Since February 17, 1745, Susuhunan Pakubuwono II and his family had occupied the new palace or karaton located along the banks of Solo River, the longest river in Java. The former karaton in Kartosuro (10 km west of Solo) had been abandoned due to severe damages. It was not a proper karaton for the Susuhunan (king) anymore, after being ransacked on 1742 by the invaders. Pakubuwono II with all his family and subordinates made a day long royal procession from Kartosuro to Surakarta. The city of Surakarta could easily connected to east Java main coastal centers such as Gresik, Tuban via Bengawan (river) Solo. This 'river connection' was one the reasons to move the palace to Solo. Pakubuwono means 'center of the world' (paku : nail, buwono : the world).

The king sat on his royal wagon, Kyai Grudo escorted by high ranking officials, troops, regalia carriers, bringing the pusakas (heirlooms) and other important things to be used in his new palace. The convoy includes also the sacred gamelan, waringin (Banyan) trees, horses, elephants and a special chamber Bangsal Pengrawit. Upon arrival at the new karaton, he announced that starting from today the capital city of the kingdom was Surokarto Hadiningrat (suro : brave, valiant - karto : prosperous - Hadi : great, precious - rat : state).

Coming from the north side of Jalan Slamet Riyadi through a thoroughfare (gladak), a visitor arrives in the North Square (alun-alun Lor). In the center of Alun-alun, there are two waringins (Banyan) trees symbolizing protection and justice.

The throne hall Sasono Semowo or Pagelaran faces the square. In the old days, it was from this hall, the Susuhunan or king delivered his massage and received report from his government read by his Patih (chief minister). Further south, several steps up, there is the Siti Hinggil (high ground) where the GAREBEG ceremonies started (in separate article: garabeg in Solo and Jogya).

Passing through the main gate or kori of Brajanala (braja: ray - Nala: feeling) one enters the fort Baluwerti on Kemandungan square. Enter to Sri Manganti, where one has to wait for audience with the king. And there is the main location called KADATON. In the center is the main throne hall Sasono Sewoko, where the king received obedience from his court family and subordinates. It is also a place he practiced meditation (samadi). There is a small Pendopo (hall) called Pringgitan, where leather puppet (wayang kulit) performs from time to time. Next to Sasono Sewoko is Sasono Handorowino where royal banquets are given.

Leaving Kadaton to south, there is the Magangan court, where the court dignitaries entered the sanctum along this route. There is a pavilion of meditation for princes. There is a sacred meteorite on the rear bank of the pool. From here southward, passing the gate or kori of South Brojonolo, then Sitinggil Kidul, one arrives in the South Square (Alun-Alun Kidul) The Palace's elephants and buffaloes grazed here in the old days. Due to the existence of the elephants with its ivory trunks, this place is popularly known as GADING (Ivory).

Taking lessons from Kartosuro Palace, which were easy to be attacked by enemies, the new Surakarta Palace fortified itself.

So, the Alun-Alun was also meant to be a battleground to resist any attack. Several batteries of soldiers were installed in Pagelaran and in front of it (GELAR= formation of troops; Pagelaran = a place where battle tactics are decided). The routes encircling the Alun-Alun are called Supit Urang (Supit-pincers; Urang = crab), symbolizing a tactic to defeat the intruders.

The reserves (of soldiers) were held in the square of Kamandungan, Sri Manganti was a rest place.

In Baluarti, there were rice - barns, arsenal and ammunition depot, and stables for horses of the cavalry and the special garrison of the king's guard (Tamtomo). The palace is also a place of high spiritual meaning of old Javanese faith. As there are seven stairs and seven gates at Candi Borobudur, there are also seven squares at Solo Palace :

1. Pamuraan Njawi
2. Pamuraan Nglebet
3. Alun-Alun Lor
4. Sitinggil
5. Kamandungan
6. Sri Manganti
7. Plataran

And Seven Gates (Gapuros) :

1. Gladag
2. Gapuro Pamuraan
3. Kori Wijil
4. Kori Brojonolo
5. Kori Kamandungaan
6. Kori Mangun
7. Kori Manganti

There is Panggung Songgobuwono (panggung-tower ; songgo-to support ; Buwono the world) in Baluarti, a tower with octagonal form. Some believe that it is a place where Sri Sunan (a popular name for the king) continued the tradition of his ancestors to meet with the Goddess of South Seas (Kanjeng Ratu Kidul) at least at the anniversary of his coronation.

West of Kedaton, there is a place called Mantenan, where there was bandengan, a fishpond with gurameh fishes and turtles (symbols of long age of life). In the old days, Sri Sunan delivered the teaching of life philosophy and cleaned his heirlooms. In the high ground he did meditations and there is a mosque - Pudyosono (a place to worship).

Karaton Surakarta as one of the stronghold of Javanese culture is opened daily to be adored by visitors. It has a museum and art galery where some precious collections are exhibited, such as keris (daggers), masks, leather puppets, etc.

At present, the King of Surakarta is Sri Susuhunan Pakubuwono XII.

Arts, Cultures, Rituals and Other Information of Karaton Surakarta Hadiningrat

Media KARATON SURAKARTA (MEKAS), a monthly 'newsletter' published by Yayasan Pawiyatan Kabudayaan Karaton Surakarta

(Suryo S. Negoro)

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