Wringin kurung kembar or the twin trimmed banyan trees enclosed within fences in the center of northern alun-alun of Yogyakarta, circa 1857

Alun-alun (note: correct orthography hyphenated but occurs occasionally without, also found as aloen-aloen, aloon aloon, and erroneously alon-alon) is a Javanese architectural term for the large central open lawn squares common to villages, towns and cities in Indonesia.

Commonly, alun-alun in modern-day Indonesia refers only to the two large open squares of kraton palace compounds.

Each kraton has two alun-alun: the most important and northern alun-alun lor and the less important and commonly smaller southern alun-alun kidul. The court of Pakubuwana in Surakarta is unique as it incorporates the alun-alun kidul within the defensive wall of the kraton proper.[1]

The alun-alun in Batusangkar, Indonesia, 1938


The northern alun-alun lor functioned as the primary and most official entrance to the kraton. Javanese officials and commoners alike had to dismount carriages and horses before entering the alun-alun lor to continue to the kraton. At the two centrally located holy beringin or banyan trees, officials had their payung (ceremonial parasols indicating office), placed down by their parasol valet.

Ordinary commoner Javanese seeking an audience with the Regent would be required to sit and wait under the trees waiting for an official to leave the Kraton and ask their reason for an audience. Dutch officials such as the Resident were commonly received with great ceremony to the alun-alun lor with the kraton soldiers firing three volleys, which would be answered by a twenty-one gun salute from the Dutch fortress, especially between the Yogyakarta kraton and the Dutch Fort Vredeburg[2]

Architectural convention

Strict rules govern the location of buildings surrounding the alun-alun lor. The main mosque must be cited on the west side and hence correctly face east (to Mecca). The official residence of the Regent's "Patih", also Bupati (town or village head) was situated on the North or South. East is generally reserved for shops, markets, or houses of prominent families.

Two enormous Pacikra or Pacikeran doors conventionally separate the high defensive perimeter wall surrounding the kraton and the alun-alun.[1]

The gladak or pradah compound for stables, porters and draught horses was stationed outside the north gate of the alun-alun, presumably for practicality for disembarking officials and to keep the smell of horses and manure as far as possible from the kraton.[3]

Historical function

The alun-alun lor also historically functioned for a place for public corporal punishments and executions. Condemned criminals were publicly executed by krissing (using a keris to stab the condemned from the left shoulder blade downward into the heart) beside the enclosed banyan trees of the alun-alun lor. For especially heinous criminals, most especially traitors and vicious brigands the condemned's head would be impaled on a pike as a macabre public warning [3]

The alun-alun lor functioned and continues to function as centre for public spectacles, court celebrations and general non-court entertainment. The Javanese festivals of Garebeganan and Sekaten great fairs were held here, as they are still held today, with the spectacle of huge mountains of rice exiting the kraton for blessings at the mosque and distributed to the people in the alun-alun lor. Occasionally a social and entertainment spectacle of a tiger and buffalo fight would be held, though from Sultan Hamengkubawana VII onward these were rare, as the Yogyakarta court tigers were incredibly useful for public sanitation as they were fed a diet of stray dogs.[4]

The alun-alun lor was the only place where the Sultan would conduct dialogue with his people, and functioned to show his humanity and humility.[5]

The alun-lun kidul was more of a generic ground, principally for everyday mustering troops or servants and for exiting officials, servants and workers attending to mundane everyday business.

Contemporary function

In modern-day Yogyakarta, the alun-alun lor is now surrounded by shops and malls, frequently holding micro-business stalls and for youngsters to picnic on the grounds and consume their recently purchased take-away (take-out) food.

The Yogyakarta kraton alun-alun kidul has two banyan trees in the centre famed, according to local folklore, to bring good luck to skillful enough to navigate their way between them without mishap, blindfolded and today on Friday and Saturday nights, youngsters boisterously pursue this fabled luck.[6]

Alon-alon errata

The transliteration of "alon alon" is erroneous Javanese. Possibly the accent of the Javanese speaker confused the scribe. The definition of alon alon is to progress slowly or cautiously, and well-known within the modern Indonesian public sphere as the phrase "alon alon asal kelakon": "slowly and surely as long as it's [sic: task] done"- humorously amended to the very popular contemporary "alon alon asal kelakson": "slowly as long as you beep the horn" referencing Jakarta's infamous gridlock traffic.[7]

Further reading


  1. 1 2 Studies in Indonesian archaeology, By Willem F Stutterheim, Netherlands Institute for International Cultural Relations and M. Nijhoff 1956, 158 pp, p. 102
  2. Cephas, Yogyakarta: Photography in the Service of the Sultan, G. J. Knaap, Yudhi Soerjoatmodjo, KITLV Press: 1999, 136 pp, ISBN 90-6718-142-0: p. 3
  3. 1 2 Java and modern Europe: ambiguous encounters, Ann Kumar, Routledge 1993, 472 pp.: ISBN 0-7007-0433-7, pp. 319–320, 360
  4. 'Karaton Surakarta: A Look Into the Court of Surakarta Hadiningrat, Central Java By Paku Buwono, A. Mutholi'in Marshall Cavendish Edition 2006: 411 pages, ISBN 981-261-226-2, pp. 22–31
  5. The Kraton: Selected Essays on Javanese Courts, Stuart O. Robson and Rosemary Robson-McKillop, KITLV Press, 2003, 397 pp, ISBN 90-6718-131-5, pp. 20, 42
  6. Indonesian's Culture Heritages Portal.
  7. The Making of a Bureaucratic Elite: The Colonial Transformation of the Javanese Priyayi, Heather Sutherland: 182 pp.

External links

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