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Yogyakarta, Java Island, Indonesia: Batik, Temples and Shadow Puppets

18 Aug Posted by in Indonesia, Southeast Asia | Comments
Yogyakarta, Java Island, Indonesia: Batik, Temples and Shadow Puppets

Located at the heart of Java Island, surrounded by volcanic mountain ranges and the coastline facing Java Sea and the Indian Ocean, the lowland plains of Central Java has an average temperature of 21-32°C. Yogyakarta Special Region populated by a majority of the Javanese ethnic group and often called the gateway to Central Java can be accessed via a 10-12 hour land travel via bus or train from Jakarta or via plane from Soekarno-Hatta International airport in Cengkareng to Adisutjipto Airport.

Wayang kulit as seen from the shadow side

Because of Central Java’s rich cultural heritage, the province is a consistent destination for the increasing number of Indonesian Arts and Culture Scholarship (IACS) awardees from various countries for the three-month duration of the program giving them a chance to interact with the community and experience the Javanese way of life. Except in 2006, Seni Retno Aji Mataram, an art center in the Yogyakarta has been actively playing its part in the promotion of the diverse Indonesian traditions, specifically the Javanese culture. The participants are introduced to the process of batik-making and its significance; traditional Javanese dance; and the wayang kulit (leather puppets).


Recognized as Indonesia’s academic city, Jogja attracts students from all over the country with its centers for higher learning. Go for a shopping trip in Malioboro Street and choose among the locally produced crafts for souvenirs or have a steaming bowl of Bakso (meatballs) while sitting and relaxing on a mat, enjoying the meal in Javanese tradition. Try going around by becak (rickshaw) and visit places of importance within the city. Go to Kraton (Sultan’s Palace), walled city within the city and the residence of the current sultan, this is considered the center of Jogja’s traditional life and showcases the grand and elegant Javanese architecture which continues to radiate with a spirit of refinement, a legacy of its rich history.

Also a haven for traditional and contemporary art, Jogja will entice the inner artist in everyone. Catch a performance of Wayang Kulit depicting stories based on the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata as it unfolds, narrated by the Dalang (puppeteer), the genius behind the show. Learn the art of batik-making, an intricate process of applying hot wax to trace the patterns or designs on a cloth using a pipe-like instrument as a pen and appreciate the skill and patience required to produce one. Go and watch an exhibition of classical or contemporary Javanese dance accompanied by the music of gamelan, a musical ensemble featuring metallophones, xylophones, drums, gongs, bamboo flutes and bowed and plucked strings.


Hire a car and visit Borobodur, a ninth century Buddhist Mahayana monument both a shrine to the Lord Buddha and a place for Buddhist pilgrimage and a UNESCO world heritage site. At noontime, the place will get hotter under the heat of the scorching sun so it is necessary to bring an umbrella. In the late afternoon, drive to the beach and walk barefoot or ride a horse-drawn cart at the shore of Parangtritis , a sacred place for the locals because of Nyai Roro Kidul, an Indonesian goddess also known as the Queen of the Southern Sea of Java and legendary consort of the Sultans of Mataram and Jogja.

Prambanan or Roro Jongrang
Image Credits:Riza Nugraha

The Legend of Roro Jonggrang

Prambanan, the largest Hindu temple relics is often referred to as Roro Jonggrang. According to an old legend, it tells the story of Princess Roro Jonggrang and a knight named Bandung Bondowoso who fell in love with her. The princess does not love the knight so she gave him a seemingly impossible condition that in exchange for her love, the knight will have to make a temple with 1,000 statues in one night. The knight accepted the challenge and was almost finished before sunrise and the princess seeing this started to worry. So she started thinking of ways to hasten the arrival of dawn with the help of the villagers. Bandung Bondowoso, who was working on the 999th statue, was angered by the princess’ attempt to cheat him that he cursed Roro Jonggrang and she became the 1000th statue.

A visit to Jogja will appeal mostly to creative artists, perennial students, adventure seekers and culture aficionados. Like most places in Indonesia, a time spent in Jogja leaves an impression far more enduring than the scenes captured in snapshots. Its subtle charm lies in its mystic allure, giving visitors a glimpse Saliendra and Mataram dynasties and lingering traces of Hindu and Buddhist influences from the Srivijayan and Majapahitempires amidst a mountainous landscape at the foot of Mt. Merapi, each with its own tale to tell.

Useful Links:
Central Java Tourism
Indonesian Arts and Culture Scholarship
Indonesia Tourism

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