Thu, 08 May 2003

Places of interest in Banten

Should you want to take some time off to visit Banten, here are some points of interest:

* Keraton Surosowan

Located 10 kilometers north of Serang city, the keraton was constructed during the time of Sultan Maulana Hasanuddin (1552- 1570). Sultan Maulana Yusuf (1570-1580) enforced the approximately 3.8 hectare keraton with a surrounding wall from brick and coral. A moat also used to surround the keraton experts say. The keraton was destroyed in the attack by the Dutch in 1808.

Remains of the keraton can still be found, including its foundation, walls, gateway, and the remains of royal pools, the result of years of archaeological excavations on the site.

Interesting to note is the terracotta water pipes leading to the royal pool, Pancuran Mas (golden fountain), from the man-made Tasik Ardi lake some two kilometers south west of the keraton.

For the water in the Pancuran Mas to be clear and fresh, water from Tasik Ardi was filtered three times through pengindelan abang (red filter), pengindelan putih (white filter), and pengindelan mas (gold filter). Remains of the three pengindelan could still be seen, evidence of an ancient water filtering system.

* Speelwijk fort

Constructed in stages beginning in 1685 on top of the northern part of the old Banten city wall, facing the sea, by the Dutch and named after governor general at the time, Cornelis Janszoon Speelman (1681-1684).

The fort was used to protect the interests of Dutch in trade, politics and military.

Today, parts of the massive four-sided walls are still visible together with the remains of its fortified towers, or bastions, at each of the four corners.

An underground room with slits, enough for guns, overlooking what used to be the sea also remained, as well as ruins of underground cells.

A kerkhof or Dutch cemetery can be found close by for Europeans who died in Banten.

* Banten Great Mosque

Construction of the Great Mosque, west of Keraton Surosowan, began in 1566 during the reign of Sultan Maulana Hasanuddin (1552-1570). It was traditionally expanded and renovated during the reigns of the following sultans.

The mosque complex comprise of the actual mosque, the Tiyamah building, mosque tower, and cemetery.

In its time, the mosque was the center of the spread of Muslim influence in the region, and Muslim clerics used to convene at the mosque's Tiyamah building to discuss religious issues.

Both the Tiyamah building and the mosque tower was the work of Dutch architect Hendrick Lucas Cardeel who was invited to strengthen Surosowan by Sultan Abu Nashr Abdul Qahhar (Sultan Haji) (1680-1687).

The mosque tower's architecture is the only one of a kind in Indonesia and has become the symbol of the province.

* Avalokitesvara Chinese Temple

The focal point for Chinese devotees everywhere for Chinese New Year, the Avalokitesvara Chinese Temple is one of the few remaining evidences of Chinese influence in the area.

The temple was built in the town's Pecinan (China town) area, just west of Speelwijk fortress in the 17th century.

* State Building

The State Building, facing the Serang town square, was built from the material taken from Keraton Surosowan, according to Endjat based on some archaeological excavations in the area.

"We opened a test-pit on the grounds once and found some terracota and teak wood that we believed once belonged to Surosowan," he said.

At first the building was used as office of the head of the Banten residency, the first of which was J. de Bruijn WD between 1817 and 1818. From 1974 it was used as the office of the assistant governor for Banten region, and finally as governor's office when the region became a province in 2000.

The State Building was built in the Indisch architectural form, eastern architecture influenced by Dutch architecture, believed to have been built at around 1814 by an unknown architect.

* Serang Police Building

Also located around the Serang town square, the Serang Police Building once housed the Dutch Hollandsche Inlandsche School (HIS), and built in the early 19th century, the building remained in good condition.

* Maulana Yusuf Military Resort Command Building

Built in early 19th century, the building was used as the barracks of the Dutch military police.

Little is known of the building because it is under strict control of the military.