Situated on Jalan KS Tubun, Central Jakarta, Indonesia, Petamburan Public Cemetery is not only the last resting place of Jakarta residents, but also houses the largest mausoleum in Southeast Asia and the silent witness of cultural diversity in Indonesia’s capital.
OG KHOUW MAUSOLEUM
OG Khouw, whose originally name was Khouw Oen Giok, was the landlord from Tambun, an entrepreneur who owned cane sugar plantation, Than Kie Bank and a philanthropist. He once donated his wealth to Jang Seng Ie Hospital, now Husada Hospital, and 40,000 Dutch Guilders for Dutch Red Cross. Therefore, he earned Dutch Citizenship from Queen Wilhelmina and his name was written in Western style, OG Khouw.
Besides, he was also the cousin of Khouw Kim An, the last Majoor der Chinezen (Major of the Chinese) of the Dutch East Indies and the owner of the mansion called Candra Naya on Jalan Gajah Mada in West Jakarta, which is now a museum.
After OG Khouw’s passing in 1927 in Switzerland, his wife Lim Sha Nio built a 9-meter high-mausoleum made of imported black marble and statues from Italy to keep the ashes of her husband. Designed by G. Racina from Ai Marmi Italiani, an Italian architecture firm, the foundation cost extremely high, about 500,000 Dutch Guilders and finished in 1932.
The luxurious mausoleum even has a bunker below it to accommodate mourners and a room in the middle, which is permanently closed by the family. The last OG Khouw’s family visit to the mausoleum was in 1980’s.
Nonetheless, the wealthy couple didn’t have any children. Therefore, after Lim Sha Nio passed away in 1957 and buried next to her husband, nobody took care of the mausoleum, whose luxury beats that of Rockefeller, the king of oil from the US at that time. Many years of neglection results in vandalism, theft and aging condition, e.g. broken nose on the angel statue in between the tombs, cracked marble inside the bunker and pillars.
And that’s not it. A couple of high school students were also suspected of doing indecent acts inside the bunker. Since then, the mausoleum has an additional metal door in order to avoid similar incident.
Nowadays, Petamburan public cemetery management and Love Our Heritage community take care of the biggest mausoleum in Southeast Asia. However, both parties still need government support to finance the renovation expenses. If OG Khouw mausoleum is a cultural heritage, government will pay more attention to it, leading to an initiative of the renovation project. One of the reasons why it is not stated yet as the cultural heritage is probably because OG Khouw was a Dutch resident. Too bad.
OTHER KHOUW FAMILY MEMBERS BURIED IN PETAMBURAN
Those days, the land of Petamburan Public Cemetery was owned by Khouw family, who rented it for 80 years. But in fact, only 4 members of Khouw family were buried there, such as Khouw Kim An and his wife Phoa Tji Nio, WS Khouw and Khouw Kok Lie. Their graves are also mausoleums, although not as grandiose as that of OG Khouw.
PUBLIC FIGURES AND BLACK MARBLE INSPIRATION
Black marble used on OG Khouw mausoleum was a “fashion trend” for other tombs. For example, the tomb of notary Djojo Muljadi uses black marble on the entire surface. On the other hand, Ibu Aju Agung’s tomb, the wife of Gunung Agung bookshop owner, only applies it for the name plate.
FROM JAPANESE COLUMBARIUM TO JEWISH GRAVE
If you wander the old complex of Petamburan Public Cemetery, situated on the front side a few meters from the entrance gate, you’ll find more varieties of grave. Traditional Chinese tombstones and European style graves with angel statues are some of the proves of cultural diversity that still stand gracefully and beautifully among modern ones.
There’s also a columbarium housing the ashes of Japanese government officials during Japanese occupation in Indonesia. It is forbidden to take pictures inside and not all visitors are allowed to enter. Each year, members of the staff from Japanese Embassy have a visit to pray for their souls.
From all the graves, Jewish graves are the most uncommon ones in Petamburan with a triangle shape and engraved in Hebrew letters. I don’t think the history lesson in my high school has ever mentioned about Jewish settlement in Indonesia. Those days, Jewish people came to Indonesia for trading. But the locals often wrongly identified them as Arabic people because of their look.
Unfortunately, most of Jewish graves are not treated and and vandalized. Since families of the deceased don’t visit those graves any longer and don’t pay any maintenance fee, they are replaced by others graves. From 25 graves when found for the first time, now there are only 7 left, thanks to the renovation for the sake of cultural preservation. Otherwise, they will be completely gone forever.
I believe it’s time for government to see the potential of Petamburan Public Cemetery as a historical and cultural destination to boost tourism in Jakarta, starting from financially support the preservation of the luxurious OG Khouw mausoleum. Besides, it also diminishes the local’s stereotype about cemeteries as a dodgy and haunted place to visit.