In the 16th Century, Arya Penangsang, the enemy of the Pajang Sultanate (now Central Java), was successfully defeated by Ki Ageng Pemanahan. No one would have predicted that the event would become significant for the existence of Tembi Village. Arya Penangsang presented Alas Mentaok (Alas meaning “forest”) as a tribute to Ki Ageng Pemanahan in 1558. According to the ancient history of Java, Alas Mentaok used to be the ancient Hindu Buddhist kingdom of Mataram (Mataram Kuno), whose fall was due to two events: the Merapi eruption which destroyed and buried most of the kingdom’s temples, and political-economic crisis between 927-929 B.C.  Ki Ageng Pemanahan changed the face of Alas Mentaok. He cleared the Mentaok jungle and built a village, Kotagede (meaning “new city”), which began as a small hub where his family and relatives lived in 1577.

Ki Ageng Pemanahan was the founder of this small village and had been building Kotagede for 7 years before he died and was replaced by his son, Sutawijaya, better known as Panembahan Senapati, who eventually became the first king of the New Mataram Kingdom (now known as Yogyakarta Kingdom). After Sutawijaya died in 1606, his son Mas Jolang continued his father’s legacy as king of the New Mataram Kingdom. He strengthened the kingdom’s army to expand the territory of the New Mataram Kingdom. After 12 years of rule and the conquest of Ponorogo, Kediri, Kertosono, and Wirosobo, Mas Jolang died in his last battle in Krapyak in 1613. His son Prince Arya Martapura took his place for a while, but due to poor health, he gave his throne to his son Raden Mas Rangsang who was later known as Sultan Agung Senapati Ingalaga. Towards the end of Sultan Agung’s reign, the kingdom politically became unstable. Sultan Agung himself was a very wise leader, but many people in the kingdom and in his family held conflicting political interests, due to the interference of the Dutch government through its trade partnership V.O.C (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, the Dutch East India Company).

The political situation grew critical within the royal family of the New Mataram kingdom. In-fighting resulted in a toxic environment for the residents of the kingdom, particularly for children and young people to live and learn in their early years. The royal family, therefore, decided to send their children and teenagers to live away from the palace in a safe, neutral, and healthy atmosphere to pursue their education and self-development.

Tembi was chosen as the location where the young royal family spent most of their days. The couple Kyai and Nyai Tembini, were the founders of this place and became the teachers and mentors of all the royal family children.

The children learned martial arts, traditional music, and other traditional art forms, philosophy, history, and character development. The young people of the New Mataram kingdom were raised to be strong, humble individuals, tolerant, and considerate of other people’s needs based on the teachings of their Javanese ancestors.

Nowadays, we can walk around Tembi village and enjoy the feel of Javanese village authenticity. You can visit a graveyard under a sacred banyan tree which is where Kyai Tembini, Nyai Tembini seen for the last time, and it is where one of their beloved student Prince Diposono got buried.  This village remains special, even though no other traces of their legacy and their Javanese institution can be seen.