Royal wedding in Java
Royal wedding in Java Reuters

Seventy-five hundred miles away from Buckingham Palace, another royal wedding took place that most of the world probably was not even aware of. On the densely populated island of Java in Indonesia, Kanjeng Pangeran Notonegoro married Gusti Kanjeng Ratu Hayu, the fourth daughter of Sultan Hamengkubuwono X, at the Yogyakarta Palace in a three-day ceremony that attracted thousands of people and guests.

The nuptials concluded with the “ijab qobul” (an Islamic wedding ceremony) held at the Panepen Mosque of the royal palace. The bride’s father, Sultan Hamengkubuwono X, who is also who is also Yogyakarta governor, conducted the ceremony himself. One of the many traditions observed in the wedding (which certainly would not have happened in the West) involved the bride washing the groom’s feet as a gesture of her devotion to her husband. Witnesses included Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and First Lady Ani Yudhoyono. About 3,700 total guests, including 60 journalists, attended.

Djoko Suryo, a historian at the Gadjah Mada University-Yogyakarta, told the Jakarta Post that for a sultan, “the mosque is a place to surrender to God. That’s why it was chosen for the ijab qobul ceremony although the building itself is quite small.”

Thousands of people lined the streets to watch 12 horse-driven carts carrying the royal couple for their public appearance. “This is a rare moment that does not happen frequently. It’s all right for me to skip work for the sake of the parade,” a local resident named Yanto told the Post.

Yogyakarta is a very unusual part of Indonesia – the so-called “Special Region of Yogyakarta” (in the center of the island of Java) operates as a separate administrative entity governed by a monarch who traces his ancestry back to the mid-18th century. After Indonesia gained independence from the Netherlands in 1945 and became a republic, the Yogyakarta region gained a “special status” largely as a reward for the efforts by the then-sultan, Hamengkubuwana IX, in the independence movement. The Hamengkubuwono line is considered by the Javanese people to be the true heirs of the Second Mataram Kingdom, which ruled Java since the late 16th century, and of the even older Majapahit Empire.

The current sultan, Hamengkubuwono X, was the first member of his dynasty to end the practice of polygamy and concubines, in accordance with his father’s wishes to modernize the royal family. His wife is the Queen Consort Gusti Kanjeng Ratu Hemas.