The green crescent of fertile rice fields that blankets Gunung Merapi's southern flanks - with historic Yogyakarta as its focal point - is today inhabited by about 10 million Javanese, with 3 million urban residents. Rural population densities here are high, with over 1000 people per square kilometre. History has left its footprints everywhere in Central Java, an area wealthy in a culture and tradition cumulated from a influential Hindu and Buddhist past and more recent Islamic influences. Under the Saliendra and Old Mataram kings, the Hindu Javanese culture flourished between the 8th and 1 0th centuries and it was during this summit of power that Java's most remarkable religious monuments were built; Borobudur, the biggest and most magnificent monument to Mahayana Buddhism in the world; the enormous Hindu temple complex of Prambanan, dedicated to Shiva and built by the rulers of the Sanjaya Dynasty, and the ancient site of the oldest Hindu temples in Java on the magnificent, ethereal heights of the Dieng Plateau; all of these and more are testimony to the ancient power and influence of the region. The first Islamic kingdom in Java was born in 1511 in Demak, about 40 km from the Provincial capital of Semarang on the North coast. One of the province's greatest Islamic structures is, in fact, the Grand Mosque of Demak, which is said to have been built in a single night by one of the nine early leaders of Islam in Java. Surakarta, better known as Solo, is the cradle of Javanese culture in the province. The courts of Solo illustrate the noble value that the Javanese attach to grace and refinement, with majestic ceremonies and royal festivals still held with great pomp and circumstance. Although no longer the seats of power they once were, the courts of Solo are still regarded as the bearers of values which the Javanese have treasured for generations. Descendants of the royal houses are regarded as leaders of Javanese culture and traditions which uphold standards of sophistication and bearing. Two major seaports are also to be noted, providing national and international outlets for the province's agricultural and industrial products; Tanjung Emas on the northern coast on the Java Sea, and Cilacap, a natural ocean port in the Indian Ocean, in the southern part of the province.
PLACES OF INTEREST
In size and inhabitants, Semarang falls under the five major cities in the nation. It is situated on Java's normally flat northern coast and appropriately called the capital of Central Java as it lies just about halfway between the two extreme east and west coasts of the island. Indeed, few cities in the country have got hills and mountains so clearly visible from their seaports. In fact, mostly residential, Candi is a hill within Semarang's perimeter from where breathtaking panoramas on all directions can be witnessed the port, the lowlands and green paddy fields, the city itself and the numerous mountains. There is an older part of the city, close to its ocean harbour, where you can still find an interesting collection of odd-looking buildings dating back to the Dutch colonial era and further back still, to the time of the Dutch East Indies Company. And finally the city's zoo, may also be worth while visiting.
Borobudur temple is the one of the best preserved ancient monument in Indonesia, it had been highly praised by the world as a cultural heritage. The architectural style has no equal through out the world. The inspired construction representing the micro cosmos, which have very often given rise to question e.g. when, in what way, during how long time and by whom the sanctuary had been built. The right answers up to now have remained a mystery since no written documents had been found so far. Based on brief inscription at the Borobudur's base floor that covered by soil, most scholars estimate that Borobudur was built around 800 AD when the Central Java was under the reign of Samaratungga, king of Syailendra Dynasty who adhered to Mahayana Buddhism. It has been estimated that the building of Borobudur took between 30 to 60 years to complete, based on the assumption that most of labourers were also farmers who had to stop work regularly to tend their farms. Borobudur has full of philosophical ornaments in which it is totally symbolizing the unity in diversity of path that can be followed to reach the ultimate aim of life. The relieves engraved on the wall of the temple tell about the beautiful learning of life. However, during the 10th and 11th centuries there was transfer of power from Central Java to the East, Borobudur Temple became wholly neglected and given over to decay because of that unlucky political state of affairs. The sanctuary was exposed to volcanic eruption and other negative effects nature. Deserted and abandoned for almost one thousand year had made Borobudur in ruinous condition when it was rediscovered in 1814, since then the excavation of Borobudur was begun. In 1907 - 1911 the big restoration was carried out by Dutch Government and directed by Theodore Van Erp. In fact, by uncovering the structure and not building a drainage system, he further endangered it by exposure to the elements of nature. The structure remained in grave danger of decay and collapse until 1973, when an association of 27 countries, the government of Indonesia, UNESCO and several private organizations financed major restoration works. 23 February 1983, officially announced the completion of the restoration project.
Once a year during the full moon in May or June, the Buddhist hold the Waisak ceremony commemorating the birth, the death and the time when the Boddhisatva attains the highest wisdom and become Buddha. The ceremonies held on Mendut Temple and attended by thousands of Buddhist coming from all over Indonesia.
Mendut and Pawon Temples
Located only three kilometers from Borobudur, Mendut is said to face toward Benares, India, where Buddha Gautama taught his five disciples the very first time. The smaller temples of Mendut, which houses the great statue of Buddha and the Pawon temple, form an integral part of the Borobudur complex. The three-metre tall Buddha together with the two Bodhisatva figures of Lokesvara and Vajrapani are in the view of some experts, among the greatest manifestations of Buddhist thought and art. Through these smaller temple complexes the pilgrim must pass before ascending the great Borobudur monument.
The oldest temples in Central Java stand on isolated highlands 2000 metres above sea level. The name of plateau comes from the Old Javanese honorific di-hyang which was applied to deified ancestors. It lies within the old caldera of a volcano, enclosed by sheer mountain walls. Strong volcanic activity is in evidence all round - brightly-coloured sulphur springs and lakes, sparkling mud holes and loud fumaroles. Thick smog swirls into the valley, creating always shifting patterns of light. One can without difficulty know why the early Javanese considered this to be the place of supernatural powers. In 19th century were 400 structures noticeable, only 8 now remain: Candi Arjuna, Candi Semar, Candi Srikanadi, Candi Puntodewa, Candi Sembadara, Candi Dvaravati, Candi Gatotkaca and Candi Bima. East of Candi Bima is lake called Telaga Warna ( "Coloured Lake" ), the water of which is tinged with shining colours by underwater sulphur vents.
The regal city of Surakarta, popularly known as Solo, straddles the banks of the Bengawan Solo River, competes with Yogyakarta as the centre of Javanese culture. Indeed, Solo was the original seat of the great Mataram empire before it was separated from Yogyakarta in 1755, a consequence of a Dutch-negotiated peace treaty. Some of the places of interest are for instance Tawangmangu, a mountain resort at an elevation of almost 1 km above sea level which promises you a cool escape from the city's heat. Not far from here is the Sukuh Temple with wayang stone carvings of Hindu origin and which is the only sample of an erotic temple in Java having the shape of a stepped pyramid like the ones in South America of the Maya culture. There are also a two-century old palace of King Pakubuwono, art Gallery exhibiting Royal heirlooms, various Javanese weapons, antiques and other invaluable items. Another palace is the royal residence of Prince Mangkunegoro, featuring typical Javanese architecture, a complete collection of masks, heirlooms, wayang golek, handicrafts, Javanese musical instruments and superb antiques are exhibited here.
Baturanden, Central Java's outstanding resort, occupies a fine site on the slope of Mount Slamet, at an elevation of 650 m above sea level. It has remarkable weather with a cool mountain breeze. The resort area is surrounded by nice gardens, hot springs and ponds. Other features included 200 ha pine forest, a nearby market and marvellous views.