The spectacular temples of Prambanan

Love Engine | Saturday, 17 January 2015 - 14:05:31 WIB | be read: 4439 reader

The huge Prambanan complex was erected in the middle of the 9th century – around 50 years later than Borobudur – but little is known about its early history. It’s thought that it was built by Rakai Pikatan to commemorate the return of a Hindu dynasty to sole power in Java.

Prambanan was in ruins for years, and while efforts were made in 1885 to clear the site, it was not until 1937 that reconstruction was first attempted. Of the original group, the outer compound contains the remains of 244 temples. Eight minor and eight main temples stand in the highest central courtyard.

Candi Shiva Mahadeva, dedicated to Shiva, is not only the largest of the temples but also the finest.

The main spire soars 47m and the temple is lavishly carved. The ‘medallions’ that decorate its base have a characteristic Prambanan motif – small lions in niches flanked by kalpatura(trees of heaven) and a menagerie of stylised half-human and half-bird kinnara (heavenly beings). The vibrant scenes carved onto the inner wall of the gallery encircling the temple are from the Ramayana – they tell how Lord Rama’s wife, Sita, is abducted and how Hanuman the monkey god and Sugriwa the white-monkey general eventually find and release her.

The following descriptions apply to the temple’s interior, which has not been accessible since the earthquake of 2006. The main chamber at the top of the eastern stairway has a four-armed statue of Shiva the Destroyer and is notable for the fact that this mightiest of Hindu gods stands on a huge lotus pedestal, a symbol of Buddhism. In the southern cell is the pot-bellied and bearded Agastya, an incarnation of Shiva as divine teacher; in the western cell is a superb image of the elephant-headed Ganesha, Shiva’s son. In the northern cell, Durga, Shiva’s consort, can be seen killing the demon buffalo. Some people believe that the Durga image is actually an image of the Slender Virgin, who, legend has it, was turned to stone by a man she refused to marry. She is still an object of pilgrimage and her name is often used for the temple group.

Candi Vishnu touches 33m and sits just north of Candi Shiva Mahadeva. It’s still possible to get up front and personal with this magnificent temple. Its impressive reliefs tell the story of Lord Krishna, a hero of the Mahabharata epic, and you can ascend its stone staircase to the inner chamber and see a four-armed image of Vishnu the Preserver.

Candi Brahma is Candi Vishnu’s twin temple. It is south of Candi Shiva Mahadeva and carved with the final scenes of the Ramayana. It has a spectacular ‘monster mouth’ doorway. If you’re able to gain access to its inner chamber it contains a four-headed statue of Brahma, the god of creation.

Candi Sewu, the ‘Thousand Temples’, dating from around AD 850, originally consisted of a large central Buddhist temple surrounded by four rings of 240 smaller ‘guard’ temples. Outside the compound stood four sanctuaries at the points of the compass, of which Candi Bubrah is the most southern one. The renovated main temple has finely carved niches around its inner gallery – these niches once held bronze statues.

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