Boating in Pulo Kenanga

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A secret architectural show at Sumur Gumuling was over….

Come on, ladies and gentlemen, we are leaving for the island!“, our tour guide clearly uttered nonsense words. Where was there island on dry land like this? “Where is the sea?“, I still denied full of wonder.

Walking out through stairs at the end of Sumur Gumuling tunnels, I positioned myself at the back end of group, also pushed my self to surface. Arriving at ground level, the guide casually walked to east while focusing on answering several questions from group members who were very enthusiastic about learning the history of Yogyakarta Sultanate. While I myself was plagued by a busy, it wasn’t important to catch some iconic corners with my mirrorless camera lens.

In the past, the land where we were standing on was the bottom of a lake, ladies and gentlemen“, the guide started throwing a clue which made me play with my imagination. “If I’m currently at the bottom of lake, it means that the island is the higher part of where I stand, and the high part must be very easy to see from here“, it turned out I was still as smart as ever …

I rotate my view on 360 degrees, made a quick looking. “That’s it!”, my observation was fixed on a tall building with thick walls in the style of colonial architecture. And the building was right in the direction which I walked.

In the past, kings and their families often boating above us while enjoying beautiful colors of fishes which swim in a clear lake“, the guide explained again. For me, it was common for kings to have worldly pleasures like that, I didn’t really respond to it. I just thought, how could this place combine to special architecture spots at that time, starting from a bath of royal family, a underground mosque and now an artificial island on the highest part of Taman Sari contour.

There it is!“, the guide pointed his finger at a building which I had guessed through imagination. “Pulo Cemeti“, he smiled to all members of group which he was carrying. “Let’s go up!“, He led the group up stair to entering that sturdy old building. When most of  group members were running happily upstairs, I was still in the lower courtyard and looking at Pulo Cemeti, imagining its original form and royal family activities in it in ancient times.

I arrived right at its building door when the entire group was still busy with selfies. Now I look down, imagining the height of water surface and the activity of boating in the middle of lake and followed by colorful fishes along paddling of boat.

Because many Kenanga flowers were planted around this building, public also often refers to this site as Pulo Kenanga. Oh yes, this building is more than a quarter century old, you know ”, the guide enriched information for tour group.

For then, I sat in a giant wind window and still admired the splendor of Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono I’s work. These thick walls were of course the influence of great architectural culture of Dutch colonial era, which made this site able to survive today.

Also known as Gedhong Kenanga. Because this building area appears to be floating on water during its heyday, it’s often referred to as the water castle”, the guide explained for the last time. The Yogyakarta Sultanate indeed left monumental works like this one. If its site management were made exclusive, surely all parts of Taman Sari would be a matter of pride for Yogyakarta Sultanate.

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Sumur Gumuling, Secret Mosque of Yogyakarta Sultanate

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Our tour guide waited for a moment for Year End Party participants to enjoy king’s bathing pool, empress and their sons and daughters in the past. For a few minutes I imagined some possibilities of what the story would look like in this place on more than two centuries ago, definitely classics looked like colossal cinemas from old kingdoms. For a moment I thoughtfully enjoyed that imagination.

My focus was destroyed by tour guide’s call to continue journey into another part of Taman Sari. “We will see mosque, ladies and gentlemen!“, He said. I just followed with an ordinary feeling. I could only imagine an appearance of Great Mosque of Surakarta Palace, which I visited three months ago. “Oh, this mosque appearance will like that“, I closed my own guess.

For a moment I was in a large and neatly arranged courtyard with a visitor circular path which follow area shape. A magnificent ornate gate proudly stood at one side of this area, large and old trees covered participants from hot weather of Yogyakarta.

Gedhong Gapura Hageng (Gapura Agung), Taman Sari’s main gate.
A small gate to the mosque.

Meanwhile, on opposite side of it, there was a small gate with a door which leading visitors to underground. Ten minutes later, tour guide called group and they began to follow him into gate.

I was at back of them and began to descend stairs to follow the underground tunnel. “What kind of mosque is in underground?“, I kept curiously wondering.

This mosque isn’t what you imagine, it is just a tunnel for worship. Because this mosque was hidden from Dutch colonialm. In ancient times, Dutch colonialism prohibited kingdom members from performing worship“, tour guide explained, which made me directly understood.

To tunnels.
To tunnels.

It was only camouflage of a function as mosque. A brilliant idea from Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono I, the first Sultan of Yogyakarta”, I started to admire this architecture in my mind. The tunnel could be passed without having to walk down your head, designed in such a way which it was sufficient for adults to pass through. During regular intervals, lamps were installed which would certainly helpful when the day turns dark. Tunnel walls were also shown original stone texture without paint, adding to its classic atmosphere.

I continued to explore along tunnel to find the end of this unique architectural masterpiece. I was even more amazed, the tunnel led to an arrangement of four staircases which were additional part of tunnels and also fifth staircase which was protruded from second floor tunnel to form a stage. “This stage was a pulpit for khateeb (Islam preacher) to give sermon, and palace’s family members would pray and sit listening to the sermon from the tunnel“, tour guide stood on pulpit while pointing his finger in several tunnels.

Tunnel as a mosque.
Other side of tunnel.
A pulpit.

Sermon sound would be heard until the end of tunnels because it used tunnel walls to echo the voice of khateeb” he continued.

Wow, I really praised the smart strategy of Sultan to be able to worship in the midst of colonial government’s prohibition. If Dutch colonial had inspected this place, of course, they would never have known if these tunnels actually functioned as a mosque of Yogyakarta Sultanate which was very secretive. They must have only suspected that this tunnels only served as an access between sides in Taman Sari area.

This mosque was nicknamed as SUMUR GUMULING.

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