While in Bali, Indonesian culture often takes a backseat in tourist interest in favor of the island’s breathtaking beaches; on the other hand, Indonesian culture and festivals in Yogyakarta are what make this city an important tourist destination. Located in Central Java, Yogyakarta (pronounced as Jogjakarta) receives thousands of local and foreign visitors primarily for its historical buildings, structures and monuments. Jogjakarta, or Jogja for short, is the capital city of the province of Yogyakarta Special Region, south of Central Java.
Indonesia is a Muslin nation and one of its more important religious events is the Ramadan. While Islam believers see the Ramadan as purely religious in nature, the observance and spectacle are consistently earning attention from non-Muslims. Although the Ramadan is a time for fasting and abstinence, residents at Kauman put up a temporary market, the Pasar Tiban Kauman, to sell snacks and dishes. The market draws so much attraction both from locals and tourists not only for the delicious local selections but also the picturesque old architecture of Kauman. The market is open from 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM, but people may only eat after 6:00 PM. Ramadan allows devotees to eat at dusk, but in Kauman, even non-Muslims are not allowed to eat before dusk. Kauman was the home of many Muslim leaders including Ahmad Dahlan, the founder of the Muhammadiyah movement. And since the sultan’s royal mosque (Masjid Agung) is found on the same block, Kauman actually means “place for preachers”. Ramadan takes place in July or August, depending on astronomical observations. It is followed by the Eid ul-Fitr Festival.
A related festival is the Greberb Syawal Ceremony, which begins in December and runs all the way through February. The ceremony is an elaborate expression of the people’s gratefulness to God for having helped them fast and complete the Ramadan. One of the highlights is the colorful parade of Kraton (palace) guards. Led by their commander-in-chief, the guards march from Siti Hinggil to the Northern Square; the Gunungan procession follows shortly. A similar ceremony involving the palace guards is the Greberg Besar Ceremony.
A third popular religious festival is the annual Sekaten or Garebeg Ceremony, which is the celebration Prophet Muhammad’s birth.
Other major festivals are manifestations of the unique Javanese culture, such as the Labuhan Ceremony, which is performed at Parangkusumo beach for the welfare of the sultan and the Yogyakarta people; the annual Pitcher Filling Ceremony held at the Imogiri Royal Cemetery to express the locals’ thankfulness to God for providing man with water; Art Festival, an important festival that features children’s photos and drawings, art performances, folk dances, Javanese poetry, music, puppet shows, lantern contests, and artworks by local artists; and finally the Tanggap Warsa Suro or Javanese New Year, which highlights wayang kulit (leather puppet) performances on the beach.
Other annual festivals are the Waicak Festival (celebration of Gautama Buddha’s life) in May, Saparan Ceremony in June, Ruwatan Sukreta in July, and Andong Festival in August. These are just a few of the many local events that take place in this historic city. Experiencing the local culture and festivals in Yogyakarta is very important to locals and unforgettable to tourists.