During 1680 to 1745, Keraton (Palace) Kartasura Hadiningrat had become the center of Mataram Islam Kingdom in Central Java. But as the palace was damaged, since February 17 1945, Susuhunan Pakubuwono II and his family moved to new palace located on a village nearby Bengawan River, Solo village. That palace was named as Keraton Surakarta Hadiningrat, that was built in 1743 to 1746. Literally suro means brave, karto means prosperous, hadi means big, and rat means country. So Surakarta Hadiningrat means a big country that is brave and prosperous.
Keraton was a place with deep spiritual meaning. According to Javanese belief 7 is a perfect number, that was why Borobudur built with 7 stairs, 7 gates. Surakarta palace has 7 yards and 7 gates. The 7 yards are: Pamuraan Njawi, Pamuraan Nglebet, Alun-alun Lor, Siti Hinggil, Kemandungan, Sri Manganti and Plataran. The 7 gates namely; Gladag, Gapuro Pamuraan, Kori Wijil, Kori Brojonolo, Kamandungan, Kori Mangun, Kori Mangarti.
There are many similarities between Kraton Surakarta Hadiningrat and Keraton Yogyakarta Hadiningrat. Both of them have thick wall surrounds small passage and inner yard or kraton. They both have 2 big fields, a mosque, and keraton complex as the center. The difference is that Surakarta has no big street on the north and south for parade.
Entering keraton complex, from the front, one will arrive at north Alun-alun (square). IN the middle of Alun-alun. grow 2 banyan trees that symbolize protection and justice. Also a site called Bangsal Sasono Semowo that faces the Alun-alun, that was used by Susuhuhan or king to send or receive message from his men, and read by patih or prime minister.
Further south, then arrive at Siti Hinggil (high place), where garebeg ritual started. Garebeg is a big event held 3 times a year in Islam great days, namely: Maulud, Fasting month and Idul Fitri and Idul Adha. After passing the main gate, Kori Brojonolo, then enter baluwerti yard. Kori Bojronolo was built in period of Susuhunan Pakubuwono III, at the same time when Baluwerti was constructed. Baluwerti formerly was made of bamboo. Literally, brojo means sharp weapon, and nolo means heart. Entering brojonolo, one should the sharpness of heart or in Javanese ‘landeping rasa’.
Before stepping to the gate, on the left and right side, there are two small rooms, Bangsal Brojonolo, resemble room for guards for Keparak Kiwo and Keparak Tengen. Inside Kori Brojonolo, there are 2 rooms as well, Bangsal Wisomarto, that were utilized as guard post for Keparak Kiwo and Keparak tengen. Wiso means poison, and marto means detoxifying, so wisomarto means all the bad intentions should be left behind when entering palace.
Further south, Kori Kemandungan gate located, where there is a big mirror,where people can see their reflections to check how good you dress up, to make sure that one is ready to enter the palace. Also mirror is a symbol of introspection. After that, then Baluwerti yard or Pelataran Kemandungan. Here, there are javanese building with pyramid shape that were used for city mayors to meet king, and also where officials were inaugurated.
One interest thing, there is an octagonal stage called panggung Songgobuwono. Local people believe that that is the place where Sri Susuhunan maintain his ancestors to meet Kanjeng Ratu Kidul (Queen of the Southern Sea), especially on his coronation day.
Walking southward, then arriving at Kori Sri Manganti gate. The roof of this gate has shape like Semar Tinandu, and upper the door, depicts symbol of Java kingdom, Sri Makuta Raja, while on the left and right are paintings of Kapas Pari (cotton and paddy) that represents prosperity. Before entering this gate, a big mirror welcomes, as symbol that one should do self introspection. Sri means king and manganti means waiting, so this place was a place where visitors should wait to meet Sri Susuhunan, and Sri Susuhunan also uses this place to expect his guests.
And finally, Pelataran Keraton, the main part of Keraton. From east to west, there are several buildings, one of them is Maligi, an old javanese building, with pyramid roof, no veranda, 8 pillars building that was built in 1882. Here is where Sri Susuhunan circumcised his sons. Javanese philosophy says that a woman that is going to give birth to a baby should lie with her head on the west, so baby will face the east, where the sun rises. That is why a kid circumsized in the morning, when sun is rising and the kid should faces east. IN the center of Pelataran Kedaton, there is a big pendopo (pavilion) in joglo style with veranda, that is called Sasono Sewoko. Sasono means place and sewoko means facing one direction, God. This pavilion was used by Sri Susuhunan to meditate, contemplate and pray for his people prosperity, also the place where Sri Susuhunan meets his family, people and officials. Other building in kedaton complex is sasono Handorowino, where Sri Susuhunan accept his guests and dine. Formerly, this building was called as Pendopo Ijo (green pavilion) as it was painted green. Other interesting building here is Pringgitan, a small pavilion for shadow puppet show.
Southward from Kedaton, there is Magangan, an area for officials to meditate, where also located a pavilion where princes meditated. Further south, then arrive at Kori Brojonolo, and south entrance of Siti HInggil, South Alun-alun. The street that surrounds Alun-alun is called as Supit Urang (shrimp claw), a tactic to defeat enemies or intruder. The Alun-alun was used for combat against enemies.
When enemies attack, warriors were prepared at Pagelaran, where formation and combat tactic decided, and spare troop prepared at pelataran Kemandungan.For rest area, Pelataran Sri Menganti was utilized.