by Yovita Siswati on 11/11/09 at 10:30 am
Being the largest, oldest, most famous and most beautiful palace in Cirebon, one of main cities in Java’s Northern coast, Kasepuhan Palace is surely worth a visit. The palace is the legacy of the first Cirebon’s Islamic Sultanate.
How to get there.
It takes approximately four hour train ride from Jakarta, the Capital of Indonesia, to Cirebon. Once you are in the city, you can use hired vehicle or public transportation including local pedicabs to get to the Palace. Located in the centre of the city, the palace is easily accessible.
Image via Wikipedia
Kasepuhan is also known as Pakungwati Palace after the name of the daughter of Prince Cakrabuwana, the sultanate’s first ruler who built the palace in 1446. Pakungwati married Sunan Gunung Jati, one of nine highly respected Muslim saints in Java. He renovated the palace in 1483 and used it as Islamic education centre. In 1529 new building was added by Prince Mas Mohammed Arifin the great grandson of Sunan Gunung Jati.
Complete history of the city of Cirebon can be read in my previous article: Cirebon, Historical City in West Java.
Like any other ancient kingdoms in Java, the layout of the royal complex must follow a sacred traditional pattern. The Palace has to face north. In front of the Palace there has to be one large central square to house lively traditional ceremony or other public gatherings.To the west of the square, there should be a mosque or other religious buildings. To the north, there should be a jail and to the east, a marketplace. In Kasepuhan, the Palace and the Mosque still stand proudly until today, however the square looks very much abandoned and both jail and market had long been vanished.
The Palace’s main entrance. Image from author.
Historically, Cirebon was one of the busiest ports in Java. It was a place where many cultures intermingled. As a meeting place of many cultures, Kasepuhan Palace has a unique mix of Pre Hindu, Hindu, Islamic, Chinese, European and Javanese architectural styles
Pre-Hindu, Hindu and Javanese influences
Entering the Palace, the first thing you see is a Hindu-styled split gate named Gapura Adi. It is similar to the gate of Balinese Hindu temples. This red brick gate leads you to Siti Hinggil area, a square surrounded by mortarless thick red brick bearing wall. Siti means land in local language and hingil means high. This area was built on a level higher than any other areas of the palace to symbolize the divinity of the member of the royal family. There are five wooden pagoda-like pavilions in the area used for royal ceremony. The structures are covered by wooden roof and have no wall. They roofs follow the style of traditional local houses.