Wednesday, 5 September 2012

JAVA SUITE: The Temples of Prambanan

Leopold Godowsky did not write any music in his Java Suite about the mysterious ruins of Prambanan, just located northeast and about 45 minutes drive from central Yogyakarta. That was probably because the temple complex had fallen completely into disrepair for centuries. These temples were build in the 9th century, contemporaneous with Borobudur, and are scattered across a wide plain. To be honest, Borobudur as a single monolithic structure is more impressive but there is a certain mystery and mystique about the temples of Prambanan that is worth exploring. 

All tourist groups will stop at Loro Jonggrang, a complex of Hindu temples which boasts the tallest Hindu religious structure in the world. That is the 47 metre tall Shiva temple which is the centrepiece of Loro Jonggrang. Partially damaged by earthquakes in recent years, it still stands proudly (above) although tourists are not allowed within its walls for safety reasons. However the surrounding temples dedicated to Brahma and Vishnu are readily accessible. 

Carvings along the walls of the Brahma temple.

A view of Loro Jonggrang from the Brahma Temple.

View from the northern end of the complex. The Shiva and Vishnu temples stand out on the right. 

Just 10 minutes north of Loro Jonggrang is the Buddhist temples of Sewu. Also built around the same time, these temples have been more recently restored. The rubble around are the remnants of smaller temples littered around this very impressive looking complex. Two pot-bellied temple guards (left foreground) guard the premises. Tourists are encouraged to wander around the ruins and meditate. 

A headless Buddha fronts the main temple of Sewu.

One of the best kept secrets of Prambanan is the Buddhist temple of Plaosan, located 5 minutes east of the Sewu Temple, and outside of the main tourist complex. There are hardly any visitors here, but the views are no less fine. There are two main temples separated by a perimeter wall. These pictures were taken just before sunset, and lend an aura of mystique to the surroundings.

A view of Plaosan North temple, from Plaosan South.

The fact that Buddhist and Hindu temples could exist such in close proximity during the 9th century was an indication of religious tolerance of the times. If only we could learn something from these ancients, the world would certainly be a better place. 

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