Javanese sacred places

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Javanese Sacred Places are locations on the Island of Java, Indonesia that have significance from either village level through to national level as sacred, and in most cases deserve visitation--usually within the context of ziarah regardless of the ethnicity or religion of the visitor. The dominant form for many places is a grave, or a place associated with persons considered to have special attributes in the past--like Wali Sanga or Royalty.


The tendency has been for graves to equate to sacred places, but the full range can include (and this list is not exhaustive)

  • Caves (Goa or Gua)
  • Trees, or a group of trees (Pohon or Hutan)
  • Springs
  • Rock Outcrops
  • Remains of old buildings/structures
  • Man made fixed structures - buildings, and ruins
  • Kraton structures are considered sacred
  • Places of rest of Javanese saints or legendary characters

In some areas in Java, the tell-tale sign that a place has been ascribed sacred or special, is either traces of burnt incense (kemenyan) or flower petals.


Common expressions in Javanese and Indonesian for these places are:

Other terms that might be used

  • petilasan - traces - of ancestors.

Although there is no necessary set pattern, and each individuals pilgrimage is a very personal one, even if travelling with a group--there can be a roughly three tiered hierarchy of Javanese Sacred Places.


The graves of national and regional heroes and significant people--either of distant historic nature (the graves of the Wali Sanga or Islamic Saints of Java), or of more recent dates--national heroes of the last 100 years or so, and leaders and 'special people'.

Some examples:


The graves and sites related to regionally significant figures who might be ethnically or regionally specific, rather than of national significance.

  • Graves of local officials
  • Graves of local families related to the Palaces, such as Yogyakarta, Surakarta


The graves relating specifically to an individual--one's parents' graves, or grandparents' graves. Also sites within the localities of one's birth, or the graves of one's parents.

Natural sites - such as trees, rock outcrops, and springs carry significant folklore, some of which is collected and published.

The Networks[edit]

Considering the population of Java, and the potential to have a wide variation of the significances and networks of places that might be important to an individual, it is possible to think of Java as having a vast network of places that are situated within a complex array of visitations at the time of Idul Fitri that sees roads blocked by eager pilgrims clogging the transport networks of Java.

See also[edit]


  • Roxas-Lim, A (1983) Caves and Bathing places as evidence of cultural accommodation Asian Studies (Manila) 21. pp.107-144