The Sultanate of Yogyakarta and its history

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The history of the Sultanate of Yogyakarta, one of the most historic and beautiful places still populating the island of Java, Indonesia today

Mataram, at the primeval origins of Yogyakarta

Before starting with the actual history of the sultanate it is necessary to clarify, albeit very briefly, what was the history of Central Java before its foundation, which took place de facto at the hands of Hamengkubuwono I. Before the arrival of this great figure , in fact, the area where Yogyakarta stands today did not enjoy particular cities and / or inhabited centers and was simply known by the name of “Mataram”, a term to which the first local potentate is also linked: the Kingdom of Mataram, which ruled on central and eastern Java from 716 to 1016, building many Hindu temples also in the present Autonomous Region of Yogyakarta. After the latter, several dynasties and local empires followed, but, for the history of this city, the most important was undoubtedly the Sultanate of Mataram, which will live from 1586 to 1755, laying the foundations for the birth of that of Yogyakarta .


The first ruler will in fact found the city of Mataram, which he will then rename Kotagede, or “Great city”, once he officially founded the Sultanate; Kotagede is now located just 5 km from the kraton, or the “royal palace” of Yogyakarta. The Sultanate of Mataram over the years established itself as the beating heart of Central Java and the main opponent of Dutch interests, however what interests us most is not its peak but its end, which will lead to the birth of Yogyakarta and its sultanate. autonomous.

The Third Javanese War of Succession and the birth of Yogyakarta

Its future founder will be born in 1717 with the name of Raden Mas Sujana in Kartasura, the then capital of the Sultanate of Mataram, will be the son of the sultan and one of his concubines and will forever change the fate of the center of Java. In 1740, in fact, the Dutch East India Company carried out an incredible massacre that put the population on alert, leading the population and a series of local sultanates to declare war on the new arrivals. Among these there is also Pakubuwono II, Sujana’s brother and legitimate heir to the throne, who however changes his mind as soon as he sees the greatest European firepower. His retreat from the war will cost him first a long internal revolt led by Raden Mas Said, his nephew, who will destroy the kraton of Kartasura, leading him to form a new court in Surakarta and forcing him to accept heavy conditions from the Dutch, who will take possession of the coastal area. Tired of his stepbrother’s inefficiency, Raden Mas Sujana will join his half-nephew, Raden Mas Said, marrying his daughter and starting the Third Javanese War of Succession; Raden Mas Sujana will also change his name to Prince Mangkubumi.

The kraton of Yogyakarta

After a long series of defeats, Sultan Pakubuwono II will surrender the sovereignty of his kingdom to the Dutch, who, however, were unable to defend it from the fury of Mangkubumi and Raden Mas Said, who defeated them in a decisive battle in 1751. Having obtained control of Mataram, however, heavy disagreements will break out between the two allies and this will lead Mangkubumi to find an agreement with the ancient European enemies, resulting in the Treaty of Giyanti. The latter provided for the formation of two territories: the Sunatato of Surakarta, placed under the control of Paakubuwono III, son of Pakubuwono II and the Sultanate of Yogyakarta, placed under the control of Mangkubumi, placing the two powers under the control of the Company of the Indies. The new ruler will found Yogyakarta in 1755, officially transforming it into capital the following year and changing his name to Hamengkubuwono I. In 1757 the Dutch will also find an agreement with Raden Mas Said, giving him the eastern part of Mataram, then under his control. , renaming it Mangkuneran, a name that Raden Mas Said will later adopt, transforming into Mangukunegara I.

From 1812 the principality of Pakualam was also formed within the present Autonomous Region of Yogyakarta, which was however united with Yogyakarta with Indonesian Independence in 1950. All the aforementioned territories continue to maintain their ancient sultanates with their respective dynasties, so much so that Hamengkubuwono X, descendant of the founder of the city, is ruling Yogyakarta.

Yogyakarta today

The Yogyakarta region is the 18th most populated in Indonesia but, being the second smallest province after Jakarta, it is among those with the highest population density. Dominating the landscape of the province is Mount Merapi (2910 mt.), Which is the most active volcano in Indonesia and which, thanks to its frequent eruptions, helps to keep the territory fertile. Despite having various mines and riches, the main sector is tourism, which generates several million visitors each year both local and foreign. Worthy of note are the beautiful temples that populate the countryside, the various kraton present in the area (especially that of Yogyakarta) and in general the many historical / artistic elements present in every corner of the province.


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