main temple of Shiva rises to a height of 130 feet and houses the magnificent statue
of Shiva’s consort, Durga.
NGAYOGYAKARTA HADININGRAT PALACE
The palace court with its grand and elegant Javanese architecture lies in the center of the city. It was founded by Prince Mangkubumi in 1755. The Prince was then called Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono I. He chose the right location of the compound between the Winongo River and the Code River.The palace stretches out from north to south.The front yard is called alun-alun Utara (the North Square), and the back yard is called Alun-alun Selatan (the South Square). The layout of the buildings shows that the Palace, the commemorative column and Mount Merapi lie in one line. The palace meeting hall is called the Pagelaran, where formal meetings of palace officials are held, while the “Manguntur Tingkil” hall is the place where the Sultan is seated. The palace visitors can enjoy the atmosphere of the kraton in former times by visiting the life-size diorama of wedding ceremonies on the palace meeting hall, performed by puppets which are intentionally arranged to create such an atmosphere. Sets of Javanese musical instruments, antiques and heirlooms have made the palace of Yogyakarta worth to visit.
Built in 1758 by Sultan Hamengkubuwono I just west of the kraton, part of this pleasure garden and castle is at present no more than an intriguing collection of ruins, pools, arches and underground passages enclosed by massive walls, however, the central courtyard with the nymph-baths has been restored. The Water Castle is located in the older 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.
Kotagede, about five kilometers southeast of Yogyakarta, is a neat little town which was once the seat of the mighty Mataram empire. In this old palace town with its walled-in houses, the graves of the first rulers of Mataram are still to be found. Since the 1930s, however, Kotagede has become famous for being the center of the Yogya silverwork industry. Kotagede is easily reached by “andong”, the four wheeled horse-drawn cart, by taxi, bus, or car. There are a number of workshops where visitors are welcome to watch silver
being transformed into beautiful works of art known as “Yogya Silver”.