If I were to summarize into one word my four-day trip to Jogjakarta and Solo, it would be this: enlightening.
I will tell you a secret: I nurse the not-so-secret, frustrated ambition to be a historian/archaeologist. My mother even joked once that if something is not at least three hundred years old, then it’s not worth my attention. Being in Jogjakarta for four days, everything got my attention. Simply because almost everywhere we visited was definitely not from this millennium.
Kraton Ratu Boko was our first stop in this trip, a little over an hour after we touched down in the province’s small
airport. The name Kraton actually means palace in Javanese, while Ratu is the honorary name given to the ruler, male or female. Boko is the name of the ancient ruler said to have built the palace complex located high up on a plateau , which have now turned into an actual archaeological site. It was my first visit to an actual archaeological site, so you can just imagine my excitement. We were very blessed to be accompanied by a tour guide, Ibu Lingga, who used to be an archaeology student, so she gave me a great input on what an archaeologist does on-site.
Ibu Lingga also pointed out the functions of each building constructed in the site- the tall walls and deep terrace made for protection for the King and his subjects, the audience hall (called Pendopo) and the entertainment chamber. She showed me that the stones which made the buildings were cut in shapes to fit each other. One of the archaeologist’s duty is to figure out which stone in the ruins fit what and for what function. Kind of like a jigsaw puzzle or tetris on a massive scale.
We had an early dinner at the guest center within the archaeological park, and from the plateau, we could see the towers
of Candi Prambanan, a Hindu temple complex built in the 9th century by kings from the Mataram dynasty. During the days of Ratu Boko and his descendants, it was common for the royal family to perform spiritual ceremonies at the Prambanan. It existed almost side by side with the more modern mosques scattered all over the land, with the imposing figure of the Merapi volcano (a symbol of the Javanese principles of nature) looming in the background.
It is a striking view, and at the same time represents what I was told- that in Jogjakarta, religion, history and principles go hand in hand depending on an individual’s interpretation.