Yogyakarta lies just 7.8° (approximately 868
km) south of the equator. As such the weather is tropical - consistently
hot and sunny. Days are almost universally 12 hours long with sunrise
is approximately 5:30 a.m. and sunset at 5:40 p.m. depending on
the time of year. The daytime temperature averages between 22°
C to 30° C (78°F to 90°
F) and with humidity quite high - a sticky 75% - it often times
it feels much hotter.
Yogya's tropical monsoon has two distinct seasons - dry (May to
September) and wet (October to April). Monsoon refers to the wind,
not the rain. However even in the wet monsoon theres a chance
that it will be sunny for a good part of the day. Weather wise May,
June and July are generally considered the best.
With a total population of some 3,100,000 inhabitants (400,000 or
so in the city proper) in area of 3,186 sq. km Yogyakarta is quite
densely populated. Some 93% are Muslims, 6% Christian and 1% Buddhists
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A Short History
Earliest recorded history dates from the 9th century. Hindu and
Buddhist kingdoms flourished that gave rise to the magnificent temples
tourists flock to today. Present day Yogyakarta owes its existence
to a mid 18th Century “Family Feud”. Prince Mangkubumi, who was
the younger brother of the Ruler of Surakarta, left the Royal Palace
(Kraton) to establish his own fiefdom after a contentious land dispute
with his older brother. This breakup of the “Muslim Mataram Kingdom”
was encouraged by the colonizing Dutch, as part of their divide
and conquer strategy for the Dutch East Indies Company.
Prince Mangkubumi proclaimed himself “Sultan” and took the name
Hamengkubuwono (5 syllables Ha - meng - ku - bu - wo – no). The
translation of his chosen name is “The universe in the lap of the
king” (The present Sultan of Yogyakarta is a direct descendent by
the name of Hamengkubuwono X (the 10th). Hamengkubuwono I built
his own Kraton (Royal Palace) and in his lifetime developed what
became the most influential Javanese state in more than 100 years.
Yogyakarta has a long history of independent thought and outright
resistance to authority. The Javanese hero known as Prince Diponegoro
led a bloody five year war against the colonizing Dutch in the early
years of the 19th Century. Eventually he was "captured"
and exiled to Manado in North Sulawesi and died in Makassar, South
Sulawesi. And Yogyakarta is the home of the first Indonesian University
making it, very early on, the intellectual center of Java.
The first thoughts and deeds of what would eventually become The
Republic of Indonesia, were nurtured and refined here. During the
struggle for independence from Dutch Colonial rule from 1946 to
1949 Yogya, for a short time, was recognized as the Capital of the
emerging Nation. Recognition of the area’s crucial importance in
the fight for independence resulted in Jogja being honored as “Jogja
Daerah Istimewa" (Special Region). The area was granted
Provincial Status in 1950 officially became one of Indonesia’s 32
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People of Yogyakarta
Some 40% of the people of Yogya are farmers, while another 40% work
in service industry as merchants, traders or in the hospitality
industry (of course this percentage is much higher in the city itself).
The remainder are students, housewives and so on.
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At one time the people of Central Java (Yogyakarta) were predominately
Hindhus and Buddhists, that for the most part, coexisted peacefully.
Evidence the many Hindu temples surrounding the Buddhist temple
Borobudur as well as several Buddhist temples surrounding the Hindu
temple of Prambanan.
The two religions became closer when Prince Rakai Pikatan of the
Hindu Sanjaya dynasty married Princess Pramodhavardhani of the Buddhist
Syailendra dynasty in the second half of the 9th century.
Today approximately 93% of the people of Yogyakarta are Muslim and
it is often noted that Indonesia is the world’s largest Islamic
country. It wasn't always so, as noted above, the people of central
Java were predominately Hindu and Buddhist. Islam was introduced
to Central Java in the 16th century as it spread south from Sumatra
into Java. The Majapahit empire (the last Javanese Hindu empire)
collapsed at this time and a large number of Hindu aristocrats,
priests and artists fled to Bali and Panembahan Senopati became
the first king of Mataram Islam in 1575 establishing Kotagede (5
km southeast of Yogyakarta) as the capital.
Social and religious requirements have, over time, been modified,
combined and refined to form an acceptable code conduct known as
adat or traditional law. While Islam is the predominant religion
of Indonesia, the daily practice of this religion is somewhat tempered
by elements of Hindu-Buddhism, adat and vestiges of animism. People
still conduct traditional ceremonies that are connected to the cycle
of life - begining with mitoni (celebrating the 7th month of pregnancy)
and continuing through death when rememberance ceremonies are held
on the 7th, 40th, 100th and 1,000th days after death.
As well, throughout Indonesia there is a very pronounced belief
in a “spirit world.” In Java there are literally hundreds of places
where “spiritual energy” is believed to be concentrated . The belief
is that this spiritual energy can be absorbed by followers and can
be used for either good or evil. As such, it is therefore, somewhat
different from what is usually understood as traditional Islam.
And lastly, dspite a lengthy colonial period by the Dutch that lasted
over 350 years, missionaries were only successful in converting
small pockets of the Indonesian population to Christianity. That
said, even though Central Java (and hence Yogyakarta) is predominately
Islamic, there is a surprisingly sizable number of Christians (estimated
at 6% of the populace), mostly Roman Catholic in Yogya and nearby
Solo. And many of the better hospitals in Yogyakarta are run by
Roman Catholic nuns.
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Cultural etiquette has been described as the unspoken but
assumed behavior that conveys politeness. Therefore it is important
that you take the time to learn about and follow “local etiquette”.
In Indonesia, there are a few specific rules that visitors should
be sure to know about and follow.
Never hand anything to an Indonesian with your left hand. As in
most Islamic countries the left hand is considered “unclean” and
thus insulting. If this makes the action somewhat cumbersome by
having to change hands, take the time to do it anyway. Handshaking
is customary for both men and women on introduction and greeting.
Indonesians will frequently touch one or both hands to their chest
after shaking hands as a sign of sincerity.
There are a few differences in the use of hands and feet for indicating
actions or getting attention. The proper way to summon someone is
to use one of the Indonesian words Pak, Mas, (for men) and Bu, Mbak
(for women) and make a scooping motion toward you with your hand,
fingers facing down. Crooking the index finger as is common in
the West is not polite here.
Also, be aware of where & how you position your feet. Exposing
the sole of your shoe is considered impolite as is pointing with
your foot to indicate an object. Shoes should be removed when entering
mosques or, usually, when entering someone’s home. If you are unsure,
Be aware that emotional displays of any emotion are considered rude.
Women should avoid wearing halter tops or shorts as well as tight
fitting or revealing clothes in public.
Lastly, visitors should keep in mind the importance of status in
Indonesian society. In Indonesia everyone has status, but that status
is situational. A street vendor or cab driver may have very high
status in his home community either through leadership ability or
religious training. Try to understand the different situations that
arise in day to day activity and modify your personal behavior to
meet those situations appropriately.
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