Prambanan – Indonesia

Nearly 100 years after Borabadur’s construction was completed, a new dynasty emerged in Central Java under the Sanjayan Dynasty that turned away from Buddhism and towards Hinduism.  Built around 900AD, it became acquired by the jungle and time.  In fact long after it stopped being used, people forgot it’s purpose and developed their own myths about it (Here is the short story that locals developed about the temple Click Here).

In 1814 the temple was “rediscovered” and by the early 1900s, efforts were made to restore it again.  The focus was the main temples and in 1973 a concerted effort was made to renovate the major temples.

The Prambanan complex is impressive and not surprisingly, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  There are 240 temples, less than 20 still standing.  The largest is dedicated to Shiva (the destroyer of worlds).  The next two are of equal size and are dedicated to Brama (the creator of the words), and Vishnu (The preserver and protector of worlds). Together they form the Triumvir (The holy trinity) of the Hindu believe system.  They represent the birth, maintenance and death cycle of life.

The main structures in the middle have been restored, and except for a few the rest are rubble outside.

Like Borobudur, all the stone was hauled in, and shaped by stone carvers.

This angle captures some of the external temples that have not been restored.
Shiva’s Temple, is the largest.  There are four inner chambers, each housing a different statue.  (Shiva, Dura, Ganesh, and Agastya).  The statues sat alone in very dark rooms.  Entering the inner chambers after the climb was anticlimactic. Mostly empty with a single statue, I had to imagine that in centuries past they most likely housed more adornments, lighting, and fanfare.
Notice the intricate design.  It almost looks like a drip sand castle.  They are not stupas, they are ratnas, the Hindu counterparts to the Buddhist stupas.
Decorative reliefs lined the balustrades of each temple.
These reliefs adorned the exterior of each of the six main restored temples.  Beside the lion is a Kalpavriksha Tree, which is ubiquitous throughout Hindu lore as a wish giving tree.
Interesting, each relief shows different animals eating from the tree.
When there is spare space on the walls and there are no reliefs, these decorative patterns adorn walls and passageways.  (The stone carvers must have charged overtime).

The reliefs tell the epic story of Ramayana, a Hindu poem going back to 400AD.  It is a love story about virtue and triumph of righteousness and bravery over evil. When I learned that one of the great heros of the story was Hanoman the monkey king, I thought of my experiences in the monkey forest and began to understand why monkeys were so revered.

Mostly rubble with some formed temples
Workers clean rocks by hand and mark them for reassembly into the temple.

The site in the midst of restoration was the Sewu Complex.  It is the second largest Buddhist temple complex in Indonesia.  It also predates Prambaman by nearly 100 years.  The main temple has been restored, although no statues remain.

We wandered the compound for hours, feeling small and insignificant in awe of not only the beauty that was around us, but what it took to build it, and the amazing feat to restore it.  Teams of people scrubbed the rocks and were organizing them for reassembly.  Working in the equatorial heat cleaning rocks may seem thankless.  But as we traversed back to the main temple, we realized how majestic the cumulative impacts of small jobs are.

Early Civilization Timeline (Click Here)


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