Witness of The Rise of Islamic Mataram Kingdom (16th Century)

Kotagede is a silent witness of the rise of the Islamic Mataram Kingdom that ruled almost the entire Java. The cemetery of Islamic Mataram Kingdom forefathers, the fort's ruins, and the other historical remains can be found in Kotagede.

Updated on 16 September 2018

See 14 photos of Kotagede

In the 8th century, the area of Mataram (now is known as Jogja/Yogyakarta) was the center of Old Mataram Kingdom that ruled the entire Java. This kingdom had an extraordinary prosperity and civilization, so it had the ability to build Archaeological Sights with an extravagant architecture, such as Prambanan Temple Temple and Borobudur Temple Temple. However, in the 10th century, with an unknown reason, the kingdom moved the center of the government to East Java area. The great numbers of citizens left Mataram and gradually this area became a woodland or forest.

Six centuries later, Java was ruled by The Sultanate of Pajang which is centered in Central Java. Sultan Hadiwijaya, who ruled in that time, gave Alas Mentaok (Mentaok Forest), which was very large in area, to Ki Gede Pemanahan for his achievement in defeating the enemy of kingdom. Ki Gede Pemanahan with all of his family and followers moved to Alas Mentaok, a forest that used to be the Old Mataram Kingdom.

The small village that was built by Ki Gede Pemanahan in that forest became prosperous. After the death of Ki Gede Pemanahan, his throne was replaced by his son who was titled Senapati Ingalaga. Under the rule of the wise Senapati, the village turned into a city that was more crowded and prosperous, therefore it is known as Kotagede (a big city). Afterwards, Senapati built an inner fort (cepuri) around the palace and an outer fort (baluwarti) that surrounded the area of 200 acres. In the outside of these two forts, they are also equipped by a moat that was as wide as a river.

Mean while, in the Sultanate of Pajang there was a power struggle for the king throne after the death of Sultan Hadiwijaya. The crown prince that was known as Pangeran Benawa (Prince Benawa), was shoved aside by Arya Pangiri. Afterwards, Pangeran Benawa asked Senapati for a help since the Arya Pangiri's government was judged to be unfair and disadvantageous to the people of Pajang. The war started. Arya Pangiri was conquered, but he was forgiven by Senapati. Then, Pangeran Benawa offered the throne of Pajang to Senapati, but he refused the offer politely. A year after, Pangeran Benawa passed away, but he had given a will that said Pajang must be ruled by Senapati. Since then, Senapati became the first king of Islamic Mataram and was entitled Panembahan. He didn't want to use his title, Sultan, in order to honor Sultan Hadiwijaya and Pangeran Benawa. His palace was located in Kotagede.

Then, Panembahan Senapati expanded the area of Islamic Mataram Kingdom to Pati, Madiun, Kediri, and Pasuruan. Panembahan Senapati passed away in 1601 and was buried in Kotagede next to his father's tomb. Afterwards, the Islamic Mataram Kingdom conquered almost the entire island of Jave (except Banten and Batavia) and reached the highest prosperity under the rule of the third king, Sultan Agung (the grandson of Panembahan Senapati). In 1613, Sultan Agung moved the central of the kingdom to Karta (next to Plered) and ended the era of Kotagede as a central of Islamic Mataram Kingdom.

The Historical Heritage

In the later development, Kotagede remained to be crowded although it was no longer as the capital of the kingdom. Many historical remains such as the cemetery of the kingdom forefathers, Kotagede Mosque, traditional houses with Javanese architecture, the topography of the villages or kampongs that using the ancient city's system, and the fort ruins can be found in Kotagede.

  • Pasar Kotagede (Kotagede traditional market)

    The city system of Javanese kingdom usually places the palace, the roundabout, and the traditional market on the line that stretches from South to North. The Book of Nagarakertagama that was written in the era of Majapahit Kingdom (14th century), told that this pattern had been used since that time. The traditional market that had been there since the era of Panembahan Senopati, is still exist until now. Every legi morning in Javanese calendar system, sellers, buyers, and trading products are spread all over the market. The building has been renovated, but the position remains the same. If you want to explore Kotagede, you can start it from the traditional market by walking to the South heading the graveyard, the ruins of inner fort, and the fenced banyan tree.

  • The kingdom forefathers' graveyard

    Walk 100 meters to the South of Kotagede Traditional Market, we can find the graveyard area of the Islamic Mataram Kingdom's forefathers that is surrounded by a tall and strong wall. The portal to the graveyard area has the feature of Hindu architecture. Each portal has the thick wooden handle and is decorated with beautiful carvings. Some kingdom servants dressing up in traditional Javanese outfit guard the graveyard complex for 24 hours a day.

    We can pass through 3 portals before getting to the last portal that heads to the graveyard area. For getting into the graveyard area, we have to dress up in traditional Javanese outfit (it can be rented there). The visitors are only allowed to enter the graveyard on Sunday, Monday, Thursday, and Friday at 08.00 to 16.00. For honoring the Mataram Kingdom's forefathers here, the visitors are not allowed to take pictures or bring a camera and wear golden jewelries inside the graveyard. The important people that were buried in here: Sultan Hadiwijaya, Ki Gede Pemanahan, Panembahan Senopati, and their families.

  • Kotagede Mosque

    The exploring of Kotagede will not be completed without visiting the Kotagede Mosque (Kotagede Mosque), the oldest mosque in Yogyakarta that is located in the area of the graveyard. Afterwards, you won't be disappointed walking through the narrow passage way behind the wall around the graveyard area to see the architecture thoroughly and observe the daily activities of the people in Kotagede.

  • Traditional House

    Right across the graveyard area, we are able to see a Javanese traditional house. However, if you want to walk for 50 meters away to the South, you will be able to see a portal with a low hollow space and a sign that says "cagar budaya" (=cultural preservation). Get into the portal you will see some Kotagede Javanese traditional houses that are still preserved well and truly used as a place to live.

  • Kedhaton (The Royal Palace)

    Walking to the South a bit, you will see 3 banyan trees located right in the middle of the road. In the middle, there is a small building that is used for keeping the "watu gilang" (a special stone). It is a square-shaped black stone that has some written words on its surface. The written words are arranged in a circle-like shape. It says: ITA MOVENTUR MUNDU S - AINSI VA LE MONDE - ZOO GAAT DE WERELD - COSI VAN IL MONDO. In the outside of the circle, there are some words that say: AD ATERN AMMEMORIAM INFELICS - IN FORTUNA CONSOERTES DIGNI VALETE QUIDSTPERIS INSANI VIDETE IGNARI ET RIDETE, CONTEMNITE VOS CONSTEMTU - IGM (In Glorium Maximam).

    Inside the building, there is also "watu cantheng" (another special stone), three balls that are consist of yellowish stones. The local people had thought the stone "balls" were the toys of Panembahan Senapati. But there is also a possibility that the stones are the bullets of old cannons.

  • The ruins of the fort

    Panembahan Senopati built the inner fort (cepuri) completed with the moat around the palace, the area covered more or less 400x400 meters. The real ruins of the fort are still seen on the corner of Southwest and Southeast. The wall was 4 feets thick and made of stone blocks. The rest of the moat will be seen on the East, South, and West.

    Walking through Kotagede will enrich our knowledge about the history of Islamic Mataram Kingdom that was successful in Java. Furthermore, you can see local people's daily routines closely. They have been staying inside the strong wall and doing the activities since hundreds years ago.

It is different with other places, the local people are so friendly with the Javanese characteristic, polite, and not too commercial. In Kotagede, you won't be bothered by the hawkers who like to force people to buy their things. It's a bit surprising, or pleasing will be the right word.