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Royal revolution: An Indonesian sultan is opening the door for a woman to take over his throne

Business Insider — The recent ceremony to mark the 70th birthday of Hamengku Buwono X, Indonesia’s last sultan with real political power, had one key difference from previous celebrations — many of his relatives refused to attend. A bitter feud has erupted at the heart of the kingdom on Java island, after the Muslim ruler signalled he wants his eldest daughter to become the sultanate’s first female monarch after he leaves the throne.

Indonesia is home to numerous small kingdoms. But while other provinces now elect political rulers and their sultans are largely ceremonial figures, Yogyakarta’s sultan serves as both royal leader and governor of the city and its surrounding areas.  Jakarta allowed the Yogyakarta royal family to keep power as the central government was grateful for the sultanate’s support for independence in 1945 after a long period of Dutch colonial rule.

The sultan still maintains many of the trappings of Javanese royal rule in the kingdom, which has a history stretching back to the 16th century. His main residence is a traditional Javanese palace complex, known as a Kraton, and important events are celebrated with much pomp and circumstance.

But the sultan’s push to make the eldest of his five daughters — he has no sons — the first female monarch of Yogyakarta has transformed him into an unlikely champion for gender equality, and threatens to overturn hundreds of years of tradition in the Muslim, conservative sultanate.

It has sparked a furious row with his family, who say he is breaking rules laid down to govern the sultanate, amid speculation that his brothers were jockeying to fill his position. “A female sultan is an impossibility,” the sultan’s cousin, Kanjeng Raden Tumenggung Jatiningrat, told AFP.  “One symbol in this palace is a rooster — so if we have a queen should we change it to a hen?”

 

sultan1The rooster is a symbol of bravery.

He added that a female ruler could not oversee rituals in the mosque or other ceremonies that have traditionally been led by men. Hamengku Buwono, who has been on the throne 27 years, last year set in motion the process for his daughter to become monarch by giving her the title “Gusti Kanjeng Ratu Mangkubumi”.

While he has not confirmed publicly that she is the crown princess, in Javanese culture — where much is conveyed through symbolism rather than anything said out loud — the signs are clear. The title Mangkubumi, which translates from Indonesian as “the one who holds the Earth”, was the same one given to the sultan when he was made crown prince several decades ago.

She was also entrusted with the task of “attempting to bring safety, happiness and prosperity to the world”, another indication she would succeed her father. And the sultan made small changes to his own lengthy royal title — removing a word normally only used by men and tweaking another — to make it gender-neutral, opening the door for a woman to take over. Click for more www.businessinsider.com

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