Yogyakarta’s palace and the family honours

Keraton Kraton Sultan Palace, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Yogyakarta’s palace and the family honours


The Keraton, Yogyakarta

At the palace in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta, there are two honours passed down through the generations. In both cases, when a son is born, the father knows his child will one day take on a special responsibility. It is the right and the duty of the child to follow in the footsteps of his ancestors.

One of these honours is to become the Sultan of Yogyakarta, a hereditary title that dates back to the eighteenth century. The other great honour that stays in the family is to be a guard at the palace. It is not just royalty that passes on the job to the next generation, but also those who dedicate their lives to the royal protection.

Keraton Kraton Sultan Palace, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Today, there are two thousand palace guards in total. Only about one thousand are active, though. It’s a job for life, so as they get older and can’t physically work anymore, they are looked after rather than being thrown out of service. On any particular day there are about one hundred palace guards actually working.

Keraton Kraton Sultan Palace, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Keraton Kraton Sultan Palace, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

The palace is known in Yogyakarta as the Keraton. Although it’s open for visitors in the morning, it is still a functioning part of the political sphere here in the region. The sultan holds that particular title in name, not power, since the declaration of Indonesian independence in 1945 – but he is also automatically the governor of the region. Therefore the Keraton is used for official functions, political meetings, and as the royal residence.

Keraton Kraton Sultan Palace, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Keraton Kraton Sultan Palace, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

There is also a cultural link with the compound and the people. In some ways it is almost a spiritual connection. The Keraton was designed to reflect the Javanese cosmos. It faces towards the volcanic Mount Merapi in one direction and towards the Indian Ocean, home of the important Indonesian sea spirit, in the other.

Keraton Kraton Sultan Palace, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Keraton Kraton Sultan Palace, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

The placement of the pavilions, the courtyards and even the trees all have a significance within the traditional spiritual view of the world by the local people. But, look a bit closer, and you’ll also see in the intricate designs an integration of the faiths that have influenced this part of Indonesia over the years. There are Buddhist, Islamic and Hindi elements to much of the decoration in the central part of the palace.

Keraton Kraton Sultan Palace, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Keraton Kraton Sultan Palace, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

From my experience, most of Indonesia is very proud of their heritage. But those in Yogyakarta seem more enthusiastic than others to continue weaving it into daily modern life. The Keraton and the connection with the people is a strong one. There seems to be a genuine affection and respect for the leadership amongst the people here. This palace complex is the bridge between the old and the new and the faith that binds the cultures.

Time Travel Turtle was a guest of the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.

  • Kirsten | Nov 13, 2012 at 9:58 am

    Definitely one of my favorite places we went! I love the facts you captured almost as much as the photographs.
    Kirsten recently posted..Joy in the Stillness at BorobudurMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Nov 15, 2012 at 10:16 am

      It was such an interesting place, I thought. The details in the design were fascinating.

  • Natasha von Geldern | Nov 13, 2012 at 10:57 am

    What an interesting slice of Indonesian life and culture. So lovely that the guards are looked after as they get old.
    Natasha von Geldern recently posted..Off track Bali: Lovina and the north coastMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Nov 15, 2012 at 10:18 am

      Yeah, it’s nice isn’t it. I guess it makes the whole place a bit more like a family, where you care for everyone and stay with the others until the very end.

  • Cathy Sweeney | Nov 13, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    Very interesting story. How nice that the palace guards are looked after in their later years. The photos are great — love that gorgeous chandelier and ceiling one.

    • Michael Turtle | Nov 15, 2012 at 10:20 am

      The chandelier as stunning in person, not just in the photo. But there were lots of really nice things in the palace. It’s simple by Western standards, but still really beautiful!

  • Jennifer | Nov 16, 2012 at 7:35 am

    Wow, gorgeous photos! I can only imagine seeing the palace in person. Indonesia looks like a very interesting place and your stories about it are making me want to book a plane ticket there!
    Jennifer recently posted..Five Tips for Viewing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day ParadeMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Nov 18, 2012 at 12:38 am

      It’s quite a sprawling palace and you can work through different pavillions and see a few different parts. There are also some areas which are closed off because they’re being used by the sultan and his family or staff.

  • thetravelfool | Nov 17, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    Love the article and the history behind the palace and the people there.
    thetravelfool recently posted..Greek Organ GrinderMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Nov 18, 2012 at 12:46 am

      It’s an interesting place – and nice to hear a little bit of the history about the guards.

  • Abhishek Behl (Wild Navigator) | Nov 21, 2012 at 6:47 am

    Love the ganesha Statue – Nice post and thanks for sharing !!
    Abhishek Behl (Wild Navigator) recently posted..”10 Shades of a Scottish Autumn” Wild Pictures of the Day by Graeme MackenzieMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Nov 22, 2012 at 12:11 pm

      Ha ha… yeah, I liked that one too!

  • M. Galang R.A.T. | Apr 13, 2017 at 12:54 am

    Greetings from Yogyakarta. I love your photos and article . Anyway, You should try to visit Kraton when the Garebeg Ceremony. You’ll see the royal troops march with their full-dressed uniforms and weapons, it was a rare experience. Because the troops only march three times a year.

    • Michael Turtle | Apr 13, 2017 at 6:04 am

      That does sound really interesting! I have been to Yogyakarta a couple of times now but clearly not on the right dates to see the ceremony. I’ll have to look up when it is next time I’m heading to Indonesia in case it coincides. Thanks for the tip!

  • Hanif | Jun 8, 2017 at 4:07 pm

    Excellent information and good picture. Jogja is more than an interesting place.

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