(Touring the Motherland Series)
As part of the Majapahit Empire in the 13th – 16th century, Surabaya and its surrounding area in East Java province has much history to tell. About 35 miles south of Surabaya, nearby Trawas, Mount Penanggungan stands keeping hundreds of historical monuments left by the kingdom. East Javanese in Majapahit era embraced both Hindu-Buddha spirituality and considered the mountain to be sacred. Hence the places of worship built all over Penanggungan. So when my guy and I heard about an archaeological trail being developed on the mountain by University of Surabaya, we immediately signed up for a short day-hike.
The distinct profile of Penanggungan, with its cone shape, rounded summit as the center, and the small hills that looked like they sat symmetrically circling the mountain’s shoulders, made a majestic backdrop. By mid morning, we joined a small group to hike through the woods up to the mountain. The rocky and grassy trail turned muddy and slippery after the rain. It made ascending and descending on the short distance route we chose to be quite challenging. I think all five of us must have slipped at least once (and many times for me!).
The two ancient ruins we saw, Selo Kelir and Telong Blandong, looked like gigantic terraces that made up one big temple for spiritual ceremonies. The consultant explained that most artifacts at the ancient sites all over the mountain have been stolen. Archaeological theft is such an unfortunate reality and a real challenge in history preservation effort.
Overlooking a stretch of lush green valley, the view from the top of Telong Blandong was nothing short of spectacular. The fog set in as we started to descend slowly. We passed a spring on the way back. The smell of incense burning along the weir added a mystical feel to the experience.
I’ve always been fascinated by Penanggungan ever since I was little. Little did I know that behind its beauty lies mystical and rich cultural history of East Java. Penanggungan’s charm didn’t disappear with the fall of the Majapahit empire. It continues to allure people to admire its magnificence closely on its wild slopes or from afar. Either way is a treat for the soul.
Other historic places we visited while in Trawas:
Thanks for reading! Hoped you enjoyed it.
More articles on the archeological trail and East Java’s history from various sources:
A special thanks to Pak Kus and Mas Ronald at UTC
Photos by The Traveling Chili Pepper and friends