February 29th, 2004


(no subject)

Just done the tourist thing, gone to the old colonial town, round the governor's mansion, now a museum. We (my coworker & I) were accosted by a guide, who was actually very good. There were the usual selection of stone scrapers, bronze axes and lumps of pottery; then it got more into historical times, and the Hindu period. There were some interesting lumps of rock with sanskrit inscriptions, and apparently mystical impressions of a white elephant's feet, though I suspect the influence of a chisel there too.

We were then regaled with the horrors of the Dutch colonial government, which did sound a fairly nasty regime. The governor's mansion has mediæval style cramped, wet dungeons and water-filled pits where people were thrown in with a load of leeches. I don't think there's any real moral high-ground here for the English from a historical perspective, but apparently the English are somewhat respected here because Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles turned up and governed for a bit and was relatively humane.

I did allow myself to be sold some shadow-puppet souvenirs, a pair of King Rama and Princess Sita. They're quite nice, almost certainly overpriced, but never mind.

The history of religion in the islands seems a little varied; originally there were native animist beliefs, then Hinduism and Buddhism took root for around 1000 years, but was supplanted by Islam from merchants, again from the Indian sub-continent. Despite 16th century Portuguese colonialism (before the Dutch), Catholicism doesn't seem to have had much impact. The aboriginal Sundanese in the west of Java apparently still have mostly animist beliefs.