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Historical sites
Signs of a disappeared greatness

The only thing that nowadays remind of the lost greatness of the 17th century Makassar are the royal graves, ruins and holy places of Gowa and Tallo. In the 16th century two small kingdoms united into the powerfull Makassarese kingdom which dominated a biog portion of the peninsula until it was beaten by the Dutch and Buginese in 1669.
Gowa and Tallo had their own spiritual center, where kings were crowned and buried, and where the members of the royal family lived in a big wooden palace on pillars. The royal domain of Gowa was the area which is now known as 'Kale Gowa', situated on the little raised area around the berang, south of the city. The domain Tallo was located on the western side of the river Tallo, where the royal graves and crowning stone can still be seen.


The royal graves, the palace and the treasures of Gowa can be reached by bemo from the central bus terminal. Just before the entrance porch of kabupaten Gowa, eight kilometers from the Karebosi square, you can turn left towards a complex with graves of the old kingdom of Gowa (Kale Gowa).
The first complex, on the left side, is the most honoured. Syech Yusuf (1629-1694) was Makassars most important religious scientist. After his return from his philgrimate to Mecca in 1644, he tought the mystical Khalwatiah in Banten (West-Java), married the daughter of sultan Agung, and became the soul of the resistance against the Dutch, which attacked Banten in 1682. In 1682 he was captured and banned, first to Ceylon, in 1663 to the Cape of Good Hope. Ceylon as well as South-Africa are seen as important places for the small islamic communities he visited.
Despite opposition of strict muslems the grave is always visited by people asking him for a favour. However Yusuf is honoured as Tuanta Salamaka ('Our Lord that Blesses'), the grave of his wife - of which is said that it helps women which want to have a baby - gets the most attention.
A little ahead along the road towards the east a sign tells you about the Katangka Mosque that it's the oldest in South-Sulawesi, built in 1605, the year in which the kings of Gowa and Tallo converted to islam. The mosque is surrounded by graves of the royal family of Gowa from the 18th and 19th century. Each area contains a grave of a ruler and his closest relatives.

A couple of hundred meters towards the east a road brings you to the higher land of Tamalate. This is the holy center of Gowa where the palace from the 16th and 17th century is located. On the highest point is a stone on which the rulers of Gowa were inaugurated. The crowning confirmed the relation of the new ruler with the stone as well as the heavenly nymph Tumanurunga, which married with Karaeng Bayo on this place and founded the Gowa dynasty.
Within the modern fence of the mosque you can find the grave of Katangka, and nine big stone graves. They are built in the same way as many islamic graves elsewhere, only much bigger so you can even walk around the room that contains the real tomb. The unique way of building graves tombs hasn't been really studied in South-Sulawesi, however they giver valuable information about the early kingdoms. Because most structures demand difficult ways of construction, and most of them are built in the 18th century, it's accepted that this are newer forms. This would mean that the only domed tomb in the Tamalate-complex, that of king Tunibatta, which only ruled for one month ih 1565 before he was killed in the war with Bone, was built long after he died. Nevertheless it's an intriguing question why this sole pre-islamic tomb is located here.
On common it seems that rulers before the arrival of islam were only buried in earthen hills, maybe with wooden, house-like constructions on top of it, like you still see in Toraja. It's remarkable that Kale Gowa, and in special the area around the grave of Syech Yusuf, which is also known as 'Lakiung'. This is a variety on the Toraja name for the high house in which the aristocratic deceased is kept during the festivities.
A little ahead towards the west, but also to be reached from the road from Makassar to Sungguminasa, you can find another group of grave tombs, dominated by that of Aru Pelakka. He was a great leader in war which united the Buginese and signed a treaty with the Dutch to beat Makassar. When he died in 1696, he was the most powerfull man in South-Sulawesi, but he chose to be buried in the heart of Gowa instead of Bone, where he was announced king. By many Buginese he was seen as the big liberator, but the Makassarese hated him understandingly; his grave was not maintained until the Dutch got there in the 1930's. It's also remarkable that he chose a place near to the grave of Karaeng Pattingalloang (he died in 1654), an educated chancellor of Makassar which was protector of the young Aru Palakka. Pattingalloangs grave is located a little towards the east.

Palace in Sungguminasa

Ahead on the main road is the royal palace of Gowa in Sungguminasa. It was rebuilt in 1936 in traditional style on pillars, with an impressive wooden stairs which leads to a big welcome hall. The rank of the residents can be seen at the wooden boards in the triangle of the roof construction. Accept the architecture, the royal treasury and the regalia (pusaka) are interesting as well. They are locked away however in a room on the left side. If you want to see the treasure you have to ask the bupati for permission. The regalia were seen as crucial for the value and the magical power of the rulers at crownings and other important state ceremonies.
The treasure room is displayed as for a ceremony to honour the regalia, with incense, candles, sacrifices of pinang nuts, food and several spices. The oldest parts of the regalia are closely related with the mythical origin of the Gowa dynasty. The first female ruler, Tunmanurunga, is thought to have descended from heaven wearing a golden crown. The crown is displayed in a central display, together with four golden bracelets in the shape of realistic heads with wide open jaws. One of the snakes has two heads, and all have gemstones as eyes. Another important object, of which is said it came from heaven with the first princess, is a golden chain, I Tanisamanga, which is weighted ritually every year when the council of the raja is there as well. Then the weight had increased, that was seen as a good sign for the kingdom; less weight was a bad sign. Unfortunately this chain has disappeared. Of the three royal swords, the black one is the most holy one. It is said that it was brought by Lakipadada. Following Gowa traditions Lakipadada was the brother of prince Karaeng Bayo, which married Tumanurunga to start the dynasty of Gowa. The spectacular, keris, with golden handheld in the shape of a wayang symbol and gemstones, is Javanese and is related to the islamic sultanate of Demak. It could have been a gift from the ruler of Demak of Mataram on Java at the end of the 16th or 17th century. In the same display you can see arrowpoints, a gold-plated keris two golden cimbels, and three gold coins. In another display you will see the golden jewelry, with among that a necklace which is said to origin from Manila (rante Manila), eight heavy earrings, twelve rings, mainly made from gold with gemstones and six golden epaulettes for ceremonial uniforms. There are also musical instruments on display, like big pajong (rain screens), brooms for the ritual sweeping after harvest and bamboo rattles to announce the birth of a royal baby.


As it was said, the Tallo dynasty started with Karaeng Loe. In the 15th century he was the prince of Gowa, which was working towards founding a kingdom on the strategic location where land had emerged between the sea and Sungai Tallo. In the early 16th century the dynasty signed a treaty with the expanding state Gowa to make the Makassar state into a 'population with two kings' Gowa delivered the king, but Tallo regularly brought a royal chancellor (pabicara butta), he had to deal with the daily state affairs.
This dualism became exceptionally clear between 1590 and 1594 when Makassar was at it's hight of power. The biggest king of Tallo, Karaeng Matoaya or sultan Awal-ul-Islam (which reigned from 1593 to 1636), was responsible for a big part of the islamisation of South-Sulawesi as a chancellor of Makassar. The first official Friday prayer for the freshly islamised royal court of Makassar was held in Tallo in 1605. Because of it's location at sea Tallo is said to be more open to influences from abroad. After the Dutch occupied Makassar in 1669, the Tallo dynasty had to agree with less influence.
Tallo is located along the old road towards the north, three kilometers from the center of the city, along Sungai Tallo, where the fishing ponds (empang) make the old Tallo almost into an island. Since 1977 the royal graves have been restored. The two highest stone graves date from the 17th century. In the neighborhood it is said that the grave in the northwestern corner is the one of the big Karaeng Matoaya, which is honourably named 'the white tiger of Tallo'. More reliable sources however, situate his grave in Gowa. The two graves in Tallo are probably from two of his successors.
Along the coast you can see stone foundations of the big seawall of Tallo, which was built under Portuguese supervision in the 17th century. The total length of the seawall was over two kilometers, which caused the peninsula almost to be sealed off from the river mouth. As well as other reinforcements in Makassar, it was broken down in the 1660's on command of the Dutch. In the old walled area you can find a crowning stone and a source.
The grave of Khatid Tunggal Datu ri Bandang can be seen in Kampung Kaluku Badoa, threehundred meters to the left from a path from Jl. Tinumbu, just before the shrimp factory and Jl. Gatot Subroto. Datu ri Bandang was the Sumatran apostel which thought islam to Karaeng Matoaya, and which is honoured in many parts of South-Sulawesi as announcer of the new religion. The grave itself is little interestiong, but is much-visited as a kramat-place, where spiritual and material favours can be obtained.


Sombaopu ('hail to the master'), seven kilometers south of Makassar, was the strongest of the eleven fortresses which were once located along the coast from Makassar to Tallo. It was the royal fortress along the mouth of Sungai Berang, which served as private residence of the ruler and also the hart of the expanding merchant harbor. A Dutch map from the early 17th century shows houses east and south of the fortress, two huge palaces, warehouses and a mosque in the southwest. Outside the wall were markets, the houses of the residents and the Portuguese and Indian quarters, which stretched towards the north along the coast.
The origin of Sombaopu seems to be a Malay colony just north of Sungai Berang. In the middle of the 16th century a group of Malay merchants was encouraged to settle here by Tunipalangga, the tenth ruler of Gowa. The cronic of Gowa tells how Tunipalangga promised not to enter the Malay kampungs and to free them from confiscation of posessions according to the Makassarese law. Tunipalangga was the one which standardized measurements and distances and which constructed the stone wals of Sombaopu.
The Malay community grew rapidly when Makassar became an important point for collecting spices. The expansion of trade also increased the political power of the southern coast, with military expeditions against Jeneponto, Bantaeng and Selayar. This coast was the first stretch towards the Maluku Spice Islands, while Bira and Bulukumba were important areas for shipbuilding. Together with Selayar they also produced Makassars most important product of export, a Makassarese fabric which was demanded throughout the archipelago. Towards the 17th century Makassar had become the biggest and most wealthy kingdom in the earstern part of the archipelago.
The increasing meaning of the city as source of spices also attracted Europeans. In 1625, 22 Portuguese ships visited the seaport every year. In 1613 the English founded a processing plant in Makassar, the Danish in 1618; Spanish and Chinese merchants appeared from 1615. The foreign plants were situated north of Sombaopu, along the opposite shore of Sungai Berang. Makassar was known as a kingdom that was friendly against foreigners. However it was an islamic state, there were chrisian churches, and in the city, a handfull of fled refugees found their shelter.

In June 1669, after months of fierce fights between Makassarese and Buginese-Dutch troops, the Dutch soldiers succeeded in undermining the three meter thick walls of Sombaopu, on which the Makassarese tried to defend themselves, and made a hole of 20 meters in it. The next day the fights were so fierce (the Dutch fired 30,000 bullets), that the old soldiers in Europe probably had never experienced something like it. Dutch and Buginese soldiers, of which many had tropical diseases and dysentery, were confronted with reinforced houses which had to be taken in man-to-man fights. Only after nine days, after the holy cannon anak Makassar was conquerred, Sombaopu fel in Dutch hands. The powerfull Makassarese kingdom was in ruins. When Speelman inspected the burned down villages and settlements one year later, he wrote: "And then came Sombaopu, now destroyed and submerged in disorder".
After his victory in 1699, Speelman ordered the complete destruction of Sombaopu. In the following years the main searoute replaces from Sungai Berang to the south, and around Sombaopu a delta started to form, zo is became isolated from the sea. The new colonial city developed seven kilometers towards the north, and the remains of Sombaopu were completely neglected. In the following centuried the remaining bricks were removed and used for Dutch buildings, or by local population for wells or fundaments of houses. Towards 1980 a raise of the soil marked the remains of a line of defence, but there is little that suggests the former importance of Sombaopu.
Since Juli 1989 Indonesian archeologists are working to protect and keep this historical site. For the restauration two maps were used. The first is a Dutch map of Makassar from 1638, discovered not too long ago in a European library. The other is a palmleave map from the 18th century which, written by an unknown author in Makassarese writing, displays the fundaments of the city and the plans for the royal palace.
Excavations have brought up many surprises, among them odd hollow spaces which are built in the wall at distances of eight to ten meters. These spaces, which should have reduced the defending power of the wall dramatically, are built because of unclear reasons. Many have shown evidence that cooking was done there, which implies occupation by troops. Other findings are stone cannonbals, bricks with inscriptions and odd geometrical symbols. Others have deep imprints of cat- and dog-paws, which implies the sacrifice as a part of the construction process. Probably the most interesting finding is a brick, written onto in unknown writing. It's possible that it's an older version of the old Makassar writing, which was used at royal courts before the 18th century.
The palaces and houses old Sombaopu were protected by a single-stone wall, accept along the northern side, which bordered the main sealane of Sungai Berang in the 17th century. Here, the wall was three times as thick: a strong central wall built from big bricks and two lighter outside walls. The space in between was filled with soil, a smart protection against cannon fire. The stones of the north wall were also cemented. Iron remains and the mouth piece of a blower indicate that ironworks were done in the fortress as well.
At the end of 1992 Sombaopu was full with activity. A number of the old walls and fundaments were excavated and a new wall, a replica of the original wall was erected, faced towards the southern branch of Sungai Jeneberang.
The biggest part of the island, which was formed by the two arms of the river, is rebuilt into 'South-Sulawesi' park. Big wooden buildings display the traditinal style of building of ethnical groups. Copies of the palaces from different rulers are erected, as well as a group of remote Toraja houses. On a low hill is a holy royal grave (of Mocinisombala), where sacrifices are still made. Another part is destined for exhibitions and cultural displays.
The population in the neighborhood still lived in small traditional houses. Sombaopu tries to maintain the traditional way of life in South-Sulawesi and hopes that the local cultures succeed in maintaining their own cultural identity unless the influence of the fast modernisation.

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