Candi Prambanan, D.I. Yogyakarta – The Beautifully Cursed Loro Djonggrang

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Candi Prambanan would be one of the most recommended places to visit in Yogyakarta by about anybody you’d ask. I would recommend it too, especially if you’re interested in history, epic and not afraid to be exposed to stabbing sunlight. Candi Prambanan is a complex of many high structure temples, which is the typical of Hindu temples. It is erected on a vast land, built by the king of Mataram Kingdom around 9th century.

Candi Prambanan

I had been to Candi Prambanan in one of my family vacations when I was little, but all I remember was being bored. Now that I’ve grown more interest in history and culture, I didn’t want to pass a chance to revisit Candi Prambanan just before I took off for Waisak in the neighboring city of Magelang. And now, I’m impressed!

Shiva temple of Candi Prambanan

Candi Prambanan complex consisted of many big and small temples. It is said to be dedicated to the Trimurti: the three main gods of Hindu, naming Wishnu (or Vishnu), Brahma and Shiva (or Siwa).

You can easily spot which ones are the main temples just by the height. They’re the three tallest temples, with the Shiva temple as the tallest and erected in the middle. It’s said that according to an old epigraph, Candi Prambanan was originally called Siwagrha, which in Sanskrit means ‘the house of Siwa or Shiva’. Apparently, there are several sects of Hinduism practiced around the world. The one practiced most common in Indonesia is the Shaivism, in which Shiva is believed as the greatest deity, for he is the Supreme Being.

Candi Prambanan

Quite ironically, the Shiva temple was the only one that visitors may not enter at the time of my visit, to avoid more damages inside it. Arya, my local Yogyanese friend who accompanied me on the tour, explained that Shiva temple was the first one to be renovated. Now that the other temples have been well renovated, Shiva temple has started to get damaged again, partly because of an earthquake that happened in 2006.

It was unfortunate for me because then I couldn’t see the statue of the ‘house owner’ himself, neither could I see the statues of Durga, Ganesha and Agastya (the wife, the son and the mentor of Shiva’s). I bet these statues, each in its own chamber, were epic!

Brahma and Wishnu temples of Candi Prambanan

The Brahma temple to the south and Wishnu temple to the north are next. These two are smaller than Shiva temple, and only has one chamber inside of each. I overheard a tour guide that told his guests, that the statue of Brahma faces 4 directions. He said that this means Brahma is watching you, you, you, and you. He’s watching the world as he is the God of Creation. Hm, wait.. shouldn’t that be Wishnu’s duty, as the God of Maintenance?

Candi Prambanan

candi prambanan

The ‘vehicle’ temples

Gods don’t fly, they’re important enough to transport on their own special vehicles. Shiva’s vehicle is Nandi the bull, Brahma’s vehicle is Hamsa the sacred swan, and Vishnu’s choice of transportation is Garuda the eagle. Each of these vehicles is also made a small temple that’s located in front of its master. I find that as a really simple yet fascinating story telling.

One thousand temples of Candi Prambanan

Based on archeologists’ finding, the Candi Prambanan comples used to consist of sooooo many temples surrounding the main temples I just told you about. So many, that legend said there were a thousand temples. It is also the legend that says Candi Prambanan complex was actually made out of love (or lust?) from Prince Bandung Bondowoso to a princess named Loro Djonggrang. Loro Djonggrang was the daughter of Ratu Boko who owned the Ratu Boko Palace. She refused Bandung’s proposal because the guy had actually murdered her father! She tried to refuse nicely, by asking him to do the impossible: build 1,000 temples in just one night, and the work must be done before dawn. What a tricky little princess… *evil queen laugh*

Candi Prambanan

“Piece of cake!” said Bandung Bondowoso, I’d imagine. He had his genie troop to help him build the temples with their super power. Panicking, Loro Djonggrang faked dawn. She had a big fire lit up and began pounding rice, as those were usually the signs of dawn. Roosters crowed and genies vanished as they are afraid of sunlight (hm, sounds like vampires!) just after 999 temples. Furious, Bandung Bondowoso turned the princess into the 1000th temple. It is now believed as the Durga statue inside the Shiva temple… Wait..what? I thought Durga was Shiva’s wife? Oh I’m confused.. Anyway, this legend is the reason why Prambanan is also called as Candi Loro Djonggrang.

The condition of Candi Prambanan

It’s so amazing that the people of 9th century had thought of ways to build such complex temples. And did you know that Shiva temple is almost 50 meters high? How do you build that without using forklifts and such?  The stonewalls are meticulously carved, telling the story of Ramayana and Sita as well as the philosophy of life in general.

Candi Prambanan

Many of the temples in Candi Prambanan complex are now left as ruins. Partly destroyed with time, partly by earthquakes, partly stolen by locals for building materials and some statues being sold as antiques. And the temples that have lost the foundation could not be renovated :-(

Practical Info:

  • Candi Prambanan, located about 20 km east to Yogyakarta, 40 km west to Solo.
  • A Trans Jogja bus can get you from Yogyakarta city to a stop called Prambanan.
  • A motorbike ride takes only about 30 minutes from Ratu Boko Palace.
  • Entrance ticket: IDR 30,000 / Indonesian, IDR 171,000 / international visitor. Guide fee: IDR 70,000 / tour, upon request.

Note: the prices might’ve gone up these days due to the rise of petrol prices that surely affects so many things economically.

The official website: www.borobudurpark.co.id

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