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Jakarta Post

Separate ascension celebrations highlight crack in Surakarta sultanate

  • Ganug Nugroho Adi/Surakarta

    The Jakarta Post

Surakarta   /   Thu, May 5, 2016   /  09:15 pm
Separate ascension celebrations highlight crack in Surakarta sultanate Nine dancers perform the Bedaya Ketawang during a celebration at the Surakarta Palace main hall on Tuesday to commemorate the ascension to the throne of the late sultan Pakubuwono XII. (JP/Ganug Nugroho Adi)

In-fighting at the Surakarta Palace in Central Java continues with the two opposing camps holding two separate events to commemorate the ascension of the late sultan Pakubuwono XII to the Surakarta throne.

GKR Moertiyah Wandansari, or Gusti Moeng, held a party at the palace’s main hall, Sasana Sewaka, while Pakubuwono XIII Hangabehi conducted a procession at his residence, Sasana Putra. Both claimed their own celebration to be the valid one, in line with tradition.

The rift between two camps widened in 2014 when the traditional palace institution, chaired by Gusti Moeng, stripped Pakubuwono XIII Hangabehi of his sultan title and installed GPH Puger as acting sultan. Pakubuwono XIII Hangabehi was deemed to have ignored the palace institution during a reconciliation process with KGPH Panembahan Agung Tedjowulan in 2012.

At the palace’s main hall, the procession started at 10 a.m. on Tuesday and was attended by around 600 guests. This celebration was presided over by Acting Sultan GPH Puger, the younger brother of his predecessor Pakubuwono XIII Hangabehi.

During the celebration, the guests enjoyed the sacred Bedaya Ketawang dance, a classical dance only allowed to be performed by nine girls in the presence of the sultan. Among the guests in attendance were Gusti Moeng, GKR Koes Indriyah, GKR Timoer Rumbai, KP Eddy Wirabhumi and KP Satriyo Hadinagoro.

“I presided over the procession to follow palace tradition. Even though no sultan was present, the Bedaya Ketawang dance was performed in accordance with the wishes of the late sultan Pakubuwono XII,” Puger said.

Next to the palace,  Pakubuwono XIII Hangabehi also held a party, attended by around 300 guests. In contrast to Gusti Moeng’s procession, no Bedaya Ketawang dance was performed. The celebration only involved the Sungkeman ritual where the people of Surakarta knelt down as a sign of respect and reverence for the sultan.

“The main idea of the party was to have a get-together between the people and the sultan. The people were allowed to pay their respects to the sultan. No other agenda was involved,” said a palace officer, Darmo Soewito.

Meanwhile, KPA Suro Agul-Agul, aka Begug Purnomosidi, from the Pakubuwono XII camp said the Surakarta sultanate remained under the authority of Pakubuwono XIII Hangabehi.

“The procession used to be held [at the main hall Sasana Sewaka], but the sultan wanted to have it here [at his own residence]. That is the sultan's privilege,” said KPA Suro Agul-Agul.

Separately, KPA Winarno Kusumo from the Gusti Moeng camp admitted that the sultan had the right to decide where to hold the celebration and whether or not the celebration should involve a Bedaya Ketawang dance performance.

However, he asserted that the Bedaya Ketawang dance was traditionally an essential part of the celebration and that the dance could only be performed in the palace’s main hall.

“Yes, it was their right to hold a celebration [outside the palace], however, it cannot be considered part of the palace celebration,” Winarno asserted. (dmr)