Sunyaragi Cave

An Ancient Historical with Influence of 4 Different Architectural Styles

Even though this place is called Sunyaragi Cave, it isn’t really a cave. This is a man made building but it has a very unique construction. It was built in 1703 by one of the sultans of Cirebon as a water palace to relax with his harem. The locals say it is built from coral. In the 1800’s the place was renovated by a Chinese architect and they say he was killed after so as not to reveal the secrets of the palace. There are many stories surrounding this unusual building. If you’re in Cirebon it’s definitely worth taking an hour or so to look around this maze of manmade madness.

This is located on the ring-road (by-pass). It can be easily reached by pedicab from the city center. By car head North on the by-pass and you will see the building on your left before a set of traffic lights. Turn left at the lights and the car park is on the left as soon as you turn.

Sunyaragi Caves can also be called Sunyaragi water parks because the cave complex in antiquity is surrounded by Lake Teak besides that there are numerous caves such as an ornamental artificial waterfall cave. Sunyaragi Cave is one part of the palace is now called Kasepuhan Pakungwati Palace. Sunyaragi derived from the word “sunya“ which means quiet and yeast, and “ragi” which means the body, because the main purpose of the establishment of the cave is a place of rest and meditation of the Sultan and his family.

There sre two different versions about the history of Sunyaragi cave; the first is the news about the oral history of the establishment Sunyaragi cave conveyed by hereditary nobles or descent Cirebon Kraton, the version is better known as Kanda Carub version. The second version is the version that is based on the book Caruban Nagari “Purwaka Caruban Nagari” handwritten by Prince Kararangan in 1720. But the Sunyaragi Caruban Nagari version is used as reference by tour guides to explain about the history of Sunyaragi cave because it has more evidence than the oral source.

Judging from the diverse architectural style and motifs that appear in Sunyaragi cave, it can be concluded that the cave is a combination of classic Indonesian style or Hindu, Chinese style of ancient China, the Middle East or Islamic style and European style.

Indonesian styles of classical or Hinduism can be seen on some joglo buildings shaped, such as in Kambang Bale building, Pesanggrahan Mande building, the arch shape and some elephant statues and sculptures of human heads entwined by a serpent eagle that is strongly influenced by Indonesian Classical or Hinduism architectural style.

Chinese Influences can be seen in carvings shaped like peach blossom flower shape, the sun and the lotus, the placement of ceramics and glass in buildings, Mega Mendung motives, which can be seen in the Arga Jumut in Sunyaragi cave. In addition there are also Chinese tombs, the grave is not a grave from someone of Chinese descent but it is a kind of monument as a place of prayer of Princess Ong Tien Nio or Queen Rara Sumanding who is the wife of Sunan Gunung Jati.

As relics of the palace which led by the Moslems Sultan, it is very reasonable if the objects of cultural heritage, Sunyaragi cave, is also equipped by the patterns of Islamic or Middle East architectural style. Like the recesses in the walls of several buildings, signs in each direction, there are several pawudlon or place of ablution and Jinem Ward that resembles the Kaaba shape when viewed from the back side Pangsal Jinem. It was explained that the architectural style of the cave Sunyaragi also received influence from Middle East.

Sunyaragi cave was established in the Dutch colonial era, so the Dutch or European architecture style also influenced the architectural style of Sunyaragi cave. It can be seen from the window in the building called Kaputren, and forms of a building that make up the a twisted ladder structure in the Arga Pesanggrahan Jumut cave.