Central Java, Cetha Temple, Cetha Hamlet, Gumeng Village, Karanganyar

Written by on June 21, 2012 in Java Heritages with 0 Comments

Central Java, Cetha Temple,  Cetha Hamlet, Gumeng Village, Karanganyar





As a matter of fact, Cetha Temple falls outside the category of temples in East Java since it is located in Cetha Hamlet, Gumeng Village, Jenawi Subdistrict, Karanganyar Regency, Central Java Province. From historical point of view, however, the temple is closely related to Majapahit Empire. Therefore, in this website, the temple is in the same category as temples in East Java. Cetha Temple is one of the temples built during Majapahit era, when Brawijaya V ruled the empire. Legend has it that the name Cetha, a Javanese word that means clear, was labeled to the hamlet in which the temple was built, since one would have a clear view when looking at all directions. Facing north, one would see clearly Karanganyar and Solo at the foreground while Mount Merbabu and Mount Merapi at the background. Still, one could see the peak of Mount Sumbing further behind. One would see stunningly beautiful hills when facing west or east. Meanwhile, one would see Lawu Mountain and the mountain range. Cetha Temple compound was first discovered by Van der Vlis in 1842. Many archeologists, W.F. Sutterheim, K.C. Crucq, N.j. Krom, A.J. Bernet Kempers, and Riboet Darmosoetopo, paid their attention to this temple. In 1928, the Archeological Agency decided to conduct a research by searching for more complete reconstruction data. The existing buildings, including the wooden halls, are the results of an attempt to renovate the temple done by the end of 1970s. It is a shame that the restoration, or, to be more precise, rebuilding, was conducted carelessly regardless the archeological aspect of the site. As the result, the originality of the site is scientifically in question. The inscription found at the temple compound reveals that the temple was erected between 1451-1470, an era in which Majapahit Empire almost came to its end. Cetha Temple is a Hindu temple built to purify and save the empire from chaotic situation at that time. The fact that the temple is a Hindu one is very interesting as Majapahit kings were Buddhist. It is believed that Majapahit experienced the worst chaotic situation that happened not only in social, political, and cultural aspects of life, but also in religious matters. The empire then was everything but order, until it totally collapsed in 1478. Temple Cetha is a group of buildings built on layered terraces. Each terrace is connected with an entrance and a passageway that runs upwards from the lowest terrace to the highest one, slicing the terraces into two sides. The main structure, built without walls, lies at the rearmost and highest spot in the compound, facing the mountain peak. This signifies the then concept that the sanctity of the temple is inseparable from the surrounding nature. The design of Cetha Temple is based on the notion that gods’ abode is on the mountain peaks, instead of in heaven. Thus, mountains are the source of both visible and invisible energies. The design of Cetha Temple was clearly against the mainstream at that time, which placed the foremost space as the center of activities. Panataran Temple in Blitar, however, adopted the same concept. There are three statues lying before the temple gate. They are Nyai Gemang Arum statue, which is placed in front of the gate, and Nyai Agni statues, which flank a set of steps leading to a yard. There is a structure without walls situated on the left, further into the compound. The structure sits on a two-meter-high foundation. Inside the structure, there is a heap of stones arranged as an altar on which offerings were placed. Across the yard, there is a stone gate with stairs flanked by Nyai Agni statues. The stairs lead to a yard on the next terrace. This second terrace makes the temple also known as ‘lanang’ (male) Temple. Laid on the lower platform is a heap of stones arranged to resemble a flying Garuda with a turtle on its back. On Garuda’s forehead, there are images of a shining sun, an isosceles triangle and a Kalacakra (a male genital). There are two other images of suns at the end of Garuda’s wing. The Garuda, a mythical bird on whose back Vishnu usually rides, represents the above world, while the turtle, one of the incarnations of Vishnu, symbolizes the underworld. A turtle is believed to possess magnificent magical power that enables it to submerge into the ocean to fetch ‘tirta amerta’ (water of life). That there is a Kalacakra (symbol of male genital organ) on the platform leads people to refer to the temple as a ‘lanang’ (male) temple. The image of a sun with seven rays signifies the Sun as the source of life. The isosceles triangle symbolizes the guidance to save the world from sinking into the ocean of darkness. Pictured in the middle of the triangle is a circle in which there are three frogs facing different directions. There is an image of a lizard in every triangle. On the median that divides the east side, there is an image of a crowned eel. There is a picture of a female crab on the south side and a mimi (male sea crab) on the north side. The whole design implies hope for both land and human fertilities. The triangle with an image of a male genital on top of it signifies the union of male and female, the two different sexes with different characteristics, yet inseparable from each other. At the same time, it also symbolizes the microcosmic world within human being. Near a flight of stairs leading the hall, to the left and right, there are remains of chambers. Inside the chambers, there is a square stone construction lying across from north to south. Etched on the walls of the stone construction, there are images of people and animals. It is believed that the relief sculpture depicts an excerpt from Sudamala verses. The relief sculpture supports the suggestion that Cetha Temple was constructed mainly for purification purpose. On the next platform higher than the previous one, there are two statues of Bima guarding a flight of stone stairs leading to a hall. There are roofed buildings without walls situated to the left and right of the stairs. In these buildings, according to the temple caretaker, visitors to the King Brawijaya were admitted. Taking the stairs into the hall, one will see a statue of Kalacakra, two statues of Ganesha and a stone partition with an opening that leads to the inner hall. Inside the inner hall, there is an ascending passage into a praying chamber on a higher platform. At the door into the chamber, there are two stone sculptures bearing Javanese writing. At the back of the chamber, on a higher platform, there are storerooms to keep ancient items. The storerooms are situated at the two sides of the temple. Across from the storerooms, there is a chamber other chambers where ancient items are kept. At the upper end of the passageway, there is a stone wall, 1.6 meters in height, which separates the passage from the main chamber. The chamber, a stone construction without a roof, is King Brawijaya’s lodging. The walls are two meters in height and the room is five m2 in width. From the lodging, perched on a higher place than the rest of the whole building, all rooms below it are clearly visible. Empu Supa is an outstanding kris maker who gained a lot of respect during his lifetime. At the back of the chamber, there is a stone wall with a gate that leads to a narrow ascending passageway. At the upper end of the passageway, there is a stone wall, 1.6 meters in height, which separates the passage from the main chamber. The chamber, a stone construction without a roof, is King Brawijaya’s lodging. The walls are two meters in height and the room is five m2 in width. From the lodging, perched on a higher place than the rest of the whole building, all rooms below it are clearly visible. Situated at the back of the temple precinct, at a higher ground, there is a royal bathing place at which the king’s concubines, along with their maids, bathed. However, the pool is in a poor condition now as it lacks maintenance. Meanwhile, unlike the bathing place, the temple itself undergoes cleaning at least once a year. Cetha Temple is still functioning as a worshipping place and Indonesian Hindus frequent the temple on Tuesdays and Fridays and on the New Year eve of Islamic calendar (1 Sura). A celebration of Wuku Medangsia is held at the temple every six months. Apart from the Indonesian Hindus, many people, male or female, visit the temple. Especially for female visitors, they are advised to wear trousers instead of skirts. It is argued that the custom has its roots in the belief that Cetha Temple is a male temple where items depicting a male genital are found all over the compound. Cetha Temple is closely connected to an adjacent temple, Sukuh Temple. The latter, which lies on a lower ground as compared to the former one, was constructed in AD 1440.

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