Jogyakarta: Ancient Arts Preserved

Jogyakarta was one of the highlights of our trip to Indonesia. Why? This city is the gateway to two ancient architectural wonders…Prambanan (Hindu) and Borobudur (Buddhist) temples, as well as being an arts center for crafts that could be easily lost (batik cloth, shadow puppets, dance, theatre) without careful preservation. In addition, the volcanic Mt. Merapi sits grandly in the background.

Prambanan is best seen at sunset and Borobudur at sunrise. These temples display the splendor of bygone kingdoms and we saw many school groups having a history lesson at these World Heritage sites. As for the arts, I was able to try my hand at batiking with wax, cloth, and color…not as easy as it looks. Theatre and dance are very important in this culture. Shadow puppets are made primarily out of balsam wood or leather and depict characters who come to life in folk stories still told on stage. We were able to attend a theatrical dance performance of the Ramayana (Hindu epic tale), outside under the stars. It was magicial to watch the fluid dance movements (down to the minute wrist and finger movements), the colorful costumes, with the music played on the traditional gamelan, and all under the brightly lit night sky.

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