Secluded Buddhist antiquity
Published/Last edited or updated: 17th May, 2018
Joko Dolog is an easy to miss but significant Buddhist antiquity secluded among food carts and traffic in a corner of Surabaya.
Beyond a couple of large shady banyan trees, a statue lined path leads to a large cross-legged seated Buddha-like sculpture, some 1.7 metres tall, sheltered by a pavilion. According to the Sanskrit inscription it dates from 1289.
The statute, whose local name translates to “fat boy” was transported to Surabaya in 1817 from the 14th century Majapahit capital of Trowulan, 60 kilometres southeast of Surabaya, possibly with view to transport it to Europe.
In the past scholars have attributed the likeness to King Kertanegara, ruler of the Singosari Kingdom renowned (by his birth to royals from opposing kingdoms of Janggala and Kadiri) as been responsible for uniting the formally spilt Javanese kingdoms, but more recent translations of the Sanskrit inscribed base have led scholars to conclude it may be Mpu Bharada, the sage who is believed to have magically divided Java by sprinkling holy water from the sky during the 11th century reign of Airlangga.
Regardless of who it depicts, this peaceful enclave is a pleasant respite from the busy streets and the cool and shady spot wafting with the aroma of incense evokes a little present-day magic and remains a popular pilgrimage site.
Joko Dolog can be found in Taman Apsari in the city backstreets around 150 metres south of Gedung Negara Grahadi, the East Javanese Governor’s house. The park is gated, but was open when we visited mid-week with no indication of opening times, although the large sculpture can be seen (whilst a little obscured) from the outside.
Most locals visit this area not for its historical significance, but for the famed gastronomic specialities nearby. Take a break, and if you’re brave, try the local favourite Rujak Cingur Joko Dolog, a “salad” of tempeh, tofu, sticky rice cake, fruit, raw vegetables and the special ingredient... gelatinous cow’s nose, all smothered in a peanut sauce. If you’re not so brave, Es Teller Tanjung Anom serves up refreshing shaved ice with jackfruit, young coconut, avocado, sago, condensed milk in a breezy open air stall. See our food section for the skinny.
Sally spent twelve years leading tourists around Indonesia and Malaysia where she collected a lot of stuff. She once carried a 40kg rug overland across Java. Her house has been described as a cross between a museum and a library. Fuelled by coffee, she can often be found riding her bike or petting stray cats. Sally believes travel is the key to world peace.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.