KGPH Tedjowulan: Reviving the palace of Surakarta
Ganug Nugroho Adi
On Aug. 31, 2004, Kanjeng Gusti Pangeran Haryo (KGPH) Tedjowulan was enthroned as King of Surakarta Pakubuwono XIII by the supreme leadership, or pengageng, of the kraton (palace), inheriting the royal title of Senopati Ing Ngaloga Abdurrahman Sayidin Panatagama Khalifatullah Tanah Jawi.
However, the monarch failed to occupy his own kraton with the enthronement. Supporters of KGPH Hangabehi — Tedjowulan’s half brother — closed all the main doors of the palace and turned away all invitees.
The ceremony had to be held in the residence of a relative of the royal family, BRAy Mooryati Soedibyo, in Kota Barat, some 3-kilometers northwest of the palace. From then on, a power conflict between both camps of the Surakarta sultanate has continued, giving rise to the term “twin kings”, Tedjowulan and Hangabehi.
Eight years after the enthronement, on May 16, Tedjowulan resigned as Pakubuwono XIII and reconciled himself with Hangabehi. He was prepared to assume a new position as mahapatih (chief minister), entitled Kanjeng Gusti Panembahan Agung (KGPA).
“I accepted it with sincerity. It’s for the sake of developing the kraton. The long conflict has neglected the palace. I want to restore the function of the palace as one of the guardians of culture and civilization,” said Tedjowulan.
According to the son of Pakubuwono XII with Retnaningrum, a humble attitude is required to reestablish the declining authority of the palace. “Why should I be the king while the kraton remains uncared for and lacks authority? Now it’s just like most other forlorn and damaged buildings,” he added.
Born Suryo Sutedjo in Surakarta (better known as Solo) on Aug. 3, 1954, Tedjowulan was brought up under strict royal etiquette and traditions. As a crown prince, he had to observe all palace rules while studying religion and the arts as well as being engaged in spiritual practices.
“Who says a prince lives in comfort? On Monday and Thursday, we as the children of Pakubuwono XII had to fast. On Thursday evening we had to perform a ritual of kungkum (immersion) in the water of Solo River, Pengging Creek (Boyolali) and other streams considered sacred,” he said.
Such ascetic practices later forged Tedjowulan’s strong character and steadfastness as he responded to life’s challenges. This personality led him to his training in the military academy in Magelang, Central Java, from which he graduated in 1981.
“After joining the military, I was certainly working a lot more outside the palace, which I never abandoned,” he noted. As a youngster, Tedjowulan was also interested in the history of Javanese kings, ranging from Airlangga, Ken Arok, Panembahan Senopati to Sultan Agung. He used the names of the two Mataram kings for his present title, Panembahan Agung.
“I admire both Mataram great kings very much. Panembahan Senopati was engaged in many battles and conquests to maintain his kingdom’s authority. Sultan Agung was remarkable because he managed to unify ulemas and monarchial power,” he pointed out.
Under Sultan Agung, the Mataram Empire reached the peak of its glory by conquering many coastal kingdoms in northern Central and East Java, West Kalimantan, Madura, Surabaya and Cirebon. At the same time, Sultan Agung gave opportunities for the growth of Islam through wali sanga (nine proselytizers).
“But the only greatest king on Java Island was Pakubuwono X. He reigned for 41 years, achieving his grandeur of majesty without war, enabling him to peacefully put the kraton in perfect order,” said the husband of Ratu Hemas.
The retired colonel described the palace’s current function as the preserver of local customs and traditions, and the repository of cultural items, including literary works and religious tenets. The monarch executes the power of pengageng kraton rather than that of the government.
“Governmental power is now held by the President instead of a king. So, the present king should know the kraton‘s function and its position as an institution that serves the public,” explained the man who once held the post of operation assistant to the Siliwangi Military Command.
The palace is not a center of culture, arts and education as the role has been taken over by colleges. So it must serve the function of preserving art and culture, research and tourism. “But this can’t be done without internal reordering. Its management has to be restructured for proper public service,” he indicated.
Therefore, he added, reconciliation was not merely meant to end conflict but also to open the hearts of royal family members to restoring public confidence, before returning to the kraton’s main function for its revival.
“Along with Sinuwun [His Highness] Hangabehi, I’m going to launch the palace restructuring based on the principles of democracy. We all as siblings will remain unified. I have no grudge against those who previously didn’t support me,” he stressed.
One of the steps he will soon adopt is the setting up of Paranparanata, an advisory agency that will provide input to promoting the palace’s cultural and art preservation. “We will invite cultural experts and artists from outside the kraton and involve competent royal family members as well,” he said.
Tedjowulan said that later on, all members of the royal bloodline would form an organization, Paguyuban Surakarta Hadiningrat, which was expected to further boost the lofty values of palace culture, including the renovation of kraton buildings and the protection of ancestral heritage.
For Tedjowulan, the eight-year internal conflict has been too long, during which the palace has suffered with physical damage, a worsening image and the erosion of public confidence in the kraton.
“People say the prestige of kraton Surakarta has dimmed, unlike that of the kraton in Yogyakarta, which continues to shine so that tourists choose to go there. This hurts us, but nothing will change by merely being offended. It will take good intent and a humble approach to reorder our kraton.”concluded Tedjowulan.
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