SINCE 1999

Ancient Hindu and Buddhist temples of Java.


In Indonesia Hindu and Buddhist temples are known as Candi, the word originates from the Sanskrit word Candikagrha which is associated with the Goddess Durga. In ancient Javanese language of Kawi Cinandi means buried. During the consecration of a temple, no human body or ash is placed inside, but at the base precious stones and coins and other offerings are placed known as peripih, symbolizing  the union of the deceased and the creator. The raja or king would have had his body cremated and the ashes placed in the ocean. There are no temples remaining from the 5th century as the materials for the construction were perishable. The ancient Javanese constructed temples following the instructions in Manasara Silpastra, which are the ancient Indian scriptures on the building of a candi.
All temples are generally built on fertile ground and near water or at a maximum distance of five hundred meters from a river. The temple styles developed over five hundred years following the changing religious rituals. The central Javanese temples generally follow the Indian style with east facing entrances. One can see the similarity between the Mamallapuram temples and the early Javanese temples as both were built during the Pallavan kingdom of the South India.
During the 8th till the 10th centuries central Java was ruled by two kingdoms, to the north was the Hindu kingdom Mataram and to the south was the Buddhist  Shailendras. Later they merged and moved to East Java.

Central Javanese Temples:

Gunung Wukir:
Oldest inscription in Central Java at Canggal dated 732AD written in Sanskrit by Sannaha who came from South India with his son Sanjaya. It describes the Island of Java as being the finest, rich with seeds, rice and gold. Also describes Sannaha and Sanjaya’s migration from Kunjarakunja in South India, and the building of Shiva temple on Mount Wukir.
Originally known as Dihyang, meaning abode of the Gods. There are three main groups being Arjuna, Gatutkaca and Dwarawati built between 690 to 800 AD. Bima is in its own category. Most are dedicated to Shiva. Arjuna complex consists of five temples, Arjuna, Semar, Srikandi, Sembadra and Puntadewa. Arjuna had a lingam and the temple has gutters for ritual bathing of the lingam. This temple structure is similar style to the Pallavan temples in Tamil Nadu. The entrance faces west. Semar probably had a Nandi  and has an east facing entrance. Srikandi on its northern side has a carving of Vishnu, whilst east side has a Shiva and on the south is Brahma. The other two temples are Sembadra and Puntadewa of which both no longer have deities. Dwarawati consists of four temples and in relatively good condition. Dwarawati is similar to Gatutkaca and faces west. Candi Bima is the largest temple on Dieng and different to any other as it was modeled from Orissa (North India) and later modified around 800AD for Buddhist use.
A single temple dedicated to Shiva, with deities still intact except for missing heads. Statue of Agastya can be seen on southern side although damaged one can still see the image clearly. Other sides are Nandisvara, Shiva, Durga and Ganesha. This temple originally housed a lingam. The temple is situated near Mount Sumbing around 600m above sea level and requires  a two kilometer narrow walk besides padi fields and steep hills.
The oldest Buddhist temple in Java dedicated to the Goddess Tara. Built in 778 AD by the Shailendras. In the Sanskrit inscription of 778AD it mentions that the King Panangkaran had been advised by the Buddhist religious leaders to build a temple in this are dedicated to Tara. It also served as a place for the Buddhist monks to reside. Penangkaran was the son of the Hindu King Sanjaya and reigned from 750 to 850 AD. Kalasan temple faces east and is cube shaped, it has fifty two stupas. The original Tara would had been caste in bronze.
First stage of construction by the Shailendra’s started around 775 AD, built on a hill approximately 265m above sea level, according to the Dutch expert Caspalis the word Borobudur came from the Sanskrit words Bhumi Sambahara Budhara meaning mountain of combined virtues of the ten stages of Boddhisatvahood. It took approximately seventy five years to complete when Samaratungga was in power. The outline is shaped as a mandala and is the largest Buddhist structure in the world, has five hundred and four Buddha statues of which seventy two are inside stupas. The temple was built as an educational centre rather than a monastery or place of worship, it runs a straight line with Pawon and Mendut suggesting in ancient times was probably linked via a stone wall as devotees walked performing various rituals as they walked from temple to temple. Borobudur was abandoned at around 920AD when Mount Merapi erupted covering the temple with ash. It took nearly a thousand years for the temple to be discovered by Thomas Stamford Raffles.
Candi Sari was built around the same time as Kalasan in the 9th century. It’s unique in that it has two storeys similar to Plaosan. Originally the second storey flooring was made from timber. There are thirty eight Bodhisatvas carved around the exterior walls.
Ratu boko:
Ratu boko is not a temple but a place and probably was used as the headquarters of the Mataram empire. Within the compound are a series of archaeological remains of temples. There was a Buddhist inscription dated 792 saying it was built by Rakai Penangkaran and known as Abhayagiri Wihara. Later it became Hindu and was known as Keraton Walaing named after King Rakai Walaing Pu Kombayoni who governed from 898-908 AD.
Built during the early 9th century during King Pikatan of Mataram. Plaosan is made of several temples, Plaosan Lor and Kidul, Plaosan Lor is in the north and Kidul is in the south. Originally one complex.
Built around 850AD by the king Pikatan of Mataram, the temple was to honour Lord Shiva, it was initially known as Shivagraha (Shiva’s house). Its location near Syailendra temples served to show Mataram’s dominance and also tolerance towards Buddhism. As in Indian temples the main shrine faces east, later east Java temples often faced the west. This is the most important Hindu temple in Indonesia. Prambanan probably originated from the Sanskrit words Brahmavanam meaning Brahman’s forest or Almighty’s forest. Prambanan was abandoned as the kingdom moved to east Java and suffered greatly from Merapi’s eruptions.
Sewu was built during the 8th century during the Hindu Mataram empire, although Buddhist it shows the tolerance between Syailendras and Hindus as the Prambanan temple is closeby.
Ninth century temple, in perfect condition discovered accidentally by a farmer in 1966. It lay buried six meters underground, after Mount Merapi’s eruption. This temple still has statues of Durga, Ganesha and Agastya in its niches. Inside has a complete lingam and yoni.

East Java temples:
In the Dinoyo inscription of 760 AD it records the construction of this temple dedicated to Agastya by the son of King Devasingha, ruler of Kanjuruhan known as Gajayana. This temple is highly likely linked to Sanjaya and has the same style as Dieng and Gedong songo but larger, it represents the oldest in East Java. Inside has a complete lingam. Originally on the southern side it had a sculpture of Shiva Guru ( Agastya) and on the east is Ganesha. Durga Mahisasuramaardini on the northern side is still remaining.
Built by Kertanegara in the 13th century and his ashes were placed here. Kertanegara followed Shiva Buddhism, a mixture of both religions and this temple originally had a Shiva statue and Buddha Aksobya. It’s the best surviving temple of this era and has moats like the early Dieng and Indian temples.
Built around 13th century in commemoration of King Kertanegara of Singosari. There are four empty niches which originally had deities, although this temple is a masterpiece it was not completed. The statue of Agastya is still standing, the others were taken to the Netherlands. The remains of the two large Dwarapalas (giants) and the large open space, makes this area highly likely the centre of the Singosari empire.
Near Mojokerto consists of 100m2 of remains from the Majapahit empire and was the headquarters for the Majapahit up until 1478. The building originally had a large brick wall surrounding the complex. Built during Hayam Wuruk (1350-1389), Candi Tikus is a bathing place and Candi Bajang Ratu originally led to a monument which is no longer standing. Many of the buildings are for government administration as well as religious purpose.

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