Purwodadi Grobogan

Purwodadi Grobogan is a town located in the south east of Semarang, the capital of Central Java, Indonesia. It is the capital of kabupaten/district of Grobogan. Purwodadi is famous for its frog leg food known as Swikee. It is also well known for delicate soya bean source.


Created on 4 March 1726, the Grobogan regency has an area of 1.975,86 km², (other source mentioned 1.875,85 km²) the second largest regency in the Central Java Province, and has a population of 1,359,191 (2004). Grobogan is divided into nineteen sub-regencies (Kecamatan Brati, Gabus, Geyer, Godong, Grobogan, Gubug, Karangrayung, Kedungjati, Klambu, Kradenan, Ngaringan, Penawangan, Pulokulon, Purwodadi, Tanggungharjo, Tawangharjo, Tegowanu, Toroh , Wirosari) with a total of 280 villages. The northern border of Grobogan are the Demak, Pati and Kudus regencies, to the east is Blora regency, to the south is Ngawi (East Java Province), Sragen and Boyolali regencies and to the west Semarang regency.

The regent Bupati is Agus Suprixanto SE and its vice regent Wakil Bupati is Bambang Pujiono SH (2006).


Grobogan os a flat valley lying between two mountains, Pegunungan Kendeng to the south and Pegunungan Kapur Utara to the north. Although the town is known to be very hot during the dry season, Grobogan is one of the main rice producers in Central Java, which mainly supported by several man-made dams, such as Bendungan Klambu, Bendungan Sedadi and Bendungan Kedung Ombo. The construction of Bendungan Kedung Ombo was a source of national debate due to the social cost of this gigantesque project supported be the World Bank. The two main rivers are Kali Lusi (or Pilang) and Kali Serang. During the rainy seasons, the two rivers cause floods which often destroys the harvests.


Similar to other regencies in Java, Islam is the dominant religion, with significant presence of Christianity - both Protestant and Catholic, Hindu, and Buddhism. In some places, one can still find traditional beliefs, Aliran kepercayaan and Kejawen. There are two Catholic Parishes, Paroki Purwodadi and Paroki Gubug, which are administered by Semarang Dioces (Keuskupan Agung Semarang).


Most of the schools are public schools. The private educations mainly are provided by the Madrassah, Muhammadiyah, both are Muslim, as well as by Protestant institution and The Union of Teachers of the Republic of Indonesia (PGRI - Persatuan Guru Republic Indonesia). There is almost no higher learning institution in Purwodadi. The senior high school participation is still low (21,19% in 2004) in 58,13 for the junior high school participation.


Agriculture and public sectors are the main providers of labor market. There is no significant industry, while the mining sectors remain insignificant for the economy of the regions. Many male young people work as seasonal workers in bigger cities like Semarang and Jakarta as construction workers, tricycle drivers (tukang becak) and other unskilled occupations. While for their female counter parts, they work in manufacture industries. In the recent years, the numbers of female migrant workers have increase significantly with the main destination in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Gulf Countries. There is a possibility of brain drain in Purwodadi, since those who are highly educated tend to find a better and more promising career outside the region or abroad.

The per capita income in 2004 is Rp 611.968,49 (around 70 US$). Formerly known as the one of the poorest regencies in Central Java, Grobogan now is the 18 in the economic scale, out of 35 regencies. However, 34,05% of its population in 2004 lived in the poverty line.

Art and Culture

Located between Surakarta (Solo City and Demak), Purwodadi Grobogan has a strong influence of both the more direct Islam Culture from the Sultane of Demak and more subtle culture of Kingdom of Surakarta (Kasunanan Surakarta). This has been reflected in its traditional arts and performances, such as Shadow Puppet (Wayang Kulit), Javanese Theatre (Kethoprak). Although they almost disappear from from the local society, those two forms of permormances can still be easily found in different parts of Central Java. Other forms of cultural performances are almost wiped out from the live of Groboganese, such as Angguk, Kentrung, Ledhek/Tayup, Barongan and Reyog. Angguk was performed mainly by a group of young girls aged between 13-17 years, doing a marching dance inspired by the different forms of old Dutch army and royal army from Demak and Surakarta. Kentrung is a story telling in a form of songs performed by a man with the accompaniment of a traditional percussion (kendang). The stories were mainly based on the local history or the history of Prophet Mohammed. It is possible that Kentrung was used to spread out the teaching of Islam. Ledhek/Tayub is a group of Javanese musicians and singer-dancers which was very popular due to their sensual gestures. Apart from the sensual gestures of the dancers, Tayup was/is also famous since they involve/invite the spectators to dance along with them. This kind of participative performance is rare in the Javanese context. Barongan is a Javanese version of Barongsay, the dance of Dragon, where the influence of Chinese culture can be seen from the form of the dragon, the use of the dominance red color. The difference with the Barongsay, Barongan normally presided Reyog, a trance dance. Reyog in Purwodadi was different with the more extravagance Reyog of Ponorogo. In the middle of the trance, some of the dancers could involve the eating of broken glasses and raw skins of rice (brambut).

Other examples of cultural performances were related with the life cycle rites such as Kathaman and Ngantenan. Khataman is a circumcision ceremony in which it is used as a symbol of a young boy's entrance into adulthood. Normally, Kathaman is applied only to Muslim boys. The boy would be dressed with a dress like an Arab Sheikh, and taken by horse from his house to the nearby mosque. This procession is accompanied with Islamic music. Ngantenan is basically the wedding ceremony, which we can see clearly the influence of Hindu culture. Nevertheless while welcoming the invitee, the bride and groom would be put at the center of the house with brights and colourful costumes including the traditional Javanese costumes, Arabic costumes, and supposed to be modern western costumes with sun-glasses. They can change up to seven costumes within 6 hours.

It is very unfortunate, that most of these tradition has almost all disappeared due to coming of more global and uniformed culture. Kethoprak, Kentrung, Angguk, Barongan and Reyog were used to be the expressions of thanks of the people during the wedding or other important ceremonies. Now they have been replaced either by video-movies, or by Dangdut concerts.

In early 80s, Purwodadi had two cinemas, Bioskop Kencana, located right in the commercial center of the town, and Bioskop Simpang Lima, in the southern part of the town, not so far from Simpang Lima roundabout. Unfortunately, due to the presence of television and video (and now VCD and DVD players), both cinemas have no more activities. The outdoor cinema, more known as Layar Tancep, once used to be a source of entertainment in the villages around the town, which the organiser was invited by the village authority for special occasions to the villagers. This type of cinema has also faded away.


Although Purwodadi Grobogan has never been a main destination of foreign nor local tourists, it has some interesting places to visit such as:

  1. Api Abadi Mrapen: it’s a flame which has been there since 16 century, during the time of Demak Sultanate (the era of Sunan Kalijaga), the first Muslim Sultanate in Java. Mrapen in Javanese means place of fire. It is worth to visit this eternal flame that is believed to last forever.
  2. Bledug Kuwu: it is a geological phenomenon where a vast open area has small continuous explosions containing carbon dioxide and salty water. The local people collected the water coming along with the explosions and dry it under the sun which then turns the water into salt. As Java is a completely volcanic island, the scientific explanation says that Bledug Kuwu in fact is a mud volcano. ( mentions that when viewed from a distance, there are seen to rise from it large volumes of vapour, like the spray from the billows dashing against a rocky shore, and there is heard a loud noise like distant thunder. On a nearer approach, the source of these phenomena is seen to be a hemispherical mound of black earth mixed with water, about sixteen feet in diameter, and which at intervals of a few seconds is pushed upwards by a force acting from beneath to a height of between twenty and thirty feet. It then suddenly explodes with a loud noise, scattering in every direction a quantity of black mud, which has a strong pungent smell resembling that of coal-tar, and is considerably warmer than the air. With the mud thus thrown out there has been formed around the mound a large perfectly level and nearly circular plain, about half a mile in circumference. The water mixed with the mud is salt, and the salt is separated from it by evaporation for economical purposes. During the rainy season the action of this mud volcano becomes more violent, the explosions are louder, and the mud is thrown to a greater height).
  3. Taek wood forest: Grobogan and the regencies nearby have been famously known as the best area for the Teak wood (tectona grandis and tectona hamiltoniana). The local name of the tree is Jati (Kayu Jati). The wood is known for its good quality to make furniture and having very high value.
  4. Tomb of Ki Ageng Selo: located in Selo, a village of 12 km to the East of Purwodadi, lied the body of one of the pioneers of Islam in the region. He was also the ancestor of Surakarta and Yogyakarta Kings. The legend believes that with his wisdom, he could tame the lightning and catch its fire. Today, next to his tomb, we still can see an oil lamps with the flame to believed originated from the lightning. Ki Ageng Selo lived around 16 century. It's also known as one of the pilgrimage destinations of the Muslim in the region.
  5. Jatipohon: the real meaning of it is Teak wood tree. Jatipohon is located around 10 km from Purwodadi on the way to Pati. It is located in a slope of a hill, around 800-900 m above the sea level (to be confirmed) where we can see a very nice view of the surrounding region including the city of Purwodadi with its Simpang Lima water tower. It used to have a swimming pool but its cool and nice water (need further confirmation, since the last time the writer visited this place was more than 15 years ago). During the rainy season, we can get nice and fresh tropical fruits such as rambutan and durian. With its simplicity, Jatipohon offers a resful oasis from the daily busy activities.


Regarding the food, the regency is famous for its Swikee or Sweekee, a soup of frog legs. In fact, Swikee is a Chinese term for the soup, perhaps introduced by the Chinese community in the region. Normally the soup is well accompanied by dark and sweet Soya sauce (Kecap Manis), which is also the specially of the town. However, the dish is more known by those who live in the city center rather than in villages. The frogs can be found easily during the wet seasons, among the rice fields or in the bank of Lusi river. The poor ъvillagers will tend to sell the frogs in the market. They are rather happy to consume the fresh water crabs (called Yuyu in Javanese which is smaller in size than their cousin from the sea) and fresh water snail (Keong/Besusul). The soup of water crabs (Jangan Yuyu) is normally prepared during the rainy season before the rice harvests. This soup is very rich in taste and has very high protein content. However, this delicacy can not be found in any restaurant but easily found in farmers’ household. The soup of snail (Jangan Keong) is also another delicacy that can not be found in any restaurant in Indonesia, nevertheless, the similar dish can be found in Lisbon, Portugal. The snails are also prepared as brochette/satay (Sate Keong).

Access and transportation

There are many possibilities to visit Purwordadi, either by bus or train. By bus, Purwodadi Bus Terminal (Terminal Simpang Lima) has direct lines to Semarang, Jakarta (Pulogadung), Solo (Tirtonadi), Kudus, Demak, Blora, Pati and Surabaya. The train station in the city center was closed in the early eighties, and the main train station now is Gundih, situated around 25 km from the City center. The closest airports are A Yani Airport in Semarang (+/- 60 km west of Purwodadi), and Adi Sumarmo International Airport in Solo City (south of Purwodadi).

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