Sat, 22 Mar 2003

Originality of traditional house puts it on the map

Heru Prasetya Contributor Yogyakarta

Tourists visiting the inside of the Yogyakarta Palace fortress, also known as the jeron benteng area, will find an old traditional house at Jl. Siliran 1 in the Panembahan area.

With its well-maintained exterior and some 200 different plants around the house, one would not suspect that the house is nearly 150 years old.

"It was 1860 when one of my ancestors finished building it," said Sudartomo, who is a direct descendant of the owner, and is charged with taking care of the house.

Sudartomo said the house was first built by Raden Lurah (RL) Sosrodigdoyo I, an abdi dalem (royal servant) of the Yogyakarta Palace, whose responsiblity was to prepare drinks for inhabitants of the palace. But it was RL Sosrodigdoyo II who gave the house the look it has today. Sudartomo is the fourth son of the late RL Sosrodigdoyo III, who died in 1972 as KRT Kusuma Budaya.

"That's why it was named nDalem Kusumabudayan," said Sudartomo, pointing to a placard printed with the words "KRT Kusuma Budaya". The sign is hung at the front of the house.

From the outside, the house seems quiet with its closed gate and a mere glimpse of the four punokawan (royal joker puppets), characters in a shadow puppet story, which are placed behind transparent glass in a cupboard.

Upon passing through the gate, a 62-year-old man will rush out to greet you with a friendly smile. Even before you can ask your first question, he will proceed to tell you in fine detail everything about the house, including how it was built and how often tourists come for a closer look at it.

"We have received a lot of guests lately, especially after the house was included on the guide map," said Sudartomo, referring to a map on heritage trails inside the fortress, which was published last year.

The 288-square-meter house basically consists of three main separate buildings: the pendapa or hall, the main house and the garage.

The pendapa has the familiar joglo (steep upper section) type of roof and is meant to be a public space where the house's owner used to receive guests of a lower social rank.

The main house consists of a pringgitan at the front, which is intended to be a place for receiving guests belonging to the same social rank as the homeowner. Right behind the pringgitan is a ndalem, a special room used to receive honorable guests of high social rank.

It is here in the ndalem that the senthong tengen (the front room), the senthong tengah (the middle room) and the senthong kiwa (the left room) are located. The senthong tengen comprises the master bedroom and bathroom. The senthong kiwa, which also consists of a bedroom and a bathroom, is for the children or the homeowner's brothers or sisters.

In the senthong tengah, also traditionally known as the pasren is another bedroom where the pedaringan -- or a bed, complete with mattress, pillows and bolsters -- are placed. Unlike other rooms, no one stays in the pedaringan as it is meant for Dewi Sri, the goddess of wealth.

Right in front of the pasren, a pair of dolls representing the traditional figures of Jaka Tarub, an ordinary man, and Dewi Nawangwulan, a goddess in a Javanese folk tale, are displayed. The Javanese believe that if they prepare a special place for the two figures, good luck and wealth will come their way.

"It's regarded as a symbol for maintaining the spirits of the family while they earn a living," explained Laretna T. Adishakti, the chairwoman of the Jogja Heritage Society, which published the guide map.

The garage is near the front of the house on the left. It previously had a stall to keep a horse and a small place to park the carriage.

At the back of the house is an open veranda called the gandri, which was used for enjoying leisure activities. In the past, batik painting was done here.

A separate building called the gandok was built on the left side of the house, and included a kitchen and well, as well as the servants' quarters.

Sudartomo said that during the second Dutch occupation that ended the Japanese occupation, refugees would take shelter in a pendapa (hut), and after Indonesia's independence, it was used as a classroom. There were at least two different schools that made use of the pendapa as a classroom from 1952 to 1960 and from 1962 to 1968.

Apart from a wooden roof that has replace the former bamboo roof and ceramic tiles replacing the cement tiles, the house has been practically left intact.

Laretna said the house had been well-maintained and kept in its original state, which was why it earned a place on the tourist map, meaning it was worthwhile for visitors to take in.

"So far, repairs have mainly been done just for maintenance, and they have not changed the house's original architecture," Sudartomo said.