The Cosmological Axis of Yogyakarta and its Historic Landmarks comprises a traditional Javanese townscape centered around the Kraton (the Sultan’s Palace) and is associated with rituals.
The main town elements such as markets and the Great Mosque were placed along an axis between Tugu Pal Putih (a monumental pillar facing the peak of Mount Merapi) and the southern town border at Panggung Krapyak. According to Javanese Hindu-Buddhist beliefs, the total was seen as a miniature representation of the cosmos.
Community Perspective: the focus of a visit should be the Kraton Complex and the Taman Sari Water Castle, fine examples of traditional Javanese architecture.
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We spent four days and four nights in Yogyakarta in February 2023. We arrived in the evening, having spent the day on trains from Bogor (Kebun Raya Bogor TWHS).
Our first day was spent visiting the Kraton complex and the surrounding area. We got in just on time for an impressive traditional percussion show. Their music is captivating and quite unique. This was followed by a boring puppet show that we didn't watch until the end. The Kraton is very large and rather pretty. However, it's a little difficult to understand what you're visiting, as there's very little interpretation. There is a museum on site, but it's only in Indonesian and seems to focus more on the life of the sultan (they even display his kitchen utensils), than on Javanese architecture.
As we exited the Kraton from the rear, we were approached by a woman. She led us to a traditional puppet workshop. These are hand-cut in intricate patterns from thick leather, then painted. The result is a magnificent work of art. She then led us to a batik workshop. These traditional paintings on fabric are also magnificent and delighted my friend. After another stop at a coffee shop and a tip, the lady left us and we continued on our way to the Taman Sari Water Castle. This was the highlight of our visit to Yogya. Javanese art and architecture are at their most visible and remarkable. The west gate of the castle is exceptional (picture). We rounded off the day at Fort Vredeburg (buffer zone only), which features interesting dioramas on the city's troubled history and the complicated relations between the Dutch colonial forces and the sultans, and at the adjacent Pasar Beringharjo market.
On our last day, we walked north along Malioboro Avenue. This artery represents the Cosmological Axis along which this WHS unfolds. I was rather disappointed with this walk, as there are very few interesting buildings along the route. Even the features identified on the official map of the property are underwhelming. However, numerous panels line the route, increasing our understanding of the visit. Even before the property was listed, most of these mentioned the property's forthcoming inclusion on the list and showed the official map. After reaching the Tugu monument, we headed back south. We passed the mosque without visiting it, as it was packed for some activity, and then visited the bird market. On the way, some young girls wanted to interview my friend (a recurrent practice among Indonesians who seem to have seen very few white people) and even took her blood pressure!
The next day we took a train for Solo, from where we visited Sangiran. On a final note, Yogyakarta is a pleasant city, probably the most pleasant we've visited in Indonesia. It's an ideal base for many archaeological and natural sites. The gems, however, lie on the outskirts of the city. Indeed, apart from the Taman Sari Water Castle, no individual monument is truly exceptional.
I visited this tentative WHS in August 2018. I spent two nights here (1 day to visit Prambanan and Sangiran WHS) and dedicated one day to visiting some of the locations which make up this tentative WHS. What struck me most were the mostly intact city walls (top left photo) and colonial buildings which were still in very good condition compared to similar ones in Jakarta. Some highlights worth mentioning were the Vredeburg Fort, the Bank Indonesia building and the Gili Golong Monument at the central axis of both pathway locations.
The OUV probably lies in two main 18th century buildings of Yogyakarta - the Kraton Complex and the Taman Sari Water Castle - both linked to the Sultanate of Yogyakarta. The Kraton is an Asian palace complex in traditional Javanese architecture style. There are two bangsal or pavilions made of teak wood with floral design ceilings (bottom left photo). The main bangsal and the inner courtyard can only be viewed from outside. In a way the kraton atmosphere reminded me a bit of the Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa Palace in Bukhara, Uzbekistan even though that had European influences.
The Taman Sari Water Castle is the former royal garden of the Sultanate of Yogyakarta and had several functions, such as a resting area, a workshop, a meditation area, a defense area, and a hiding place. Taman Sari consisted of four distinct areas: a large artificial lake with islands and pavilions located in the west, a bathing complex in the centre, a complex of pavilions and pools in the south, and a smaller lake in the east. Today only the central bathing complex is well preserved, while the other areas have been largely occupied by the Kampung Taman settlement. The latter is worth visiting if only to get a better view of the water palace and city walls as well as to visit the peculiar underground mosque (bottom right photo). The ornate almost white-washed designs of the entrance gates (bottom left photo) together with the dragon staircases stand out.
All in all I really enjoyed my visit to the historic centre of Yogyakarta and it would have been a great pity to skip such an interesting visit. A touristy but pleasant experience for locals and tourists alike if you sleep overnight in Yogyakarta are the LED lit cycling vehicles in the Southern City Square just outside the royal palace. If you have time on your way to/from Sangiran WHS you can also visit Solo's royal palace.
The Kraton of Yogyakarta dates from the mid-18th century. It is a prime example of Javanese palace architecture. The complex belongs to the Sultanate of Yogyakarta.
Typical for the architecture is the use of a pendopo, a tall and large pavillion-like hall that is the focus of ceremonial occasions.
The main gate is guarded by two statues of giants, a good one and a bad giant. The grounds also hold some (Dutch) colonial style buildings.
A bit confusingly, there are two entrances that will take you into two different parts of the palace. The one on the south side is the major gateway. Entrance costs only a few thousand rupiah. Allow an hour or so for a visit.
The style of Indonesian palaces, like this one and the ones in Solo which I also have visited, is very distinctive. I don't think there are any sites on the List that can compare to this. Furthermore, there aren't even any (contemporary) Asian palaces inscribed. So my conclusion would be that this would be a worthy site to enlist as a WHS.
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2022 Incomplete - not examined
As "The Cosmological Axis of Yogyakarta and its Historic Landmarks"
Includes former TWHS Yogyakarta Palace Complex (1995-2015)
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