Kota Gede has been famed as the hub of Yogya''s silver industry since the 1930s. But this quiet old town, which is now a suburb of Yogya, was the first capital of the Mataram kingdom, founded by Panembahan Senopati in 1582. Senopati is buried in the small mossy graveyard of an old mosque to the south of the town''s central market. You can visit Kota Gede, but be sure to wear conservative dress; on days when the tomb is closed there is little to see here.

Jl Kemasan, the main street leading into town from the north, is lined with busy silver workshops. Most of the shops have similar stock, including hand-beaten bowls, boxes, fine filigree and modern jewellery .

Kota Gede is about 5km southeast of Jl Malioboro. Catch bus 4, a becak or cycle there; it is flat most of the way.

Kotagede was previously a forest named Mentaok, to the east of Gajah Wong River. During the last quarter of the 16th century, the ruler of the Islamic Kingdom of Pajang, about 100 kilometers to the east of this site, awarded the forest to Ki Ageng Pemanahan, one of his courtiers who successfully put down a rebellion. Pemanahan opened the forest with his son Danang Sutawijaya, who was also an adoptive son of the ruler. A settlement was established and was named Mataram as Pemanahan himself was called Ki Gedhe Mataram, "the Lord of Mataram".
Ruins of the inner wall of Kotagede.

After Pemanahan''s death in 1575, Danang Sutawijaya announced himself king of Mataram with the title of Panembahan Senapati Ingalaga, "the Lord to Whom Obeisance is Paid, Commander in the Battlefield." He expanded his territory by conquering some major parts of Java, including Pajang, the capital of his adoptive father. The small town became the capital of Mataram and perhaps since then it was dubbed Kotagede, "Great City". During this time the town was fortified with walls. The western wall was built along Gajah Wong River, channeled to water the moats on three other sides of the fort.

To successfully govern a territory, Senapati also established alliance with supernatural power by performing austere meditation. According to Babad Mangkubumi, while performing a meditation on a stone in the middle of a river in between mount Merapi and the Indian Ocean, a gigantic mythical fish named Tunggulwulung offered Senapati a ride to venture south of the ocean where the most powerful spirit of Java governed the netherworld, named Kangjeng Ratu Kidul. Overwhelmed by the aura of Senapati, the queen offered support for his great efforts to conquer the people of Java. She even presented herself to be his consort, as well as to all his reigning descendants, up to present.


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