Ratu Boko’s Palace, the Melting Pot of Hindu and Buddha in Java Island

Long before Indonesia becomes the most populous moslem country in the world, Hindu and Buddha were the main religions in the country. Therefore, ancient temples and shrines still remain in several parts of Indonesia, including in Java Island. Ratu Boko’s Palace, however, is one of the Buddha and Hindu heritage performed neither in a temple nor a shrine.

on the way to ratu boko

On the way to Ratu Boko’s Palace

Located 196 meters above sea level, on a plateau of Boko, between Sambirejo and Bokoharjo Village in Sleman Regency, Yogyakarta, Ratu Boko’s Palace is a 160,898 square-metered archaeological site, rather than a grandiose residence with lots of lavishly decorated rooms and portraits of the rulers and their families like many other palaces.

The real name of the site is still unknown, but the locals name it after the leader of Boko kingdom, Prabu Boko, the father of a Javanese folk legend character Roro Jonggrang. At first, I thought that it’s a queen’s palace since “ratu” means “queen” in Indonesian. Nonetheless, in Javanese, “ratu” means “group leader”, without specifying any gender.

ratu boko gate

One of the gates in paduraksa form and ratna rooftop form made of andesite.

One of the inscriptions found on site called Abhayagiri Wihara (ca. 792 AD), mentioned that Rakai Panangkaran built a Buddhist vihara complex called Abhayagiri Wihara, meaning “a vihara on top of the hill free from danger”, located where Ratu Boko stands today, to dedicate his life for spiritual purposes. Shivagrha inscription mentioned that approximately in 856 AD, Ratu Boko became the residence of Rakai Walaing Pu Kumbhayoni during Hindu kingdom settlement, with an additional hilltop fortress used for defense and struggle in later years of Mataram Kingdom.

It implies that Ratu Boko’s Palace was once occupied by the kingdom of Buddha, as well as Hindu, between 8th and 9th century. However, you may overlook its existence since Borobudur and Prambanan are more well-promoted, thanks to their inclusion on UNESCO World Heritage Site list.

Frankly speaking, wandering around Ratu Boko’s Palace feels like being in an amphitheater of Greece, an Apollo temple in South Turkey, Pompeii in Italy or Macchu Picchu in Peru. Though I haven’t been to the latter. Soon after my sister and I walked the stairs of the main gate, the sense of mystery and curiosity began to arise.

Wide-angled view of a (giant) soccer field with scattered relics and ruins made us wonder how each compound and overall architecture looked like when all the stack of stones were still in place. How about the empty spaces among the compounds, what were they?

I let my beautiful mind recompose the old glory and put myself in ancient people’s shoe, counting on a few information on faded signboards caused by continuous sun exposure. Strangely, the only renewed parts are stickers on each board mentioning “Kementerian Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan” (The Ministry of Education and Culture) that actually don’t mean much for visitors.

I realize that vivid imagination is not enough to conclude everything, even though the tour leader may be a good story teller (and we didn’t use the service, so it makes it harder). But still, imagination is one of the ways to enjoy a visit to ancient places that are almost flat to the ground.

Despite that, we chose freedom when time wouldn’t chase us, wandering haphazardly around the site. The only craftsmanship left are stone constructions, some marked with carvings, while organic materials attached, such as woods and straws, are completely vanished. Buddha and Hindu statues, inscriptions, old Chinese ceramics and a golden plate are already moved to museums.

ratu boko ruins

Ruins viewed from the crematorium (Candi Pembakaran)

ratu boko ruins

Remains of the stairs

ratu boko ruins

Floral engraving on the ruins

ratu boko ruins

Ruins in front of the audience hall (pendopo)

ratu boko ruins

Ruins in front of the audience hall (pendopo)


The 3 shrines. The red sign says, “no climbing”.


Wadon cave has a Yoni relief (female genital symbol) on top of the entrance. Paired with Lanang cave, having a  Lingga relief (male genital symbol), both caves are one of the representatives of God Siwa in Hindu religion.

The Barong carving, possibly attached on top of a gate

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floral and fauna carvings

There was no security guards in the area. No fences to separate the archaeological site and the village nearby. In my opinion, you can trespass easily and don’t have to bother paying the entrance fee if you know the shortcut through the village.

The most exciting part, to go down and walk on the narrow paths around the pool complex, turned into an uncomfortable situation when a crazy old man wearing a torn shirt and pants kept following me and my sister, trying to make a conversation with us. For safety reason, we decided to leave the complex before we had a chance to explore any further.

The north and south pool complex are connected with a gate. The north has 7 pools and the south has 28 pools.

The palace does not only offer history of Hindu, Buddha civilization and relics, but also a magnificent sunset view from the entrance gate. Therefore, it is advisable to come after 3.30 pm when it’s no longer too hot, to get everything in a single visit.

Unfortunately, as the sun went down, my camera battery suddenly went dead. In seconds, the “it” moment was gone after my smartphone’s camera was ready. But I was happy enough to see the gradual changing colors in the sky solely with my naked eyes.

Ratu Boko’s Palace is one of the heritage to remind us that differences can actually live peacefully, just like Hindu and Buddha in that era, though it does not always come easy.


Yogyakarta: Candids

Seldom do I take pictures of people while travelling. I’m just reluctant to trespass other people’s privacy and too shy to ask their permission to pose for me. However, I challenged myself to leave my comfort zone, to capture more people apart from buildings and landscapes. I was glad that I didn’t really have to talk too much to capture them, phew!

creating batik

Preserving Legacy (Hery’s Batik Art Center)

Financed by the Sultanate of Yogyakarta, at Hery’s Batik Art Centre, local and foreign visitors are welcome to learn the art of batik for free to preserve the nation’s legacy. The profit from the batik painting sales are allocated for local community who are in needs. A great example of what powerful people should do, especially the nation is getting sick of corruption cases done by government officials.

black bride and groom

Whatever you say, honey…. (Taman Sari)

Pre-wedding pictures has been a must for young couples in Indonesia to immortalize the moment before d-day itself, where chosen pictures will be displayed in the wedding venue. I’m particularly interested in the black bride since black is an unconventional color for bridal gowns. Older generation often associated it with something evil or a bad choice for a long lasting marriage.

Nonetheless, she doesn’t think that way. I believe she orchestrates everything, from the location, chosen gown until styling. On the other hand, her future husband leaves all decisions in her hand.

black bride and groom

Look at the camera, not her! (Taman Sari)

My presence seems to make the future groom nervous and lost his concentration. Suppose she warns him not to look at me, it wouldn’t be about jealousy. Wrong poses prolong the photo session. The sooner it finishes the better it would be as the heat at noon starts to be unbearable.

pre-wed session

Spectacular Skirt (Taman Sari)

Look at the skirt, what an elegance! No further comments!

kids at taman sari

The Kids (Taman Sari)

Once a man-made lake, the alley now turns into a settlement. I find the batik graffiti beautiful. However, the village kids keeps running around and don’t seem to care with what I’m trying capture. In the end, they become the limelight in my picture instead of the graffiti.

for gaza

Peace, Please! (Presidential Palace)

University students’ protest for the endless turmoil in Gaza, especially the recent catastrophic acts by the Israelis against the Palestinians.


Racing with Modernism (Malioboro)

Traditional and modern vehicles often mingle on streets, boulevards, and highways Indonesia, including Yogyakarta. In many cases, the mingle contributes traffic jams in peak hours. When the street is less occupied, they look deliberately side by side to compete on a race track. Although modern vehicles give more comfort and ease, some traditional vehicles are irreplaceable and still widely used in daily life.

dancing at malioboro

Night Entertainment (Malioboro)

Every night, a group of musician at Malioboro performs a blend of traditional and modern music, like disco dangdut, with disco beats background from a cheap sound systemto entertain shoppers and pedestrians. I find it hard to differentiate between one song to another as the beats sound alike.

The real entertainment, however, is actually when shoppers participate voluntarily with funny and silly dancing moves to merry the night. The lady on the left laughs at her friend who dares to do it barefoot. As a reward from her spontaneous performance, she gets some amount of money from the musician.


Lesehan (Malioboro)

Lesehan, that could be described as a dining activity on a carpet instead of on a chair, is an iconic dining experience in Yogyakarta, although there are many more lesehan restaurants in other cities in Indonesia. It’s nothing new for me, actually.

What attracts me the most is the black chihuahua in his (or her) Harley Davidson vest on the right side, next to the blue-sleeved guy, eating a piece of chicken in coconut milk (ayam opor). Nonetheless, I’m very much aware that the picture doesn’t represent my chosen subject.

Instead, it indirectly reflects my shyness in candid photography. I was too reluctant to ask the owner’s dog to capture his pet. Thus, what I got is only a group of young people doing lesehan. After all, human beings are not the only ones who can enjoy the traditional dining activity.


The Ghost (Satan) Rider (in front of Whizz Hotel Malioboro)

This old man always parks his rickshaw beside a shop called “Satan Cell” that sells mobile phone reload cards and some groceries. I find the store name hilarious for a country where a religion has an important role as part of one’s identity. Is Satan his guardian angel? Or his luck mostly comes from “the Satans” (read: Satan Cell customers)?

I did my challenge already, so that’s all for now. May be, next time I should try harder to push my reluctance aside.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Minimalist: Morning View from the Plane

The following is my answer to the challenge on Minimalist:

mountains in the sky

Those who know me know best how much I hate catching a morning flight, especially I’m not completely “awake” and my grey cells are still half-dead. But something happened.

Usually, the flight from Jakarta to Yogyakarta only takes 45 minutes. It’s such a short trip that you sometimes don’t have enough time to close your eyes for a quick nap. Nonetheless, when I was on board, the departure was 15 minutes behind schedule and that’s not it. The plane was taxiing longer than it should be because the air force occupied the airside areas for training. Some passengers slept, listened to the music, chit chatted to kill the time, some just stared at their watch, waiting for the time comes for landing.

Despite the delay, I got something in return. I looked at the window and stunned with the amazing view before me: clear blue sky with the peak of Mount Merbabu on the left and Mount Merapi on the right side, floating on a “fluffy” cloud. I know I wouldn’t be able to see this unless my plane spent another extra 30 minutes to wander the sky.

The next thing I did was to race with the moving plane while capturing the nature beauty before it’s gone. In the beginning, I was worried about the smudged stain on the top left of the window. But thank God, I was relieved that my Fuji didn’t succeed to capture that annoying stain.

Probably it was the best morning experience ever. I’m grateful that I woke up that morning.