The sultans of Java

Jogjakarta has a sultan. I don't pretend to understand what this means, but here are some facts I've gathered that I think are at least mostly right:

  • Both Jogja and nearby Solo have Sultans. Both towns have a history of royal houses dating from when Dutch colonizers split the Javanese kingdom of Mataram in 1746 after several Wars of Succession.
  • Two hundred years later, when Indonesia was winning its independence, the sultan of Solo sided with the Dutch but the Jogja sultan supported the revolutionaries.
  • Consequently, while the Solo sultan is strictly a ceremonial figure, the Jogja sultan technically owns all the land in the city, and has traditionally has had other broad political and religious powers, like being head imam at the city mosque.
  • The first sultan of Jogja was Prince Mangkubumi, and he built this spacious, low-slung kraton (palace) downtown in 1755, where gamelan orchestras play for tourists and well-connected citizens hold honorific roles.