The world’s largest island destination – Indonesia is a host to magnificent architecture that definitely is worth a visit. One of the beautiful attractions is the World Heritage-listed Prambanan Temple – the largest Hindu site comprising of remains of about 240 temples in Indonesia and the second largest in Southeast Asia.
Built-in the 9th century, this Hindu temple compound of Prambanan Temple stands in the Special Region of Yogyakarta in Indonesia and is dedicated to the Trimurti – Brahma (creator), Vishnu (preserver), and Shiva (transformer). Trimurti is an expression of the all-mighty as the creator, preserver, and transformer of the universe.
The construction of the Prambanan Temple began somewhere around the middle of the 9th century. It’s said that the construction was likely started by Raki Pikatan and later on expanded extensively by Mataram Kings. According to historians, the temple was allegedly built to mark the return of the Hindu Sanjaya Dynasty to power in Java. The temple is symbolic of the Medang court shifting its patronage from Mahayana Buddhism to Shaivite Hinduism.
Apparently, the decline of the temples begins with the court being shifted to East Java in the 10th century either because of power struggle or of an eruption of Mount Merapi volcano (located north of Prambanan). Since the temple was abandoned it soon began to deteriorate. Then came along a major earthquake in the 16th century during which the temples collapsed and remained in ruins for years. These ruins and statues became the core from where the theme and inspiration for the Rara Jonggrangg legend springs.
Efforts began to clear the site in the 19th century itself however, it’s only in the 20th century that first attempts were made at reconstruction. During the 2006 earthquake, the temples suffered another extensive blow however the main temples survived.
A bit inside on the architecture of the Prambanan Temple tells that the temples follow typical Hindu architecture based on Vastu Shashtra. The entire temples have been divided into three zones – outer, middle, and central. The outer zone is more like open space and the middle zone is a series of small shrines aligned in four concentric rows around the central zone. The central zone consists of major and minor temples built on a raised platform. The Candi Shiva Mahadeva stands the highest among these.
The Rara Jonggrang tale that springs from these very ruins of Prambanan Temple is what connects the temples to Ratu Boko Palace, the origin of the Durga statue in the main shrine, and the Sewu temple complex nearby. As the tale says, prince Bandung Bondowoso fell in love with King Boko’s daughter Rara Jonggrang however, the princess had rejected the marriage proposal because Bandung Bondowoso had killed King Boko and ruled her kingdom.
Later the princess was forced to marry the prince but Rara Jonggrang proposed a condition that the prince would have to build her a thousand temples in one night. Through meditation, the prince called upon spirits from Earth to help him build the temples. After completion of 999 temples, the princess tricked the prince and spirits. She along with her maids lit fire to make the spirits believe that the sun had come up and eventually the spirits left. The prince was left furious and he cursed Rara Jonggrang to turn into stone.
Indonesia is often seen to be a dwelling place for varied traditions, cultures, and history with each one mesmerizing on its own. Set against the backdrop of folklore with magnificent architecture the Prambanan Temple with definitely leave a mark in any traveler’s mind.
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