I’m often intrigued by Javanese antiquities. Constructed out of precisely formed stones stacked several stories high without the use of cement, these monuments are testimony to the skill of these ancient builders.
Over the eons, the faith of Javanese has changed. The ruins of these shrines are the ghostly remains of an era long gone. The Prambanan Plain is one area in Central Java where a cluster of ancient Hindu temples have been discovered.
Built in the 10th Century, the main temple complex comprises lofty conical structures. The largest temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Two others beside it are dedicated to Brahma and Vishnu. There are 4 other temples and 2 shrines within the main symmetrical compound. The 4 gates here open into a larger symmetrical compound housing 224 shrines. The entire complex is designed like a mandala.
And that is the main draw on a day trip to Prambanan. This massive project was initiated by the Sanjaya Kingdom as a Hindu answer to Borobudur, built by the Saliendra Kingdom some 30km away. However, within the vicinity of Prambanan, is a rather impressive Buddhist temple called Candi Plaosan.
Technically, Buddhist temples do not belong to the Prambanan complex. Sitting in the midst of rice and tobacco fields, Candi Plaosan is easy to miss out. I’m not sure if there is a proper path leading to the temple now. When I visited Candi Plaosan in 1997, I had to ask around and walk through a couple of fields before I could find it.
Does it remind you of Borobudur? This is actually a temple comprising two identical “towers”. Each one housed a viharn or prayer hall. They are 3 stories high, the sculpted components all stacked together without cement. The open area between the two towers was for monks to congregate.
Another notable Buddhist temple in the area is Candi Sewu. It is believed to be dedicated to Bodhisattva Manjusri and was originally surrounded by more than 200 shrines, many of which are virtually non-existent today. Notice the symmetry, the intricate design and the technical precision of the builders who did Candi Sewu. In it’s heyday, it was the second largest Buddhist monument in Java after Borobudur.
From these ruins, one can imagine how glorious this place must have been 1,000 years ago; the result of Hindu and Buddhist builders who tried to outdo one another.