Central Java Prambanan Temple Compounds

Written by on October 1, 2010 in Java Heritages with 0 Comments

Central Java Prambanan Temple Compounds

Prambanan Temple is situated in Prambanan Village, Bokoharjo Sub-district, within Prambanan tourism park, about 17 kilometers to the east of Yogyakarta municipality. It easy to find Prambanan tourism park because it is only 100 meters away from the highway connecting Yogyakarta-Solo. The park lies 154 meters above sea level, and half of its area is within Sleman District while the other half is in Klaten District. Prambanan temple is the biggest Hindu temple in Indonesia. Although no solid evidence is available to explain exactly who built the temple and when, it is believed that the temple was built in the middle of 9th century by King Balitung Maha Sambu of Sanjaya Dynasty. The belief is supported by the writing on Syiwagrha stone inscription, which was found nearby Prambanan Temple and is now kept at the National Museum, Jakarta. The stone inscription was made during Rakai Pikatan’s reign, dated Caka 778 (856 AD). The restoration of the temple was a seemingly never-ending project that lasted for many years. In 1733, C.A. Lons reported the discovery of the biggest ruins, Shiva Temple. The first attempt to excavate and collect data about the temple was conducted under the supervision of Groneman. The excavation finished in 1885 which included clearing wild bushes from the site and and grouping the temple stones. In 1902, Van Erp continued the restoration. The grouping and identification of temple stones was done more accurately. In 1918, the restoration process continued under the supervision of the then archeological agency (Oudheidkundige Dienst) led by P.J. Perquin. At this stage, the restoration project succeeded to reconstruct the ruins of Shiva Temple. In 1926, a committee was founded and led by by De Haan to sustain the efforts made by Perquin. Not only did the committee supervised the improvement of Shiva Temple, it also laid the foundation for reconstructing Apit Temples. V.R. van Romondt replaced De Haan who died in 1931. The restoration of the two Apit Temples was completed in 1932. The process, however, came to a halt in 1942 because the Japanese invaders took over the control of Indonesia. Because of the wars and changes of ruling administration, the long process of restoration had managed to limp on and in 1953, the restoration of Shiva Temple and two Apit Temples was officially declared completed. The restoration of Prambanan temple is still in progress up to the present time. Originally, Prambanan Temple was situated on a rectangular area comprising three different courts, Jaba ( outer court), Tengahan ( middle court) and Njeron (inner court). The outer yard is an open area enclosing the outer court. The latter is 390 square meters and was encircled by stone walls, which are now in ruins. The outer court is now vacant. Whether or not there was a building or any other decorating materials on the court remains unknown. The middle court is situated in the middle of outer court. The middle court is a 222-square-meter rectangle. There used to be a stone wall enclosing the middle court, but the wall has now crumbled. This court consists of four steplike stone terraces, one on top of the other. On the bottom terrace, there are 68 small temples standing in a row along the terrace edge. The long row is interspersed with four access ways connecting between terraces. On the next terrace, there are 60 temples, while the terrace above it holds 52 temples. On the top terrace, there are 44 temples. All of small temples at the middle court are alike, they have the same size and design. The base is six square meters and the temple is 14 meters tall. However, most of them have fallen into ruins. The inner court is the highest place at the temple compound and considered as the most sacred place. This court is a 110-square-meter rectangle and raised 1.5 meters higher than the top terrace of the middle court. The inner court is enclosed by stone walls and plaster. There used to be a Paduraksa gate on each of four inner court sides. However, only the gate on south side that remains intact. There are two small temples placed in front of each gate. Each of those small temples is only four meters tall and the temple base is 1.5 square. There are two rows of temples lying across from north to south in the inner court. The west row consists of three temples that face east. The temple at the north end of the row is Vishnu Temple, the one in the middle is Shiva Temple, and the last one at the south end is Brahma Temple. The east row consists of three temples facing west. Those three temples are called Vehicle Temples as each of them is named after the animal on which a god whose temple is situated across from it usually rides. The temple located across from Vishnu Temple is Garuda Temple, the one situated across from Shiva Temple is Nandi (cow) Temple, while the one opposite Brahma Temple is Swan Temple. There is an alley separating these two rows of temples. The size and design of Vishnu, Brahma, Swan, Garuda and Nandi Temples are alike. Each of them is 25 meters tall, and the temple base is 15 square meters. There is a smaller temple at each end of the alley. The temple at north end faces its counterpart at south end, and both are called Apit Temples. Shiva Temple Shiva Temple was in ruins when it was first discovered. In 1918 efforts were made to restore the temple and the restoration came to an end in 1953. The temple earns the nickname Shiva as there is a statue of Shiva found at the site. Shiva Temple is also known as Rara Jonggrang Temple because one of its chambers holds a statue of Durga Mahisasuramardani, also known as Rara Jonggrang. The temple sits on a 2.5-meter-tall platform. The temple base is 34 square meters and the temple rises 47 meters tall. Encircling the temple base are two alternating designs of sculptures. One of the designs is an image of Kalpatarus (mythical trees that fulfill desires) flanking a standing lion. This sculpture is found on every side of Shiva Temple base and the base of the other five big temples in the compound. On the north and south sides of the base, the image of a lion and Kalpataru tree is flanked by panels bearing pictures of a couple of animals sheltering under shady leaves of a Kalpataru that grows from inside a jug. The animals seen on the sculpture are monkeys, peacocks, deer, rabbits, goats or dogs. Perching on top of Kalpataru trees are two birds. On the other sides of the temple base, the panel bearing the picture of animals are replaced with a panel depicting Kinara-Kinari, a couple of birds with human heads, resting under the canopy of Kalpataru trees. At the east side is a staircase leading to the platform surface. The staircase has sides engraved with pictures of twining plants and animals. There are dragon heads with their mouths open sculptured onto the lower ends of the stone banisters. Inside the dragon mouths are images of gods. Flanking the staircase are small temples with pointing roofs. Shiva images are found on each side of the small temples. At the upper end of the staircase is a Paduraksa gate leading to a walkway on the platform surface. A beautiful Kalamakara sculpture is seen above the gate frame. Standing behind the gate are a couple of small temples with niches in their bodies. The niches hold statues of Mahakala and Nandiswara, the guardian gods protecting the gate. The walkway on the platform surface is 1 meter in width, encircling the temple body. The walkway is sided with walls, which make the walkway look like an alley without a roof. The winding walkway divides the temple walls into six sections. A series of Lokapala sculptures are found along the temple body. Lokapala, a group of gods guarding all points of the compass, consists of Bayu, Indra, Baruna, Agni and Yama. A bas-relief sculpture of Ramayana epic is seen along the inner side of walkway walls. The epic, engraved on the walls on clockwise, starts with a scene where kings beg Vishnu to descend to earth to end the havoc created by Rahwana. The ending scene shows the accomplished bridge that crosses an ocean into Alengka Kingdom’s land. The next scene of the epic continues at the inner side of walkway walls of Brahma Temple. A row of lotus-shaped masonries perches along walkway walls. Just below the lotuses, there are small niches decorated with a Kalamakara above each of them. There are two alternating designs in bas-relief engraved into the niches. The designs show a picture of three people holding hands and a picture of three people playing different musical instruments. The doors into chambers inside the temple are situated on a higher platform. There are flights of stairs to access those doors. Inside the temple, there are four chambers surrounding the main chamber that is situated at the heart of the temple. The only access into the main chamber is through the chamber facing east. The latter is a vacant room without any statue or ornament. The entrance into this chamber aligns with the door leading into the main chamber. The main chamber is also known as Shiva chamber as there is a Shiva statue at the center of it. The Shiva is standing on a lotus. One of the hands is over the chest and the other one is over the belly. This pose is called Shiva Mahadewa. The statue stands on a 60-centimeter-tall pedestal. The pedestal is shaped like a yoni, with a drain that runs along the edge of its surface. It is said that the statue represents King Balitung of Mataram Hindu Kingdom (898 – 910 AD) who was worshipped as Shiva. There is no access door that connects the other three chambers to the main chamber. Inside the north chamber, there is a statue of Durga Mahisasuramardini or Durga the goddess of death, the representation of King Balitung’s wife. This eight-handed Durga is standing on Nandi the cow, facing Vishnu Temple. One of Durga’s right hands is propping against a bludgeon while the other three right hands are gripping an arrow, a sword and a spiky disk, respectively. One of Durga’s left hands is touching the head of Asura, a dwarf giant standing on a cow, and the other three left hands are holding a bow, a shield and a flower, respectively. The local people call this Durga statue Rara Jonggrang, as they believe that the statue is her manifestation. According to local folklore, Rara Jonggrang was once a princess turned into a stone under the spell of Bandung Bandawasa. There is a statue of Ganesha in the west chamber. The Ganesha is sitting on a lotus-shaped throne (Padmasana), both knees are wide apart and both feet meet. Both hands are on the knees facing upwards, while the trunk rests on left shoulder. This Ganesha statue represents the heir to King Balitung’s throne. The stole worn diagonally across the body indicates that the user is a military commander. Inside the south chamber, there is a statue of Agastya or Shiva Mahaguru. The statue depicts a bearded, rather fat character standing and facing south towards Brahma Temple. Shiva’s right hand is gripping a string of beads used for counting the prayers, while the left one is holding a jug. Behind Shiva’s back, to the left, there is a fly swatter and to the right, there is a trident. It is believed that the Shiva Mahaguru statue represents a priest holding a position as a royal advisor. Vishnu Temple Vishnu Temple is situated to the north of Shiva Temple. The temple sits on a platform, with a walkway encircling the temple base. As it is the case in the other temples, the walkway is sided with walls. To access the walkway on top of the platform, there is a flight of stairs at the east side of the temple. There is a band of panels picturing Lokapala around the temple body. The story of Krishnayana is found on a series of panels decorating the inner part of walkway walls. Krishnayana tells the life of Krishna from his birth until his inauguration as the king of Dwakara Kingdom. There is a string of lotus-shaped masonries perching on walkway walls. Below the lotuses, on the outer side of walkway walls, there are small niches with Kalamakara above them. Inside each of the niches, there is a bas-relief sculpture depicting Vishnu as a sitting priest with various hand positions. Vishnu Temple only has one chamber with an access door facing east. Inside the chamber, there is a statue of Vishnu standing on a Yoni-shaped pedestal. The statue portrays Vishnu as a four-handed god. The rear right hand is holding a Cakra (Vishnu’s mythical weapon) and the rear left hand is gripping an oyster. The front right hand is clutching a bludgeon and the front left hand is holding a lotus. Brahma Temple Brahma Temple is located to the south of Shiva Temple. The temple is on a platform with a walled walkway encircling the temple base. There is a band of panels picturing Lokapala around the temple body. The continuation of Ramayana epic that starts at Shiva Temple is found here at Brahma Temple on a series of panels decorating the inner part of walkway walls. The opening scene shows Rama, backed by his brother Laksmana and the army of monkeys, fights Rahwana. The ending scene is the one when Sinta, being expelled by Rama for he is suspicious about Sinta’s purity, wanders around in the jungle and gives birth to a son under the protection of a hermit. There is a row of lotus-shaped masonries perching on top of walkway walls. Below the lotuses, on the outer side of walkway walls, there are small niches with Kalamakara above them. Inside each of the niches, there is a bas-relief sculpture depicting Brahma as a sitting priest with various hand positions. Brahma Temple only has one chamber with an access door facing east. Inside the chamber, there is a statue of Brahma standing on a Yoni-shaped pedestal. The Brahma has two hands and four heads, and each head faces different directions. On the forehead of the face looking forward, there is a third eye called ‘urna’. The beautiful statue is now in a terrible condition. The chamber walls are plain without decoration. On each side of the walls, there are raised stones on which people used to place lanterns. Wahana (Vehicle)Temples Nandi Temple. The only stairway to access the temple is located at the west side, facing Shiva Temple. Nandi is a sacred cow which becomes Shiva’s ride. Compared to the flanking Garuda Temple and Swan Temple, the design of Nandi Temple is similar to them, only slightly bigger and taller. The temple body is on a two-meter-tall platform. As seen at Shiva Temple, the temple base is decorated with two different designs engraved repeatedly one after the other. The first design is a picture of a lion standing in the middle of two Kalpataru trees. The second one is a picture of a couple of animals sheltering under a Kalpataru tree, and a couple of birds perching on the same tree. The same pictures are also seen in other vehicle temples. Nandi Temple has a single cella inside its body. To reach the chamber, there is a stairway and a door which are found at the west side of the temple. Inside the chamber, there is a statue of Nandi the cow, Shiva’s ride, lying on the ground looking westward. There are also two other statues found inside the chamber. They are the statues of Surya and Candra. Surya, the sun god, is standing on a chariot drawn by seven horses while Candra, the moon god, is on a chariot drawn by ten horses. The walls are plain without any decoration. There is a raised part on each side of walls on which people used tom place a lantern. The walkway walls around the temple are also plain without any embellishment. Garuda Temple. Garuda (Vishnu’s ride) Temple is situated to the north of Nandi Temple, opposite Vishnu Temple. The decorating designs found all over the temple base and the stairways are identical to those seen at Nandi Temple. Even though the temple is so called Garuda, no Garuda statue is found inside the cella. Instead, there is a small Shiva statue found on the floor, smaller than the one inside Shiva Temple. As a matter of fact, the statue was found buried under the temple, and it does not belong to the chamber. Swan Temple. Swan (Brahma’s ride) Temple is situated to the south of Nandi Temple, opposite Brahma Temple. The size of the temple, along with the decorating designs on temple base and stairways, is similar to that of Garuda Temple. The chamber inside the temple is vacant, no decoration is found on the walls. There are only raised parts on the walls on which people used to place lanterns. Apit (Flanker) Temples Apit Temples are a couple of temples standing opposite each other. Each of Apit Temples is situated at the north and south ends of an alley separating the two rows of bigger temples. Each of Apit Temples is six square meters and 16 meters tall. Although they sit on a 2.5 meter-tall platform, there is no space for a walkway encircling the temples. There is a staircase to access the only chamber inside each temple. Apit Temples look extraordinarily beautiful after undergoing restoration. Apart from the aforementioned six big temples and two Apit Temples, there are eight smaller temples found in the upper court. Those temples are 1.25 square meters. Four of them are located in the four corners of the court, and the rest of them are situated near the entrance into the upper court. The present day Prambanan is beautiful. There is a stage built in front of the compound, on which Ramayana ballet is usually performed. There is also a park that adds to the beauty of the compound. The Legend of Rara Jonggrang Once upon a time, there were two neighboring kingdoms in Central Java. One was Pengging kingdom, ruled by King Pengging, and the other was Prambanan kingdom, ruled by King Baka. Baka was a giant with incredible divine power. He was famous for his cruelty and, in order to maintain power, he had rituals of human sacrifice. Despite his frightening figure and merciless heart, he had a beautiful daughter named Rara Jonggrang. King Pengging had long been in sorrow because his people were often disturbed by Prambanan’s forces. He desperately want to exterminate Prambanan authorities, only to find that they were too powerful. To this intent, King Pengging ordered his son Prince Bandung to meditate and ask for power from the gods. Prince Bandung managed to obtain the power in a genie called Bandawasa. Bandawasa always fulfilled whatever was asked by Prince Bandung. Since then, his name changed into Prince Bandung Bandawasa. Having the power, prince Bandung and the Pengging’s army set forth to Prambanan. Through a bitter fight, prince Bandung killed King Baka. Upon his father’s permission, Bandung intended to set up a new administration in Prambanan. Entering the palace, he met the beautiful Princess Rara Jonggrang. Bandung fell in love with her at first sight and asked her to marry him. Rara Jonggrang did not want to marry the man who had killed her father, but she did not have the courage to reject his proposal directly. She would marry him on condition that prince Bandung had to build 1000 temples overnight. Prince Bandung agreed with the condition. Soon after sunset, he headed to a square not far from Prambanan. He mediated to call Bandawasa, his genie, and commanded the genie to build the temples for him. Bandawasa then mobilized fellow genies to help with the temple building. After midnight, Rara Jonggrang sneaked a look at the field to see how the building had been progressing. She was startled to see the work was almost done. She ran to a nearby village to wake up the girls. Together they hit the rice pestle to give an impression that they were pounding rice. This sound had waked roosters, which started to crow. At that moment, Bandawasa had already made 999 temples and was working on the last one. Hearing the rooster crowed, Bandawasa and his friends stopped their work and disappeared. They thought it was dawn. When Bandung saw Bandawasa and his friends running, he woke up from his meditation and was ready to tell his failure to Rara Jonggrang. After waiting long enough, Bandung wondered why the dawn had not raised. He then investigated the oddity. It was to his anger knowing that he had been cheated by Rara Jonggrang. He cursed the princess into a statue. The Rara Jonggrang statue can still be seen in Rara Jonggrang temple as part of Prambanan temple compound. Bandung also cursed the girls in Prambanan to be old maiden to whom no man would marry.

prambanan,, Temple, world heritage

prambanan,, Temple, world heritage


Prambanan is the largest Hindu temple compound in Central Java in Indonesia, located approximately 18 km east of Yogyakarta.

The temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the largest Hindu temples in south-east Asia. It is characterised by its tall and pointed architecture, typical of Hindu temple architecture, and by the 47m high central building inside a large complex of individual temples.

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