Located at the epicentre of a fertile rice fields that is overshadowed to the north by fiery Mt. Merapi and bordered to the south by the Indian Ocean, the refined old city of Yogyakarta or "Yogya" is, with Solo, one of two traditional court centres remaining in Java's prehistoric area. Yogya is one of the most productive traditional farming areas on earth, with a rural population density that is among the world's highest. The province's 3.2 million people live in just 3,169 km2, this is above all remarkable since the great majority of structures are one-story formations and most people live in small village hamlets dotted about the countryside, making a living from agriculture. Yogyakarta was in the 16th and 17th centuries the seat of the mighty Javanese empire of Mataram, from which present day Yogyakarta has inherited the best of traditions. The Yogyakarta city came into being in 1755, after the division of Mataram into the Sultanates of Yogyakarta and Surakarta. The Sultan's palace is the hub of Yogya's traditional life and despite the advance of modernity; it still emanates the spirit of refinement which has been the trademark of Yogya's art for centuries. Proud of its Javanese cultural heritage, it has attracted large numbers of painters, dancers and writers, both Indonesian and foreign, and the arts flourish here. Gamelan, classical and contemporary Javanese dances, the wayang kulit leather puppet theatre and other expressions of traditional art will keep the visitor spellbound. Local craftsmen excel in the arts of batiks, silver and leather work. Yogya is now also a city of students. The city is home to more than 55 academies and university-level institutions, including Gajah Mada University, which was founded during the revolution and is now one of the largest and most prestigious universities in Indonesia. Yogya is truly unusual. Everyone who visits this fertile volcanic land seems to come away favourably impressed. Yogya is at the same time a traditional Javanese city and stronghold of young and innovate thinking. Here the graceful peacefulness of the Kraton lies just steps away from batik painters' market where bizarre new creations are on display. Everything, from the prehistoric to the modern, is accepted easily and naturally, and is quickly assimilated into the rich and complex structure of Yogyakarta's diverse heritage.
PLACES OF INTEREST
The Yogya keraton or palace, designed and built in stages between 1756 and 1790 by Yogya's founder Sultan Hamengkubuwono I, is a fine example of traditional Javanese court architecture. Conceived not only as the royal residence but as main point for the whole kingdom, the keraton is cautiously constructed to form a replica of the Javanese cosmos in miniature. Each entryway, each pavilion, each yard, tree and field has a precise symbolic sense, and it was thought that by constructing the keraton in this way, the court and the kingdom could be synchronized with the heavenly forces of the universe. The palace visitors can enjoy the atmosphere of the kraton in former times by visiting the life-size diorama of wedding ceremonies on the palace meeting hall, performed by puppets which are intentionally arranged to create such an atmosphere. Sets of Javanese musical instruments, antiques and heirlooms have made the palace of Yogyakarta worth to visit.
Taman Sari complex ( known during Dutch colonial times as Water Castle because of imposing structure ) is a heritage site that stands testament to the grandeur of the Yogyakarta Sultanate. Built in 1758 by Sultan Hamengkubuwono I, all around it was artificial lake, access to the "castle" was by means of ingenious underwater passageway with small towers placed as regular intervals providing light and ventilation. Taman Sari means "fragrant gardens", referring to flowers and fruit trees that exuded a delicious fragrance which permeated the entire complex.
Kotagede is a neat little town which was once the seat of the mighty Mataram empire. In this old palace town with its walled-in houses, the graves of the first rulers of Mataram are still to be found. Since the 1930s, however, Kotagede has become famous for being the centre of the Yogya silverwork industry. There are a number of workshops where visitors are welcome to watch silver being transformed into beautiful works of art known as "Yogya Silver".
Prambanan, named after the village where it is located, is the biggest Hindu temple complex in Java. There are 224 temples in the complex; three of them, the main temples are Brahma Temple in the north, Vishnu Temple in the south, and the biggest among the three which lies between Brahma and Vishnu temples is Shiva Temple ( 47 meters high ). These three ancient masterpieces of Hindu architecture are locally referred to as Prambanan Temple or Lorojonggrang Temple ( Temple of the "Slender Virgin" ). One of its appeals is the riches of sculptural detail. The famous one is on the inner wall of the balustrade, the magnificently vital and completely engrossing Ramayana epic. An inscription that could be related to the Prambanan temples, was Siwaghra inscription (778 C / 856 M). The inscription mentioned about inauguration a holy building for the God Civa. Then the name of king Jatiningrat ( Rakai Pikatan ) in which has to fight against Balaputra, and after he won the war he gave the kingdom to Dyah Pitaloka ( Rakai Kayu wangi 851-852 ). In that inscription was also detail about the Hindu holy building.
Nature's statements in this densely populated part of Java - whether in the form of smouldering volcanoes, rough limestone cliffs or violently pounding surf - are indisputable powerful. Gunung Merapi ( literally "Mountain of Fire" ) is Java's most active volcano - a towering behemoth that periodically spews clouds of smoke and ash. The overnight climb to the summit is demanding and hazardous, but is one of the island's most spectacular sight.