Tugu monument is a well-known monument in Yogyakarta. However, what people see today at the intersection of Sudirman and Mangkubumi streets north of Keraton is not the original Tugu Monument. The original structure was built by Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono VI in 1755 in direct alignment with the nearby Mount Merapi and the Keraton (or Kraton, the sultan’s royal palace). The ancient Javanese believed that forming this axis gave the monument special powers. Meanwhile, the Keraton also supposedly possessed special spiritual significance as it stayed aligned with the monument, which of old is a phallic symbol. Tugu Monument was built to commemorate the establishment of the Ngayogyakarta Sultanate, or now simply called Yogyakarta.
Located on southwestern Central Java, Yogyakarta is Indonesia’s prime tourist destination for its unique and natural collection of heritage sites and historical landmarks. Some of the leading structures often visited by tourists are the Kraton Royal Palace, Benteng Vredeburg Fort, Tama Sari Water Castle, Kotagede district for its batik and silver, several museums such as Museum Sonobudoyo, Aircraft Museum and the Sultan’s Carriage Museum, and ancient temples such as the enigmatic Prambanan Hindu Temple and Borobudur Buddhist Temple, both of which belong to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
Another reason why hordes of local and foreign tourists regularly visit Yogyakarta is the people. Communities surrounding the monument and all over Central Java in general are very peaceful and friendly. The locals are very hospitable, knowing that their city is known worldwide as an important tourist destination. Tourists enjoy being greeted courteously and served very warmly when taking a taxi or rickshaw. The metered taxis in Yogyakarta are very reliable, which is rare in most Southeast Asian tourist cities. While bargaining and haggling is common, taxi drivers are not known to take advantage of innocent tourists. Also very evident is the artistry of the people through their local music and dance, intricately designed batik and exotic handicrafts.
It is worthwhile knowing that “Tugu” is Javanese for “column”. This pertains to the monument’s spire with a sphere on top that represents the universe. Originally, the spire had a protective golden cylinder. Tourists pass by this otherwise humble monument since Yogyakarta is a tiny city. Tugu Monument is difficult to miss. It is near the Tugu train station, through which tourists traveling by land from Jakarta and other parts of Indonesia come in. To the south of the monument is the Pangeran Mangkubumi Street, which becomes the famous Malioboro Street. This is the shopping Mecca of Yogyakarta, and it is never without a crowd of locals and tourists haggling, buying, eating, and just immersing in local culture. The streets are ornately decorated with lamps and mini parks. During the construction of the original Tugu Monument, Malioboro Street used to be a defense base against the advancing Dutch.
For first-time travelers to the city, there are other important facilities and attractions very near Tugu Monument. Some of the minor ancient temples are nearby, as well as a wide green rice field. The Merapi Mountains create an amazing backdrop at the distance.