Exploring an ancient royal retreat in Cirebon

The Meditation Spot: Peteng caves complex is the biggest cave complex in Sunyaragi. The cave was encircled by a pool and Perawan Sunti statue is the entrance. 

Last month, I was expecting to explore a cave with its dark rocky tunnels and its other typical features, yet I found a different experience when I entered the Sunyaragi Cave in Cirebon, West Java.
The interesting structure was encircled by a carpet of green grass and it looked like a combination of coral, canals, rocky resting huts, gapura (narrow towering gates) and caves.

As I explored further and talked with local guides, I found out that the entire site of Taman Arum Sunyaragi was not just some odd structure in the corner of the city, but was actually a historical place built over 300 years ago dedicated for a local sultan and his wives.

The cave itself was divided into two sections; the pesanggrahan rest area and the maze-like tunnels. In the rest area there was a porch, bed room, bath room and prayer room. While inside the tunnels there were meditation rooms .

It was a local Sultan, Pangeran Emas Zaenul Arifin who started building the site in 1536, at that time the place was intended for meditation and physical training activities.
There were only six caves then, the Pengawal Cave, Pawon Cave, Lawa Kompleks Cave, Peteng Cave, Padang Ati Cave and Kelanggengan Cave.

As time went by, another sultan the Sultan Sepuh II made some expansion to the site in 1703, he constructed three more caves called the Arga Jumut Cave, Bale Kambang Cave and Mande Beling Cave. However, Sultan Sepuh still used the sites for its original purposes.
In the following years during the era of Sultan Sepuh V, there were changes regarding the function of the place.

In addition to the construction of three more caves with the assistance of Chinese architects, the sultan used the site for leisure purposes.
A feast for eyes: the rocky caves in Sunyaragi with the green grass area become a feast for my eyes. I can enjoy all the view that rarely seen in a big city.
Meanwhile, during the Dutch colonial era in 1787, the site was used as a covert base for insurgencies against the Dutch and again during the Java War of 1825-30. Apparently the cave was bombed by the Dutch because the Chinese architect informed the Dutch about the place.

These days, the site functions as a recreational facility where it has a big pool and garden around the area. Most of the structures in Taman Arum Sunyaragi were designed in classic Hindu and Javanese architectural style. These architectural styles can be seen in the Pesanggrahan section as well as its guard tower in Peteng complex and in the Bale Kembang.

Nevertheless, the biggest and the most attractive cave in Sunyaragi is the Peteng cave complex. It is a pool and it looks like a composition of the rocks with many holes.
The Taman Arum Sunyaragi cultural and historical site is located nearby the ring-road of the Cirebon just few kilometers from the center of the city.

It is easily reached by pedicab and it will be wise to ask a guide in Pesanggrahan to take you around the area and describe the whole history, names and functions of Sunyaragi Cave.

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(Photo by Edna Tarigan)

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