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Introduction to Yogyakarta
 
Short History The People of Yogya Religion Etiquette


General Information
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 there’s 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 and Hindus.

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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 Provinces.

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The 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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Religion
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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Simple Etiquette
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, ask.

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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Yogyakarta Hotels
Yogyakarta Overview

Whether you spell the name with a Y or J, ie. Yogyakarta or Jogjakarta, Yogya or Jogja (some traditionalists still use "Dj") - no matter all refer to Indonesia's most unique and culturally interesting city and without doubt, the heart and soul of Java.

That said, for the record the city's name is derived from Ngayogjakarta Hadiningrat, the great Javanese Kingdom, founded in 1755. As such, spelling Yogyakarta with a "Y" is generally considered more correct and it is the spelling taught in Indonesia's schools and as such is the spelling used throughout this website.

However whenever you are in Yogya you will almost always hear it pronounced with a "J".

Be advised that the time in Yogya is GMT + 7 hours.

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