Prambanan Temple

Ever wondered how does the biggest Hindu Temple in Indonesia look like? Then search no further! You have discovered it in Yogyakarta, the heart of culture in Java Island. As one of the centers for preserving many cultures in the area, Yogyakarta is blessed with many historical sites, including one of the biggest Hindu Temple, Candi Prambanan or Prambanan Temple also known as Candi Roro Jonggrang. The history of the Prambanan Temple can be traced back to the 9th century. According to UNESCO, Prambanan Temple is the largest Hindu Temple ever built in Indonesia and was built as the devoting site for Shiva. The history says that it was built during the golden age of Sailendra dynasty in Java. 

Image by Deny Sabri from Pixabay 

From afar, you can see the complex of 3 towering temples in the primary yard. The 3 majoring temples are Vishnu, Brahma, and Shiva and are symbols of Trimurti. However, these aren’t the only temples in the complex. Each primary temple is surrounded by accompanying temple, Shiva is accompanied by Nandini, Brahma is accompanied by Angsa, and Vishnu is accompanied by Garuda. Aside from the accompanying temples, there are also small temples around the complex, in total there are more than 200 temples! 

The tallest temple is Shiva temple in the middle, inside the main room, you will find Shiva statues, and three other rooms are occupied by Shiva’s wife (Durga), Shiva’s son (Ganesha) and Shiva’s teacher (Agastya). The Brahma temple is occupied by Brahma Statue and Vishnu Temple is occupied with Vishnu statue. 

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There are many legends surrounding the mythical Prambanan Temple. One of the most famous legends is the story of Roro Jonggrang itself. The legend says in the past Prince Bandung Bondowoso fell in love with Princess Roro Jonggrang. Roro Jonggrang rejected his proposal for Bandung Bondowoso had killed his father, King Boko and take over her kingdom. King Boko is believed to be connected in a nearby temple of Ratu Boko in this story. However, he insisted to marry Roro Jonggrang, she finally gave in on one condition. Bandung Bondowoso must build for her 1000 temples in one night. 

He was helped by the spirits to build 999 temples for one day. Knowing that he would succeed, she woke the maids and women in the village to pound rice and set a fire in the east. It was a trick to fool Bandung Bondowoso and his spirits to believe that the sun is about to rise. When hearing the sound of pounding rice, the cocks began to crow. Knowing that he was only one temple left, he was furious and cursed Roro Jonggrang to be the 1000th temple and is believed to turn into Durga statue in Shiva Temple. Thus, Prambanan Temple also is known in Javanese as Candi Sewu (Thousand Temple).

Another unique feature is the Garuda Temple who accompanied Vishnu. Garuda in Hindu mythology is a mythical bird – half-human, with a golden body and red wings. The face also has a beak, thus resembling an eagle. If you’re familiar with Egypt mythology, you may think it almost looks like the God of Sun, Ra. The symbol of Indonesia is also Garuda Bird. 

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The attraction is not only inside the temple. Look closely on the relief surrounding the temples and you will find marvelously carved stones that represent advanced building technology from the past. The relief tells the story of the Indonesian version of the Ramayana epic. Some experts believed that this story is passed down orally from generation to generation. 

prambanan temple reliefe
Image by Aliko Sunawang from Pixabay 

The best time to visit this temple is according to your purpose. If you wish to learn about the history, relief and so on, you can visit the temple in the morning and afternoon to look closely on the amazing masonry and learn a bit of the past. You can also visit during the evening to enjoy burning sunset as the background of the temple. 

prambanan temple view
Photo by Agnes Sulistya

There have been many concerts being held around the area, providing a unique experience to listen to great music from great musicians with Prambanan as the background. One of the most popular is Prambanan Jazz that is held annually and invites famous musicians from Indonesia and international star such as Brian McKnight, Sarah Brightman, and so on. 

Can’t wait to visit Yogyakarta again? Pick a tour for a more convenient visit including other temples in the surrounding area.

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