Kotagede (also spelled as Kota Gede) is an archeological site within the city of Yogyakarta in Central Java, Indonesia. Yogyakarta (also known as Jogjakarta or Jogja) is one of the oldest cities in Indonesia and is popularly known as the country’s center of Javanese art and culture. Its most important tourist attractions are ancient structures and monuments, including Borobudur Temple and Prambanan Temple, which are both included in UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites. Jogja is also known for the Malioboro market, its batik, and traditional puppet shows.
Indonesia has had a long history under the British and the Dutch, and after the Japanese left in 1945, Indonesia finally tasted independence, and Yogyakarta was its first capital city until 1949. Kotagede is an idyllic location that contains the remains of the royal palace, royal cemetery (older than the ancient Imogiri graveyard) and the royal mosque of Mataram. Mataram was the last independent Javanese territory before the Dutch colonized Indonesia. Kota Gede, at one time, was ancient Indonesia’s seat of power and trade. The remaining mosque is believed to have been built in the late 16th Century or early 17th Century. The mosque and cemetery are located within the ancient palace. The site is also known as Pasar Gede.
The ancient graveyard is very important in the modern studies of Indonesia’s history. The graves are silent witnesses to the significance and connections of Mataram with earlier kingdoms. These are pre-colonial kingdoms, therefore they speak much of who the Indonesian people truly are. Within the graveyard’s covered area, the graves are seen to have been arranged according to the genealogy (“silsilah”) of the rulers and their forefathers. The ancient graveyard is now being maintained and guarded by Juru Kunci, which literally means “keepers of the keys”. They are employed by the Yogyakarta and Surakarta palaces. Surakarta or Solo is a nearby city also in Central Java.
The city of Kotagede lost its prestige and power when the Mataram Sultanate moved its political seat to Kartasura, near Solo, and when the Imogiri graveyard was declared as the new royal cemetery of sultans. Ultimately, the sultanate was later split into the Yogyakarta Sultanate and Surakarta Sultanate.
Beginning in the mid-twentieth century until today, Kotagede was and is now best known for its silver. Kotagede is Java Island’s leading maker and producer of silverworks and handicrafts. Yogyakarta’s silversmiths live here, and it is now considered the center of Javanese silver handicrafts. The most popular store is Ansor’s Silver Works and Art Shop. In addition to silverworks, batik trade is also common in Kotagede. There are a number of batik stores that not only sell the richly decorated batik clothing but also allow customers to see how batik garments are made. Some tourists even try their hand at weaving the fabric.
Today, Kotagede is not a city, but simply one of Yogyakarta’s 14 districts. The other districts are Gondokusuman, Jetis, Tegalrejo, Umbulharjo, Megangsan, Ngampilan, Kraton, Wirobrajan, Pakualaman, Gedongtengen, and Gondomanan. Yogyakarta’s fame all over Indonesia for its intricate silverworks and handicrafts is largely due to Kotagede.