(more info from our Winter Break trip – we’ve already spent time on the islands of Gili Trawangan snd Lombok getting certified to dive, and spent some time in the city of Yogyakarta. This is the recap of a day trip we took from Yogya to the Hindu temple complex at Prambanan)
Prambanan is the largest Hindu temple ensemble in Java. Constructed between the 8th and 10th centuries, it represents the peaceful co-existence of Buddhism and Hinduism in Java before the arrival of Islam. The three largest temples are dedicated to Brahman, Shiva and Vishnu, but Buddhist symbols are sprinkled everywhere. Some historians believe a violent eruption from Agung Merapi in the 16th century caused the evacuation of this site and subsequent move of Javanese rulers to East Java. 2006 brought an earthquake which caused severe damage to the site. Fortunately for us, much repair work has been done. However, tourists are still unable to enter the interiors of several of the temples because of on-going restoration work to stabilize the ruins.
Candi Shiva is the largest and tallest temple. The story of Ram, Sita and Hanuman, which we know so well from our years celebrating Diwali in India, is carved along its lower panels. Medallions around the base have the kalpatura (tree of life) with half-human/half-bird kinnara flying overhead. There are three statues on the inside of the temple, but tourists are not able to view them. Copies are in the museum – a four-armed Shiva (notable because he stands on a lotus flower – typical symbol of Buddhism), Agastya as an incarnation of Shiva the teacher, and Ganesha, the familiar Elephant-headed God from our time in India. In a separate chamber, there is a statue of Durga, Shiva’s consort, killing a monster-demon.
Candi Vishnu has the story of Lord Krishna on its panels. Visitors can ascend this temple and see the huge four armed statue of Vishnu as Preserver in the interior.
Candi Brahma has the final episodes of the Ramayana carved on its panels. It, like Candi Vishnu, has a huge and fascinating ‘monster‘ mouth for it main portal. Our guide at Borobudur said that temples that have this mouth are designed to remind people to control their words and think about the power that words have. We are not sure that this is true, but it is a good reminder, none-the-less! A huge four-headed statue of Brahama the creator resides inside this temple.
Candi Sewu, built during the same time period, is a separate temple in the same compound. It has one main Buddhist temple with 240 guard temples around it. The interior has four rooms facing the four cardinal directions. These are full of beautifully carved niches that must have held statues at one time. We were not allowed to ‘explore’ Prambanan, so Alea enjoyed the opportunity to get up close and personal with a few secret spaces at this temple.
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