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Jakarta Post

Being a royal servant? It’s all about ‘blessings’

  • Ganug Nugroho Adi

    The Jakarta Post

Surakarta, Central Java   /   Wed, July 13, 2016   /  10:32 am
Being a royal servant? It’s all about ‘blessings’ Blessings – Dozens of abdi dalem (royal servants) at Surakarta Palace in Central Java queue to receive their salaries and Idul Fitri parcels on July 4. The palace spends Rp 65 million (US$4,963) every month to pay the salaries of its 480 abdi dalem. (thejakartapost.com/Ganug Nugroho Adi)

Mas Ngabehi Darmoyono, a 78-year-old abdi dalem (royal servant) at Surakarta Palace, could not hide his happiness as he held tightly onto the cash he had just received. In his other hand he carried a bag of basic commodities, comprising 2.5 kilograms of rice, sugar, cooking oil, biscuits and several packets of instant noodles.

Darmoyono, who serves as a gamelan player at the palace, received his two-month salary amounting to only Rp 240,400 ( US$18.40 ) just a few days before Idul Fitri, which fell on July 6. Still, he was grateful because it meant he could give money to his grandchildren for Idul Fitri.

“It’s not much but I’m grateful because I can give my grandchildren money to buy snacks,” he told thejakartapost.com.

Darmoyono is one of hundreds of royal servants at the palace in Surakarta, Central Java, who received their two-month salaries and Idul Fitri parcels on July 4. For the past two years, the grandfather of nine, who has worked as a royal servant for more than 25 years, has received a monthly salary of Rp 120,200. Although it is a very low salary, for Darmoyono, working as a royal servant is not just about money.

“I work at the palace not to look for a salary, but blessings. My children all have their own houses. My wife works at home as a baby massage therapist while I myself offer gamelan reparation services,” he said. 

Nyi Lurah Senuk, a 70-year-old royal servant, shared Darmoyono’s happiness as she received her two-month salary amounting to Rp 380,000. Nyi Lurah Senuk has worked at Keputren, part of the Surakarta Palace reserved for the wives, concubines and daughters of the king, as well as female servants, for 30 years.

Outside of work hours, Nyi Lurah Senuk spends most of her time taking care of her grandchildren. At her age, it is unlikely she could find extra work for additional income.

Despite giving three decades of her life to the Surakarta royal family, Nyi Lurah Senuk has never complained about her small salary and its frequently late payment.  

“Having a chance to work at the palace is something we have to be grateful for. Not all people have such a chance,” she said.

On July 4, the Surakarta Palace distributed two-month salaries and packages of basic commodities to 480 royal servants.

Palace representative Kanjeng Pangeran Haryo Winarno Kusumo said the palace needed Rp 65 million to pay the salaries of its royal servants every month. For this year’s Idul Fitri, he said, the palace also provided 600 packages of basic commodities to royal servants, santri suaran (people from nearby neighborhoods who are invited to attend weekly Quran recitation events) and the palace’s security guards.

“The amount of each abdi dalem’s salary varies, starting from Rp 60,000 to around Rp 500,000. The salaries are paid using the palace’s internal budget,” said Winarno.

Since 2010, Surakarta Palace has not received funds from the Surakarta and Central Java administrations.

Before an internal power struggle between two sons of the late Surakarta King Paku Buwana XII, namely Hangabehi and Tedjowulan, erupted in 2010, all of the palace’s operational costs, including the salaries of abdi dalem, were covered by the Surakarta and Central Java regional budgets.

Each year, the palace used to receive Rp 1.2 billion, of which around Rp 900 million was used to pay abdi dalem while the remainder was used to fund the organization of nine traditional ceremonies at the palace.

The Surakarta and Central Java administrations stopped the funding following the internal conflict, as the palace was deemed unable to properly manage the funds any longer. (ebf)

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