The first sultan of Yogyakarta started his reign on a Thursday, in February of 1755. His honorific name was Ngarsadalem Sampeyandalem Hingkang Sinuhun Kangjeng Sultan Hamengkubuwono, Senopati Ing Ngalaga Ngabdurrahman Sayidin Panatagama Kalifatulah, Hingkang Jumeneng Kaping I, but was mercifully abbreviated to Hamengkubuwono I.
Conveniently, all subsequent sultans share this honorific with the appropriate numeral suffix, of course. As such, the current sultan is Hamengkubuwono X. He reports to the Indonesian president.
But let’s go back to Numero Uno. Hamengkubuwono I built himself a private underground mosque where he could raise praise to Allah several times a day, far from the eyes of his subjects or the merciless rays of the equatorial sun.
He also built himself a water palace, a huge spa reachable only by boat through an underground flooded tunnel. The water palace is now open to anyone who buys a ticket, the water from the tunnel long drained.
I walk the tunnel, like the commoner I am. The sultan withheld the privilege of walking in his footsteps, simply because there are no footsteps. His feet floated serenely in the safety of his no doubt gilded boat.
The water palace has three pools, one for the sultan’s children, one for his wives, and a private one for the sultan himself. It has a tower to observe the frolicking below, a sauna, and various other rooms meant to sustain the sultan’s aquatic lifestyle.
Hamengkubuwono I had 40 wives. If you think that’s excessive, so did his subjects, and over generations, the numbers dwindled. Hamengkubuwono II had only 10. The current sultan has one. That’s in line with the general mores and the laws of modern Indonesia. He does not have a private mosque either, he prays in the public one around the corner from his house. I hear he does have a pool, but I’m willing to bet it’s no water palace.
The sultan is of retirement age now, and in a predicament not uncommon for his cast. His wife gave him five daughters and no sons, so the next ruler will probably come from his younger brother’s family. In his dreams, he may have visions of floating in a gilded boat to the water palace where forty fragrant wives splash about and braid each other’s hair. All swooning at the opportunity to give him a son.
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