Several landmarks in Indonesia are extremely popular around the world, and each one has a fascinating backstory. Here are some cultural stories about Indonesian Landmarks that might intrigue you:
National Monument, Jakarta (Monas)
Located at the very centre of the capital city of Indonesia, Monas stands tall as a landmark of Jakarta. This monument was built to honor Indonesia’s struggle for independence and is placed in the very same place where Soekarno and Hatta held the iconic rally. The shape of Monas itself is inspired by a Hindu imagery of Male and Female element, lingga (the towering monolith) and yoni (the cup-shape court as the base) that symbolises fertility and harmonious unity. This Hindu imagery is an homage to Indonesia's old Hindu civilisation. The numbers 8, 17, and 45, the date of Indonesia’s Independence day is also manifested on the monument through different elements, such as its 117.7m height, the 45sqm size, and the ornaments of the gilded garuda that contains 8 feathers on its tail, 17 feathers on each wing, and 45 feathers on its neck. A monument worth recognising as a significant landmark for Indonesia.
Prambanan Temple, Central Java
Being the largest Hindu temple complex in Indonesia, the Prambanan temple is one of the most recognisable cultural landmarks in Indonesia. With its three main temples representing the Trimurti (three main Gods in Hindu), Shiva as the main temple, Prambanan was once used as a Candi Agung or supreme temple for royal and religious ceremonies back in the glory days of the Mataram kingdom. This temple has its own myth that is pretty famous among Indonesians. According to the myth, this temple was built overnight by the prince of Pengging Kingdom, Bandung Bendowoso with the help of demon spirits, to win the heart of the princess of the Boko Kingdom, Roro Jonggrang, who hated him for killing her father in the effort to take the Boko Kingdom. But eventually, Bandung Bendowoso’s attempt was thwarted by Roro Jonggrang’s trickery. Knowing her deception, he was angry and turned Roro Jonggrang into a stone statue as a feature for the last temple, thus completing the temple and Roro Jonggrang’s terms for marriage. What an extreme love story, wouldn’t you say?
Lawang Sewu, Central Java
The name itself means "a thousand doors" but Lawang Sewu doesn’t necessarily contain a thousand doors. It was only a Javanese saying to indicate that the building has many doors. 429 doors, to be exact. Nonetheless, that is still a lot of doors for a building and made Lawang Sewu a unique landmark to the Semarang region. This building was once used as a residence for the Dutch colonial government, especially for Dutch railways department officials. When the Japanese occupied Indonesia, this building was turned into a horrifying prison where a lot of torture took place. But in the post-independence era, Indonesia tried to reestablish the building as the headquarters of the national train company. Now, the building is a tourist attraction and serves as a museum.
Jam Gadang Bukittinggi, West Sumatra
Jam Gadang, or the Clock Tower, is a proud possession of the Bukittinggi region. It immediately stole everyone’s attention after it was built and became a landmark as it was considered as the epicenter of Bukittinggi. The Clock Tower is a gift from Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands to the region’s secretary, Rookmaaker. It was designed by Bukittinggi’s architect named Jazid Radjo Mangkuto and it was said to have been made purely without any metal frame and cement, only a mixture of chalk and sand. Some even say it contains egg yolk as the binding agent. The clock's roof has been changed three times. In the beginning, The Clock Tower’s roof was a rounded shape with a weathercock on top of it. During the Japanese era, it changed into the form of a pagoda. After independence, the roof was replaced again into the shape of gojong, the Minangka traditional roof, Rumah Gadang, as part of the local culture. Thus its name Jam Gadang was born.
Tana Toraja, South Sulawesi
The home of the Torajans, Tana Toraja, is a land of culture. Being the second most visited place in Indonesia after Bali and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this place offers a lot of cultural experience to travelers such as the magnificent design of their traditional house or their unique burial system. Their traditional home has a unique roof that resembles the prow of a boat called tongkonan. But what makes this place interesting is the one of a kind burial system. The Torajans have a traditional belief called Aluk To Dolo, and in that belief, death is an essential thing in one’s life. Usually, when a Torajan dies, they believe that the person's death is not immediate, they are just sick and waiting for a particular time of year to be buried with a mass of buffalo and pig that have been sacrificed. Until then, the deceased body remains in the family home. The burial itself is unique. They place the deceased into a carved out cave burial site of the family's ancestors and puts a real-life effigy know as Tau Tau in the small viewing box in front of the burial site to watch over it. Surely a landmark you'll never forget.