Visiting the sacred Mount Merapi on the island of Java, Indonesia

On the very first day of my visit to Indonesia, I saw Mount Merapi. We were in the city of Yogyakarta on the island of Java. First of all, we had a fun day walking through the paddy fields. After this, we left to see this volcanic mountain.

Mount Merapi and its volcanic eruptions

Merapi literally means mountain of fire. In fact, it is a volcano that spews lava along with fire from time to time and keeps scattering volcanic ash all around. It appears to be a terrible disaster but it is also life-giving. The lava and ash that come out of the earth’s womb through volcanoes also bring with them a storehouse of various minerals and transform the land around the mountain into the most fertile land. That is why it is not surprising that this area is the most densely populated area on ​​the island of Java.

Mount Merapi Volcano

Mount Merapi, 2911 meters above sea level, is one of the 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia. This volcano keeps erupting regularly. If we discuss some of its past emissions, this volcano had erupted in 1994, 2006, 2010 and 2013, out of which the emissions in 2010 were extremely huge and frightening. Many innocent creatures lost their lives in this eruption, including those who were living in basements to escape the volcano. Due to this horrific orgy, severe warning was followed in this area for almost two months.

The volcanic eruption of Mount Merapi in the beginning of the 11th century is considered to be the reason for the sudden extinction of the ancient Mataram Kingdom of Java. UNESCO World Heritage Sites Borobudur Temple and Prambanan Temple were also buried under volcanic ash at different times.

Contrary to popular belief about volcanoes, the people of Java believe that Mount Merapi is their guardian and protector deity. They believe that it is only because of his blessings that they live a harmonious life with each other. They also believe that before the volcano erupts, Mount Merapi will provide them with prior information and will give them a clear indication that now they will have to leave that place and go somewhere else.

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Legends related to Mount Merapi

The word Merapi is derived from the combination of two words, Meru and Api. Both of these are words of Sanskrit language. As you know, the word Meru means mountain. In fact, it points towards Mount Meru which is mentioned in many Indian texts. Api means fire. The name of this mountain seems very worthy.

It is said that this mountain is situated on the north-south axis where Mount Merapi is at the northern end and the Indian Ocean is at the southern end. This imaginary line passes through Mount Merapi which is said to be the abode of the gods. From there the line goes to Croton which is the king’s palace. After that, it passes through Tugu Yog (Jogja) where the general public resides. Ultimately it meets the sea which points towards nature. If analyzed philosophically, it connects the gods with the king, the king with the people, and the people with nature. This is considered a sacred pursuit.

It is said that with the aim of breaking this sacred geographical belief, the Dutch had built a railway line here, cutting this trail. But the roots of these beliefs are very deep and strong. That is why they still exist.

Java residents believe that when the gods created the earth, the island was not balanced due to Mount Jamurdipo (Jambudwip?) being located at the western end of Java Island. To maintain its balance, he ordered Mount Jamurdipo to move to the center of the island of Java where two mythological characters, the weaponsmiths Empu Rama and Empu Permadi, were already residing with their kingdom. Even after receiving a warning from the gods, both of them did not surrender that place. In anger, the gods placed Jamurdipo mountain on top of them.

Therefore, people believe that Empu Ram and Empu Permadi reside under this volcanic mountain along with their kingdom and keep spewing fire. According to another legend, in the memory of Empu Ram and Empu Permadi, the name of Mount Jamurdipo has been changed to Mount Merapi, which means fire of Ram and Permadi.

As I told you earlier, the people of Java consider Mount Merapi as their protector and Rama and Permadi as their patron deities. Under this belief, they make offerings to Mount Merapi. Special offerings are made on the anniversary day of the coronation day of the King of Yogyakarta. These offerings are taken from the king’s palace to Mount Merapi. Besides, offerings are also made to the sea. In this way, they try to please both the fire element and the water element.

Sisa Hartaku – Museum of Memories

Sisa Hartaku literally means ‘my remaining property’ museum. It is a residence which is now a museum of memories. To reach this museum by vehicle, we crossed many villages which were cut off from the main road. There were boulders made of lava scattered on the roads leading there.

We entered the Sisa Hartaku residence which appeared to be abandoned. Inside it we saw some skeletons of animals and some fossils. As we started wandering inside the house, I was getting the feeling as if this residence had been in the grip of fire at some point of time. Every item of daily use kept in the house like toothpicks, iron boxes, and children’s bicycles tells the story of the shock and bitter experience when Mount Merapi started spewing fire. Everything was situated in its place but it was not in its original position. Only that part of each object was left which had passed the fire test. There were some pictures in which ancient memories were recreated.

The entire scene there seemed as if the place had been frozen in place since 5:15 pm on November 5, 2010. You must be wondering on what basis I have written this time! There is a clock on a wall there which has become stable at the same time in the intense heat of the volcano.

We all came out of that residence in a very tired state of mind. The mental condition of all of us was sad. At the same time, we all were also aware of the power of nature which can end our existence in a moment.

Bunker Kaliadem

This is a basement that is used to escape from the wrath of the volcano. But it is also true that two civilians hiding in this basement also died when the volcano erupted in 2010.

If the sky is clear then the conical Mount Merapi can be seen from here. Otherwise, most of the time you can see smoke coming from the mountain. A tourist guide may ask you to come here on the pretext of watching the sunrise. But the sun does not rise from the top of this mountain.

The day I reached there, it was raining. All I saw there were different intensities of gray playing with different shades of green. There we had tea at a tea stall located on one side of the road, for which we paid 5,000 Indonesia Rupiah. Surprised? In Indian currency, it is only Rs 25.

On the way you will see a huge rock called Batu Elyon. It means alien human rock. This piece of rock broke from the mountain and fell here in 2010. It appears to be the face of a giant human being.

Exciting jeep ride in Kali Kuning River

While taking the jeep tour, we reached an exciting stop where the jeep is driven in the flowing waters of the Kali Kuning River. This is done with the aim of providing thrill to the tourists. Since we were a large group and had multiple jeeps, we enjoyed this adventure immensely. Everyone was moving hesitantly, cutting through the water on the rough bed of the river. We and our group of friends were thrilled and started making noise with joy.

Mountaineering

Erupting from time to time and spewing smoke, lava, and ash, Mount Merapi has always attracted adventure lovers. There are many tourist organizers here who organize mountaineering to the mountain peak. This mountaineering is organized both during the day and night. The night hike ends at sunrise. My guess is that the landscape would have been extremely picturesque at that time. You can also go hiking till the base camp.

We did a lava tour which included a museum visit, a bunker visit, and an exciting jeep ride in the river. Half a day is enough for all this. After lunch, we left for Yogyakarta and reached there before dinner.