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Kotagede, the Islamic Mataram Capital

Kotagede, the Islamic Mataram Capital

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A. Overview

While in Yogyakarta, tourists should spend some of their time visiting Kotagede, one of the historical area in the city. Kotagede is often called The Old Capital City of Islamic Mataram Kingdom which preceded Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat Sultanate.

In 1575, a kingdom was established in the middle of a wood by Ki Ageng Pemanahan. This is how the history of Islamic Mataram begins. Back in the 8th century, the Mataram area that is presently known as Yogyakarta was the center of Hindu Mataram Kingdom whose realm covered almost all Java. The kingdom was prosperous and very advanced that they could build grandeur architectures such as Prambanan Temple and Borobudur Temple. In the 10th century, Mataram Kingdom moved their seat of government to East Java. The people together left their home and the area turned into a jungle.

Six centuries later the Island of Java fell into the hand of Pajang Sultanate from Central Java. Sultan Hadiwijaya who reigned at the time bestowed Alas Mentaok to Ki Gede Pemanahan for his success in helping the sultanate defeat their enemy. Ki Gede Pemanahan along with his family and followers soon moved to Alas Mentaok, a jungle where Hindu Mataram Kingdom had sat.

The little village set up by Ki Gede Pemanahan in the wood slowly grew prosperous. Ki Gede Pemanahan passed away and was replaced by his son Senapati ing Ngalaga. Under the leadership of the new ruler, the village developed into a busy and wealthy town that it obtained a new calling, Kotagede (Big Town). Senapati went on to build a defense with wall fences inside his residence (Cepuri Wall) and surrounding the ± 200 hectare town (Baluwarti Wall). Senapati became the first king of Islamic Mataram Kingdom and was entitled Panembahan.

Panembahan Senapati passed away in 1601 and was rested in Kotagede near his father. By this time, Panembahan Senapati had extended the kingdom’s territory up to Pati, Madiun, Kediri, and Pasuruan which made Islamic Mataram a kingdom that governed the whole Java except Banten and Batavia. The kingdom reached its peak of glory under its third king, Sultan Agung, who was Panembahan Senapati’s grandson. In 1613, Sultan Agung moved the seat of his government to Karta (presently near Pleret). This ended Kotagede era as the capital of Islamic Mataram Kingdom.

B. Features

Exploring the narrow alleys in Kotagede, our minds may be brought back to the time of Mataram Kingdom in the 16th century when Panembahan Senopati was in charge. The people who live there now are a mix of merchants, silversmiths, and batik makers. The buildings there look different compared to the usual Javanese architecture. They are huge with fences surrounding them like old Mataram strongholds.

Kotagede stays busy although it is no longer a capital. There they will witness a warm, breezy atmosphere of the old town where unique buildings stand. Throughout the streets, you can find silver shops, something that the place is popular for.

You certainly must not miss visiting the Kotagede Grand Mosque, the Royal Burial Ground of Mataram, Kotagede Traditional Market, and a number of historical remnants like Watu Gilang Site. The kampongs are named with old toponyms based on its antique city planning, including the ruins of a fortress.

C. Location

Kotagede is situated on the southeast part of Yogyakarta City, about 5 km from downtown.

D. Access

The main access to Kotagede is through Tegal Gendhu Road. It is easy to get there as there are public transportation around such as city buses and Transjogja buses. Private transportation will make it easier to explore the place though.

E. Ticket

Since it is a residence, entering Kotagede is free of charge. Anyone can go there anytime. Muslims can go to the Grand Mosque to pray or to the Royal Burial Ground to perform a pilgrimage. The only thing you will almost certainly have to pay is the parking charge, if you take your own vehicle.

F. Accommodation and Other Facilities

Kotagede is where you can find silver stores or silversmiths of the best quality in the city. Not far from there, lodgings from starred hotel to modest inns are available.


Text : Eko Wahyu
Translation: Reza Daffi
Photo(s): Collection of Jogjatrip.com
(Primary data and various sources)

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