My trip to Ullen Sentalu was unexpected. My friends and I were just wandering around Yogyakarta and did not know where to visit anymore. We just came back from Parangtritis Beach at night and tried to find place to visit for the next day on Google.
After scrolling over and over, we found one place that looked promising. It’s Ullen Sentalu. The name was unique and unusual which triggered me to click the website. Another reason that made me wanted to visit Ullen Sentalu was because it was rated as the best museum in Indonesia based on survey by Trip Advisor.
What is Ullen Sentalu?
Ullen Sentalu is an abbreviation for Javanese sentences: Ulating Blencong Sejatine Tatarane Lumaku which means literally “The light of Blencong lamp is guide for human in their life”. In case you do not know what Blencong lamp is, this is the picture of Blencong lamp. Blencong lamp is a traditional lamp usually used to project shadow in wayang performance in Java.
Ullen Sentalu is a private museum owned by Haryono Family. Haryono Family is still part of Kraton Yogyakarta. Haryono Family donated their properties related to Kraton Yogyakarta and Surakarta to this museum.
Haryono Family decided to name the museum with Ullen Sentalu to represent the purpose of the museum which is to guide the current and future society with history. In this case history of Javanese culture, mostly about Kraton Yogyakarta and Surakarta. The Haryono Family established Ullen Sentalu in purpose to preserve the values and customs of Javanese culture. As one of the inheritor of Kraton Yogyakarta, Haryono Family wished Ullen Sentalu could transfer the knowledge, history, and values of Kraton Yogyakarta to society.
Before going to Ullen Sentalu, there are few things that you need to be aware of. First, your tour in this museum will be led by qualified tour guide. Therefore, you will go from one collection to another collection and the guide will explain the history behind each collection. Usually one guide will lead a group of tourists consisting of 10 to 15 people.
Second, you are not allowed to take any photo of the collection during the tour. They take this rule seriously. When I went there, one of visitors in my group tried to take photo of the collection and the guide scolded her badly. But do not worry too much, in the end of the tour you are allowed to take photo in a designated spot.
Third, Ullen Sentalu is located in Merapi Mountain so the temperature is quite chilly, it is better to prepare jacket or sweater. And it is quite far from the downtown so there is no public transportation passing by. You only can go by car or motorcycle to get here.
What Will You Get in Ullen Sentalu?
The collections in this museum are mostly about the family of Kraton Yogyakarta and Surakarta. (Kraton is palace in Javanese language). You can see the original portraits of family members of Kraton which are rarely shown in public.
Out of dozen portraits in the museum there was one portrait who impressed me the most and it was portrait of Gusti Nurul. Gusti Nurul is the daughter of Prince Mangkunegara VII. Prince Mangkunegara VII was the ruler of Mangkunegaran Palace in Surakarta from 1916 to 1944.
She was famous not only because of her beauty but also her intelligence and talent. At the age of 15, she was invited to dance in the royal wedding of Princess Juliana and Prince Bernard in the Netherlands. And the museum had the portrait of her traditional dance of Java in front of the Queen of the Netherlands. Unfortunately, rules are rules, no photographs are allowed.
Several noblemen and aristocrats of Java tried to ask her to be their wife. Sultan Hamengkubuwono IX, the Ruler of Kraton Yogyakarta, is one of noblemen who wanted to marry Gusti Nurul. But Gusti Nurul refused all of them. The reasons were unbelievably brave and smart. She did not want to become a second wife. Most of the noblemen and aristocrats who asked her to marry were already engaged men.
She knew that she was intelligent and independent woman and becoming a second wife was not the right and wise choice she could make. Then, she married a man of her choice, Sujarso Surjosurarso. Sujarso did not come from noble family as Sultan Hamengkubuwono IX, but he served in military and held an important position. When I saw her photo in the museum, I knew why many people admired her beauty. She is the real definition of beautiful women in Java. I could understand why Sultan Hamengkubuwono wanted her as his wife.
Enough with the short story of Gusti Nurul. Let’s continue to the other part of the museum. Other than rooms and hallway full of portraits of family members of Kraton Yogyakarta and Surakarta, Ullen Sentalu also has several rooms for different collection.
The first room has traditional music instrument of Java, gamelan. The next room is for letters and poem written by family members of Kraton. You also can learn the differences batik (traditional cloth of Indonesia) from Yogyakarta and Surakarta.
Before the last part of the museum, you can see a big portrait of Princess Diana when she visited Yogyakarta. Still in the same room, there was also a big portrait Nyi Roro Kidul. Many people believe Nyi Roro Kidul is a mythical creature who rules Pantai Selatan of Java.
The last part of this museum is a statue depicting the society which is far from the knowledge and truth day by day. This is the designated place to take photo as I stated earlier. Although, I could not take any picture inside the museum, at least I could take photo in front of this wall.
By Ilham Mubarok, ASEAN Correspondent from Indonesia