Address : sebelah Selatan/belakang Keraton Yogyakarta Kecamatan Keraton, Kota Yogyakarta
The existence of a main square in a town, generally called town square, is a must and is inseparable with the government system in Java. Town square becomes one of the important parts in Macapat urban development introduced by Wali Songo, the nine saints who spread Islam in Java. The system requires a square inside a town as a gathering place for the people, a jailhouse, a house of worship, and a security center.
The Yogyakarta Sultanate which was one of the Islamic Kingdoms in Java also has a large town square in front of and behind the Royal Palace, respectively known as the Alun-Alun Utara and Alun-Alun Selatan (North and South Town Squares). Each one has their own functions. The north one is a gathering place for people and is noisy, whereas the south one is renowned as a resting place for gods. Thus it is also occupied by many people as a place to ease the heart.
A long time ago, the South Town Square is employed by the royal soldiers for training. The trainings included setonan (riding a horse), manahan (an archery contest in a position of sitting with the legs crossed), and rampok macan (a tiger fight). Apart from a training place, the soldiers also often train their concentration skills there by walking between two banyan trees (ringin kurung) in the middle of the square. According to the myth, whoso succeeded in doing masangin (walking through between the trees blindfold), he had a good heart and his wish would come true.
Today, the soldiers no longer train in the South Town Square. Such an open area changes the function to a public space and an entertainment zone for the people. Every day it is crowded by many people of different ages. There are women bringing about their kids to enjoy the afternoon, aged men jogging round the square, and the young playing about, chattering, or carrying out masangin.
Despite the change in function, at least one does not change, that it remains a place to ease the heart for the people of Yogyakarta who every now and then are weary and tired of their routines. At least visiting the square and watching people’s activities there may bring you peace.
As one of the landmarks in Yogyakarta besides Tugu, Malioboro, Kraton, and Tamansari, the South Town Square is absolutely a favorite destination for tourists. As for the expatriates who stay or study in Yogyakarta, the square is a must visit place before they return to their hometowns. There are various choices of activities to do there, but the most popular one is masangin, that is walking blindfolded across between the banyan trees in the middle of the square. They believe that whoso could pass through between the trees would get his wish come true. Though many people no longer believe such a myth, they still give it a try for they are curious.
It is not as crowded in the morning as in the evening. In the morning, there are usually women mothering their kids, snack sellers, and students doing sports. Before the dusk, many families occupy the square to bide adzan maghrib. In the afternoon, usually odong-odong and other kids games are in demand. Coming close to the evening, the young and tourists try their lucks by ding masangin or only gather and chatter about on the sidewalks.
One of the things to miss the most in the South Town Square is the atmosphere of mixed people. In the square, the differences of social classes between the haves and the have-nots fuse as one. They fuse in a warm and intimate atmosphere, talk with one another, and sit around at angkringan or lesehan stalls.
Special menus that can be ordered at the stalls include wedang bajigur, wedang ronde, and roast corn. Enjoying the night in the South Town Square and at once watching the full moon will surely be an unforgettable moment. To make the night perfect, as soon as you have enough of chatting with friends, there is no wrong in trying the tandem bike round the square.
Aside from the activities of the people, occasionally the royal people hold a puppet show all night long in Sasono Hinggil Dwi Abad. Moreover, you can see the royal soldiers prepare for the Grebeg Ceremony. In the square, they come together to do the rehearsal one day before the d-day and leave for the North Town Square at the top moment of the ceremony.
As the name suggests, the location of the South Town Square lies south to or behind the Royal Palace of Yogyakarta. It belongs in Kraton District, Yogyakarta City.
Lying behind the Royal Palace of Yogyakarta, the heart of Yogyakarta, the South Town Square is easy to reach from any direction. If you like shopping in Malioboro or hanging around the Zero Kilometer Point, it takes around 15 minutes by cab or horse cart. Later on, you will pass by the former Ngasem Bird Market and Tamansari Water Palace.
Another route is that from southern direction which passes through Plengkung Gading. The public transportation to head for the town square is the bus route 5. It does not precisely stop by the town square though. You have to get off on Plengkung Gading then you walk along the road to the north. No more than five minutes, you will arrive in the South Town Square. The other route is that from the east which passes through the complex of gudheg stalls on Wijilan Street.
If you care to enjoy your leisure time in the South Town Square, you need not pay a bill for the entrance. As for the riders and the drivers, you are charged for the parking.
F. Accommodations and Other Facilities
There are a number of facilities around the South Town Square. One of which is blindfold rentals to do Masangin which costs only Rp 3,000. There are also tandem bike rentals costing Rp 10,000. If you rent the tandem bike for two, you may ride round the square four times. But if you rent the bike for three, you may ride round thrice. There are also mini cab rentals whose rent is adjusted with how many rounds you drive the cab. For children, there are odong-odong and the like with the rent ranging from Rp 3,000 to Rp 6,000.
Besides games, there are also food and beverage stalls around the South Town Square. The typical snacks sold in the afternoons coming close to the evenings are tempura and otak-otak. When the night comes, the sellers of roast corn and roast bread start opening their stalls. You can also drink wedang ronde and wedang bajigur. If you want a meal, you can head for Wijilan Street which is the center of culinary tourism object of gudheg in Yogyakarta.
Text: Elisabeth Murni
Photo(s): Collection of Jogjatrip.com
Translation: Al-Amri Arif Sandy
(Primary data and various sources)