Visit to the sacred Mount Merapi on the island of Java, Indonesia

I visited Mount Merapi on the very first day of my Indonesia trip. We were in Yogyakarta city on the island of Java. First of all, we spent the whole day walking in the paddy fields. After this, we set out to see this volcanic mountain.

Mount Merapi and its volcanic eruptions

Merapi literally means Fire Mountain. In fact, it is a volcano that spews lava along with fire from time to time and keeps scattering volcanic ash all around. It appears to be a terrible disaster but it is also life-giving. The lava and ash that come out of the womb of the earth by the volcano also bring with it a store of various minerals and transform the land around the mountain into the most fertile land. That is why it is not surprising that this area is the most densely populated area of ​​​​the island of Java.

Mount Merapi Volcano
Mount Merapi Volcano

Mount Merapi, 2911 meters above sea level, is one of the 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia. This volcano erupts regularly. If we talk about its past eruptions, this volcano erupted in 1994, 2006, 2010 and 2013, in which the emission in 2010 was extremely massive and terrifying. Many innocent creatures lost their lives in this eruption, including those who were living in basements to avoid this volcano. Due to this terrible havoc, a serious alert was observed in this area for about two months.

The volcanic eruption of Mount Merapi in the early 11th century is believed to have caused the sudden disappearance of Java's ancient Mataram kingdom. The UNESCO World Heritage Sites Borobudur Temple and Prambanan Temple were also buried under volcanic ash at different times.

Read more: Borobudur Buddhist Temple – Historical Treasure of Java Island, Indonesia

Contrary to the general belief about volcanoes, the people of Java believe that Mount Merapi is their guardian and protector deity. They believe that it is because of its blessings that they live in harmony with each other. They also believe that before the volcanic eruption, Mount Merapi will give them advance information and give them clear indications that they will have to leave that place and go elsewhere.

Legends related to Mount Merapi

The word Merapi is derived from the combination of two words, Meru and Api. Both of these are words from the Sanskrit language. As you know, the word Meru means mountain. Actually it refers to the Mount Meru which is mentioned in many Indian texts. Api means fire. The name of this mountain seems very appropriate.

Sacred Mount Merapi - Java Island, Indonesia Sacred Mount Merapi - Java Island, Indonesia
Sacred Mount Merapi – Java Island, Indonesia

It is said that this mountain is situated on the north-south axis with Mount Merapi at the northern end and the Indian Ocean at the southern end. This imaginary line passes through Mount Merapi which is said to be the abode of the gods. From there, the line goes to Croton which is the palace of the king. Then it passes through Jogja where the common people live. Finally it joins the sea which indicates nature. Analyzed philosophically, it connects the gods to the king, the king to the people and the people to nature. It is considered a sacred practice.

It is said that the Dutch built a railway here, cutting across this trail, in order to destroy this sacred geographical belief. But the roots of these beliefs are very deep and strong. That is why they still exist.

Read more: Prambanan Temple in Indonesia – Ruins that tell stories

Javanese people believe that when the gods created the earth, the Jamurdipo mountain (Jambudweep?) was located on the western end of Java and the island was not balanced. To maintain its balance, they ordered Jamurdipo mountain to move to the center of Java island where two mythological characters, weapon makers Empu Ram and Empu Permadi were already living with their kingdom. Even after being warned by the gods, both of them did not surrender that place. In anger, the gods placed Jamurdipo mountain on top of them.

Therefore, people believe that Empu Ram and Empu Permadi live under this volcanic mountain along with their kingdom and keep spewing fire. According to another legend, in memory of Empu Ram and Empu Permadi, the name of Jamurdipo mountain has been changed to Mount Merapi which means the fire of Ram and Permadi.

As I mentioned earlier, the Javanese consider Mount Merapi as their protector and Ram and Permadi as their protector deities. Under this belief, they make offerings to Mount Merapi. Special offerings are made on the anniversary of the coronation of the King of Yogyakarta. These offerings are taken from the King's palace to Mount Merapi. Offerings are also made to the sea. In this way, they try to please both the fire element and the water element.

Cisa Hartku – Museum of Memories

Siisa Hartku literally means 'my remaining possessions' museum. It is a house which is now a museum of memories. To reach this museum by car, we crossed many villages which were cut off from the main road. The roads leading there were strewn with boulders made of lava.

Cisa Hartku – Museum of MemoriesCisa Hartku – Museum of Memories
Cisa Hartku – Museum of Memories

We entered the Sisa Hartku house which appeared to be abandoned. Inside it, we saw some animal skeletons and some fossils. As we started walking inside the house, I felt as if this house had been in the grip of fire at some point of time. Every object of daily use like toothbrush, iron chest, children's bicycles kept in the house was telling the story of the shock and bitter experience when Mount Merapi started spewing fire. Every object was in its place but it was not in its original state. Only that part of every object remained which had passed the fire test. There were some pictures in which ancient memories were reconstructed and shown.

Volcano stops clock Volcano stops clock
Volcano stops clock

The entire scene there appeared as if that place had remained frozen in its position since 5 November 2010, 5:15. You must be wondering on what basis I have written this time! There is a clock on a wall there which has become frozen at that time due to the intense heat of the volcano.

We all came out of that hostel in a very tired state of mind. Our mental state was sad. At the same time, we all were also realizing the power of nature which can end our existence in a moment.

Bunker Kaliadem

This is a basement which is used to escape from the wrath of a volcano. But it is also true that in the year 2010, two citizens hiding in this basement also died during the volcanic eruption.

Bunker Kaliadem  Bunker Kaliadem
Bunker Kaliadem

If the sky is clear, the trunk-shaped Mount Merapi can be seen from here. Otherwise, most of the time you can see smoke coming out of the mountain. The tourist guide may ask you to come here with the promise of showing you the sunrise. But the sun does not rise from the top of this mountain.

Read More: Kutagede Heritage Walk

It was raining the day I reached there. All I saw was different intensities of grey playing with different shades of green. We had tea at a roadside tea stall for which we paid 5,000 Indonesian Rupiah. Surprised? It is only 25 rupees in Indian currency.

On the way you will see a huge rock called Batu Alien. It means, alien human rock. This piece of rock broke off from the mountain and fell here in 2010. It looks like a giant human face.

Exciting jeep ride in Kali Kuning River

Jeep ride in Kali Kuning RiverJeep ride in Kali Kuning River
Jeep ride in Kali Kuning River

While doing the jeep tour, we reached a thrilling stage where the jeep is driven in the flowing water of the Kali Kuning River. This is done with the aim of providing thrill to the tourists. Since we were a large group and we had many jeeps, we enjoyed this thrill a lot. Everyone was going jolting while cutting through the rough surface of the river. We and our friends were thrilled and started shouting in joy.


Mount Merapi, which erupts from time to time and spews smoke, lava and ash, has always attracted adventure lovers. There are many tour organizers here who organize mountaineering to the mountain peak. This mountaineering is organized both during the day and at night. Night mountaineering ends at sunrise. I guess the scenery must be very picturesque at that time. You can also go for a trek to the base camp.

We did a lava tour which included museum visit, bunker visit and exciting jeep ride in the river. Half a day is enough for all these. After lunch we left for Yogyakarta and reached there before dinner.

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