Convex and Concave

The Stairs

(1/400, F7.1, ISO200, 10mm)

On my recent trip to Yogyakarta (Java, Indonesia) finding the underground mosque in the Taman Sari complex was my favorite experience, which was only possible with the help of a local guide.

During the mid-18th century, the Sultan of Yogyakarta began work on the Taman Sari Water Castle. Comprised of lavish gardens and pools, it also featured a bizarre man-made sea, connected beneath the ground with underwater tunnels and small island buildings. One of these island structures was used as a mosque, and was only accessible by underwater passage.

The tiny mosque, although basic, had all the necessary parts of a mosque including a mihrab, guiding worshippers toward Mecca. It also featured a series of staircases leading from the underwater entrances resembling MC Escher’s complex architecture work. Staircases lead up from five different doorways to a central platform and another staircase connects the five lower staircases to a higher doorway.

Today many of the remains of the great 17th century complex have been lost. The pools were emptied, which allowed for the discovery of many of the underground structures, but have destroyed the pristine castle quality. Human settlements have taken the place of the man-made lake, and much of the other buildings are ruins. In 1995, the entire complex was listed as a tentative World Heritage Site.

59 thoughts on “Convex and Concave

  1. Pingback: Tunnel Vision | El Bueno, El Feo y El Malo

  2. The Sultan of Yogyakarta! How curious his mind, to have conceived of all this in the first place!
    (And yes, your photos are unmistakable. Speaking of curious and individual minds —)

  3. Excellent shot. This would have been very difficult to light and you did very well. The rhythm and ‘movement’ of the shapes is quite satisfying and the eye lingers.

  4. What a fascinating story! An underground, man made ocean. incredible!
    Your photograph allows me to try to visualize what it might have been like.

    • Hi Laurie, a reply from 2014, hope your campaign is going well, amazing to see you even have time to take great photos and post them!
      Thanks for your enthousiasm here and everywhere always, good luck,

    • I was very pleased to find it as I hoped it would look and thanks so much for the Chiaroscure guy, thats very flattering, even have a post named for that and always thinks the darkness in my photos tell as much as the light 😉
      Thanks very much, Jane and I think it´s a minor item which camera is used, all is up to the photographer, could be a smartphone for that!

    • Hi Seonaid, I wasnt aware of this place when I booked for Yogjakarta, but was happy to find it just before we went while doing some research and then even impossible to find inside the old town with all its alleys and then suddenly this stairs down and tunnel to get you there, lucky we found a friendly local to help us out! I assume it was built like this to keep the sultans bathing and mosque visits totally out of sight of the public!
      Thanks for stopping by, hope all is great,
      Greetings from Malaysia,

    • Thats very kind of you to see, Indah! I love places like this, the simplicity, yet old textured walls, inspire me a lot!
      Happy travels to you,

    • Ha, yeah the colors look medieval, i can see some cruel beheading or something in the center terrace, yikes 😉
      Thanks, Patti, all the best from KL,

  5. This is excellent photography Ron. The view point and architecture naturally assist the composition but the colour saturation and, textures are beautifully managed and, of course, there is your trademark crispness throughout. Most importantly you have also conveyed a sense of atmosphere.

    • Hi Louis, thank you for your perfect explanation; I had an idea of how and what I wanted to do when I visited this place, although I had never seen it, apart from a handful of photos, but I knew the light had to be great and I love interiors with natural ligth coming from outside. Your last sentence is very important to me, something I´ve been trying to work on apart from the crispness and detail and technical ability!
      Thanks for the compliment, much appreciated.
      Greetings, Ron.

    • Thanks very much, Lisa, those things are what I like very much in old architecture and I guess I look for those places to visit as well, not only for photographing…
      Hope you´ll have a great weekend,

  6. What a interesting text, never heard about this underground mosque … This is what I like about having blog friends around the world … I always learn new things …
    As usual, you have a fantastic photo in your post …
    // Maria 🙂

    • Hi Maria, never heard of it before starting research on going to Yogjakarta and wanted to see some less touristic places as the temples too and although there were some people it was so hard to find without a guide and the story made it much more interesting too!
      You´re so right about finding out so much new things around the world this way!
      Thanks for the compliment, hope all is great in your part 😉

    • Oh leuk, Della, wist niet dat je oorspronkelijk uit Indonesie kwam; geweldig vond ik dit eerste kijkje, de band met Nederland was in Yogja nog veel sterker dan ik verwachtte. Dit smaakte (ook letterlijk 😉 in ieder geval naar meer en zou vooral ook meer van het binnenland en de minder toeristische plekken willen zien, maar er is zoveel moois in deze omgeving!
      Groetjes en bedankt voor je reaktie,

    • Dank je, Harrie, inderdaad wel de fijnste lens om mee te werken als ik binnen in gebouwen fotografeer, verlaten of niet, je kan er verdacht veel op krijgen en vertekening is vrij minimaal, mooi om mee te spelen en blijft verbazen hoe wijd ie is 😉
      Fijne week,

    • Thank you so much, Whitney, it is amazing to see so much of this part of the world; all these places that sounded far away and mystical now are easy to visit, still unbelievable!
      Hope everything is good in Cairo (nice to finally follow your adventures too)?

    • Thanks, Carlos, i guess there are some of the tunnels that I think could be good enough, maybe more, havent checked thoroughly yet 😉
      This one was the one I wanted to make and although it was quiet, all the visitors wanted a selfie in the middle, so I had to be patient to shoot it empty…
      Greetings, Ron

    • Thanks very much, Margaret, i loved the simplicity of it but also the story of it only being accessible thru underwater tunnels makes it more mysterious 😉
      Hope you´re having a great week, greetings,

    • That´s great to hear, Paula, always hope there´s something distinctly my own in my photos 😉
      Thanks and I´m a Canon 600D guy!
      Have a great holiday and hopefully some good weather,

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