In celebrating the Month of Holy Mary that comes in May and October, Catholics in Gunungkidul will usually perform pilgrimage in a cave. The place of pilgrim is called Tritis Maria Cave. The naturally formed cave with ever-water-dropping stalactites and stalagmites, the karst cave presents tranquility as well as humility wrapped in a natural atmosphere.
Before being inaugurated as a place of pilgrim, the natural cave used to be called Tritis Singkil Cave and famous for its scariness. The cave is indeed situated far from people’s residence and covered with grass and shrubs. For that, the cave was the favorite place of hermits to seek for spiritual inspiration. People say that some princes from Mataram Kingdom once came to the cave to perform meditation.
In 1974, a priest from Wonosari Parish, Hardjo Sudarmo S.J. started to introduce Tritis Cave to the local Catholic people. Some time later, the cave was given benediction by Archbishop Cardinal Darmojuwono S.J. then, with the placement of a praying Holy Mary statue, it was inaugurated as a place of worship and pilgrim for Catholics. Since then, it started to be known as Tritis Maria Cave. The word tritis itself is a term for the sound of the stalactite and stalagmite water drops.
Although today, the cave has been the most visited religious resort in Gunungkidul for Catholics, its condition has not been changed. There has not been any renovations or significant physical changes in the cave, not even the cave ornaments. This is so to remind pilgrims and anyone visiting the cave about humility, that man must value and be grateful to everything God has bestowed them.
The stalactites and stalagmites seem to be a unique attraction in Tritis Maria Cave. You will think you are in a real cave inside. In this cave, you can pray before Maria (Holy Mary) statue. The cave location, which is in the middle of a forest and far from people’s residence, will provide you with an atmosphere conducive for concentration. There is only deep tranquility in the cave, with the sounds of water drops from the stalactites intervening once in a while.
Despite not having a spring like other Maria Caves, pilgrims can still bring home some blessed water believed to have the power to cure illnesses. The water is taken from the stalactites, which is the work of the Creator. The stalactite water is a God’s bless for man. Water symbolizes life and God’s gift which people must be grateful for. Aside from giving visitors spiritual refreshment, the water is also drinkable.
Another form of humility and naturalness of the cave is the altar, which is placed next to the Maria Statue. The altar is made of stones taken from the cave. The seats for congregations are only ragged carpets. But all of those will not spoil your pilgrimage at all.
As a place of pilgrim, Tritis Maria Cave is fitted out with a 1.5 km passage for Stations of the Cross with 14 stations. At each station, there is a diorama of Jesus’ sufferings. And at the 12th station, you will see three huge crosses depicting the time when Jesus was crucified along with two villains. This passage will make you feel as if you are walking on the real Golgotha, for you have to walk up through a rocky, steep, and windy passage on a barren and dry hill. But then uphill, you will likely think that your exhaustion will never be worth as much as the beautiful scenery and spiritual feelings you get.
Tritis Maria Cave is situated approximately 50 km from Yogyakarta City or 28 km from Gading T-intersection, Wonosari. Administratively, Tritis Maria Cave lies in Bulu area, Giring Village, Paliyan District, Gunungkidul Regency, Special Province of Yogyakarta.
There are several routes to get to Tritis Maria Cave. The first one is the main route for tourists from Yogyakarta to enter Gunungkidul, which is through Wonosari Road, Piyungan area, and Patuk Hill. As you arrive at Gading T-intersection, just take the right road heading for Playen District. In Playen, you can continue your trip through Paliyan - Trowono Market - Singkil route. Most pilgrims usually take this route.
Another alternative is through the route Yogyakarta - Imogiri - Panggang - Paliyan - Trowono Market - Singkil. The road to Tritis Maria Cave is in a good condition, but your vehicle cannot take you further than the parking lot. After parking your vehicle, you must take a walk through the rocky, steep, and windy passage to get to the cave.
There is no admission ticket for pilgrims. However, for those who want to donate for the maintenance of Tritis Maria Cave can give their alms to the custodians.
F. Accommodations and Other Facilities
In spite of its remote location, Tritis Maria Cave Complex has some facilities for pilgrims. One of the facilities are the Stations of the Cross route as long as 1.5 km which looks like a terraced passage with 14 stations. Those who do not bring prayer books will not need to worry for they are provided in the cave.
Not only facilities inside the cave, on the outside there are souvenir kiosks and food stalls. Besides, there are people who offer sheltering service for pilgrims while walking up to the cave. In return, pilgrims should give them some alms. Those who are not capable of walking can also hire the litter bearers. For Rp 100,000, pilgrims will be carried in a litter up and down the hill, from the parking lot to the cave and return.
Text: Elisabeth Murni
Photo(s): Collection of Jogjatrip.com
Translation: Reza Daffi
(Primary data and various sources)