The Mosque Beneath the Ground of Taman Sari, Yogyakarta

Tucked underground of  Taman Sari Water Castle is a mosque accessible only in the past by a maze of underwater passageways. I first heard of it's existence from my friend Gaye Emami. a few days before I left Manila for Jakarta. The moment she described it, I was instantly fascinated. I must never leave Yogyakarta without seeing this mosque, I dared myself. The place wasn't easy to find as there are no signs saying "Underground Mosque this way --->". Following a hunch, I followed a group of young Indonesian students who seems to be on a field trip, as they trudge through the back alleyways of Taman Sari. I saw them debating which direction to take, so I reckon they were also trying to find the mosque. I tried asking a local but unfortunately, she couldn't understand English, so I chased the group of students as they entered a small arched hallway. Inside, we had to duck our heads so as not to hit the ceiling and after a short length of striding and bending forward, we met a dead-end wall.

Levy Amosin

The students laughed at our predicament. Lost and with no translation, I smiled at them as we all shook our heads at the reality of getting lost. When we went backtracked our way, one of them finally asked a local for direction. At this point, I am still unsure if they are also looking for the way to the underground Mosque. The man pointed to an inconspicuous stairway leading to a tiny door. Following the young ones, we all alighted into a dome-shaped room with windows and doors heading to a series of staircases. It felt like being in an otherworldly place where each stairwell takes you to another mysterious universe.

Gay Mitra

The mosque isn't as spacious compared to others. What it lacks in floor space, it makes up for it with a unique architecture pattern that creates an illusion of endless loop. The circle hallway opens to the platform where you can find an intertwining series of staircase that goes down to a dried-up well. Back in the 18th century, as fresh water streams through it, faithfuls go there to dip their feet before praying. 

Mishi Magno

Otherwise known as "Sumur Gumuling" or the "Coiled Well", the ascending four flights of stairwells of the Underground Mosque will surely remind anyone familiar of MC Escher’s Relativity. These staircases all meet on a squared central platform that is exposed to the sky. It is here where most visitors take the brochure-like images of the Underground Mosque. 

Koryn Iledan

I overheard a tour guide telling his Caucasian guests that the mosque was often used as a meditation place. He also pointed out the mihrab, a small semi rounded niche found on the walls of mosques that guides Muslims toward the Kaaba Mecca–a direction worshipers should face when saying their prayers.

Marky Ramone Go

It was great learning interesting things along the fly just by opening my eyes and eavesdropping. I sat near one of of the windows and rested for a while as I keep an observing eye on other people. I can see their amazement at the absorbing architecture of this underground mosque, as the others were busy taking Instagram pictures of themselves. Despite suddenly feeling thirsty, my mind and soul was being quenched by the stunning vibe of this heritage place. 

The Underground Mosque is for me, a more interesting place than the Taman Sari Water Castle complex. I was glad I found my way to this gem of a place. Walking back, I imagined a time when the mosque was still operational. I could imagine hearing the chants of prayers emanating underneath and as the clouds dances in the sky, I could feel the spiritual yearnings of the faithfuls echoing as far as Mecca awaiting each to be answered one by one. 

viella galvez

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