National Geographic : 1951 Jan
The National Geographic Magazine drums of the gamelan (orchestra) furnished the music (page 31). Out in the countryside around Djokja men and women worked in the rice fields. Every stage of rice growing can be seen within the radius of a few fields, for tropical Java has no well-defined seasons (page 35). In some fields harvesters nipped the ripened heads with small knives held in the palms of their hands. Elsewhere groups of farmfolk waded nearly knee-deep in water and mud, transplanting young rice seedlings. Farmers scratched dry soil with primitive ox-drawn plows or churned the mud with wooden-toothed harrows. Centuries-old Farming Methods When the huge stone Buddhist temple of Borobudur and the Hindu temples of Pram banan were built on the central Java plain some 1,100 years ago, farmers were probably using the same methods as now. To get to Borobudur, some 20 miles north west of the city, I had to take the long way around. A bridge was under repair. Along the way we met many oxcarts coming to mar ket. Sides of the cart bodies and their big woven canopies are decorated with vivid painted patterns (page 32). At Magelang I saw dramatic results of the 1948 fighting. Most of the large buildings in the city had been damaged or completely wrecked, either in military operations or in the scorched-earth tactics adopted by the Indo nesians. En route we also saw a large sugar mill that had been smashed and burned into a junk heap of twisted girders and broken machinery. I had seen ancient Borobudur before, but again it was a thrill to swing around a curve in the highway and see its terraced pyramid and stone dagobas rising above a low hill against a backdrop of higher green mountains. Trying my legs on its steep stairways and walking around its carved-wall terraces, I ap preciated how grandly the 9th-century Bud dhist artists built. They encased a whole hill top with stone, pictured the life of Buddha in deep carvings, and climaxed the temple crown with numerous Buddhas set in latticed stone shrines (page 30).* Apparently early Buddhists and Hindus dwelt peacefully side by side, for only a few miles eastward from Djokja are the extensive ruins of Hindu-built Prambanan (page 27). Despite the rebuilding necessary to erase re cent war destruction, I saw workers busily reconstructing the fallen stones of ancient Prambanan, a task begun by the Dutch. The job is like trying to piece together a colossal jigsaw puzzle, for within its walled enclosure stands the large shrine to Siva, seven smaller shrines, and scores of small cell-like buildings. Though Indonesia now has its independence, the country is plagued by many problems in its return to peace. There is still unrest among some dissident groups. When I asked to go to Surakarta (Solo), seat of the second sultanate, just northeast of Djokja, I was ad vised not to go. Some young hotheads had taken to stoning cars on the highways. Supporters of the Darul Islam (World of Islam) in the mountains around Garut, in the southern portion of western Java, are unrec onciled. Many young men who fought with the Dutch also roam the countryside, using their weapons to compensate for their unem ployment. In the vicinity of Surabaja, chief city and important naval base in eastern Java, bands of guerrillas were active. During the three years of Japanese occu pation there was considerable dislocation of agriculture. Food was not allowed to be transported from one district to another; each district had to become self-sustaining. Con sequently, lands which grew such export crops as sugar, tapioca, and Sumatran tobacco were turned to raising food. The subsequent struggle between local and Dutch forces not only delayed the return to normal but added to the destruction. How ever, the 1949-50 rice crop of about 6,500,000 tons is almost up to prewar levels. Native rubber production is above prewar years, but plantation rubber is about 70 percent of its normal amount. Because of large postwar investments of for eign capital to rebuild oil installations in Borneo and Sumatra, oil output is the highest ever. In 1949 the yield of crude oil was43,206,000 barrels, and refineries, importing some crude, produced 47,531,000 barrels. Bali Seems a World Apart It is a flight of only 1 2 hours from Sura baja to Denpasar, on the island of Bali. Most of the flight is over land, for, geographi cally, Bali has escaped being attached to Java by only a little more than a mile-wide span of sea. This has been an important, if narrow, water gap. Crossing it, I felt I had reached a dis tant land and a different age. From the 13th to the 16th centuries, when Islam swept over Sumatra and Java, its influ * See "Postwar Journey Through Java," by Ronald Stuart Kain, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, May, 1948.