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The Sultan’s Life For Me

The last two days I’ve been asking myself, “Where am I?” and “What is this?” a lot. Well, the simple answer to the first question is that I am in Yogyakarta, known as Jogja. Jogja is the heart of Javanese culture and a much visited city where the sultan still holds power today. On the national scale the sultan is considered to be a governor although, as my host family told me, Indonesia’s president isn’t too thrilled by this because the sultan holds this title for life. The people of Jogja support the sultan and his kraton, palace, still employs about 1,000 people today.

My host sister Nadia drove me to the kraton and dropped me off and then I was on my own without a very good map. To be honest, this was overwhelming. I was jet lagged; it was hot, and I was the sort-of-lost foreigner. But, I find if you walk with some kind of purpose it all works out. The kraton has two entrances. You want to enter the one that costs 12,500 rupiah because this gives you access to the main grounds. When I was paying for my ticket the man asked where I was from and then called over an English speaking guide at no extra charge. My guide took me through the vast kraton and then after the tour I watched a gamelan and Javanese dance performance.

Here are some photos of the gamelan ensemble instruments. They sound something like this.

At the entrance to the main grounds are two dragons – a male and a female. I really couldn’t tell which was supposed to be which.

The sultan’s guards roam (or sit in the shade) all around the kraton.

Throughout the palace, gifts from foreign monarchs, royalty, and famous people (especially the former colonizers, the Dutch) abound. Rooms hold the gifts of vases and other knickknacks. All the porcelain pots in the photo below were gifts.

This glass cube room holds important historical pieces including the table where the sultan and the Indonesian president met to discuss independence in the 1940s. From 1946 until Indonesian independence in 1949, Jogja was the capital.

I love all the dragons that decorated the palace. Mom, take note, I think our house could use a few additions.

Here is an old portrait of one of the sultans. My guide, I kid you not, asked me if I knew about Star Trek and Mr. Spock. Of course I do. Well, she said that the ears represent wisdom and that is why the sultan is painted in this way. So who came first, Spock or the sultan? I’ll let you ponder that. Throughout the palace are family trees of the the various sultans showing how many children they had with which wife. The sultan today has only one wife.

This glass lamp was a gift from The Netherlands and seemed out of place with the other architecture all around the grounds.

After my visit to the palace, I wanted to see the sultan’s playground. I’ll post on that soon and how I got there too because that’s worth a photo and a few words. G’night!

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