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Tuesday, February 13, 2024, 18:52 WIB
Last Updated 2024-02-13T12:15:14Z
TempleTop Destinations Indonesia

Temple of Prambanan


The largest Hindu site in Indonesia and a top tourist destination in Southeast Asia, Prambanan is made up of the remnants of about 244 temples and is classified as a World Heritage Site. The centerpiece is the central compound, which consists of eight major and eight smaller temples arranged on an elevated platform. The temples are a visual feast of carved masonry and staircases, with Candi Shiva Mahadeva serving as the centerpiece. A full day is required to fully appreciate Prambanan, which is situated amid a sizable park scattered with smaller temples.

Building at Prambanan began in the middle of the 9th century, some 50 years after Borobudur, and lasted for two centuries. Although not much is known about the temple complex's early history, it is believed that Rakai Pikatan may have constructed it to honor the return of a Hindu dynasty to absolute control in Java. After the Hindu-Javanese kings relocated to East Java, the entire Prambanan Plain was deserted, and numerous temples were destroyed by a major earthquake in the middle of the 16th century. Years passed while Prambanan lay in ruins, hastened by villagers looking for building materials and treasure seekers. Even though the site was cleared in 1885, no attempts at reconstruction were made until 1937. Like Borobudur, the majority of the temples have now undergone some restoration, and Prambanan was added to the Unesco World Heritage List in 1991.

Following the 2006 earthquake, Prambanan sustained significant damage. Hundreds of stone blocks broke or toppled, yet the principal temples survived (479 blocks in the Shiva temple alone). Although much work still has to be done and several areas of the complex are still off-limits, the main structures have been rebuilt as of today.

The largest and best-looking temple in the main courtyard is Candi Shiva Mahadeva, dedicated to Shiva. The temple has elaborate carvings and a 47-meter-tall main spire. A menagerie of stylized half-human, half-bird kinnara (heavenly beings) and miniature lions in niches flanked by kalpatura (trees of heaven) characterize the Prambanan motif of the "medallions" that adorn its base. The vivid images from the Ramayana that are carved on the inner wall of the gallery that surrounds the temple describe how Lord Rama's wife Sita is kidnapped and how Sugriwa, the general of white monkeys, and the monkey god Hanuman eventually locate and save her.


The inside of the temple consists of a large hall with a four-armed figure of Shiva the Destroyer at the top of the eastern stairway. The statue is remarkable because it depicts the strongest Hindu deity standing atop a massive lotus pedestal, which is a Buddhist symbol. An exquisite representation of the elephant-headed Ganesha, Shiva's son and the god of knowledge, is located in the western cell. In the southern cell is the potbellied and bearded Agastya, an incarnation of Shiva as a celestial teacher. Normally clutching his ivory tusk, Ganesha's right hand was severed during the earthquake. The demon buffalo is slain by Shiva's spouse, Durga, in the cell to the north. There are many who think that the Durga picture is really that of the Slender Virgin, who according to mythology was turned to stone by a man she could not marry. She remains a site of devotion, and the temple community frequently goes by her name.

Candi Vishnu, located to the north of Candi Shiva Mahadeva, is 33 meters tall. The inner sanctum of the temple is crowned with an image of Vishnu the Preserver, who has four arms, and the spectacular reliefs depict the story of Lord Krishna, a hero of the Mahabharata epic.


The twin temple of Candi Vishnu is Candi Brahma. The last episodes of the Ramayana are engraved there, south of Candi Shiva Mahadeva. The inner room has a four-headed figure of Brahma, the god of creation, and features a remarkable mouth doorway.


Many lesser-known temples can be found in the park around Prambanan, one of which is the Buddhist temple Candi Sewu. It is thought to have originated circa AD 850 and consists of numerous outside shrines adorned with stupas. Its original moniker, "Thousand Temples," came from the four rings of smaller "guard" temples that encircled it. There were four sanctuaries outside the compound, located at the points of the compass. The most southern one is Candi Bubrah, which is now just a stone foundation. Bronze statues used to be housed in the exquisitely carved niches surrounding the inner gallery of the refurbished main temple. If you don't have a bike, you can hire one for 20,000Rp and go to Candi Sewu by taking the toy train or golf cart that runs from the main temple site in Prambanan. If not, you can walk through semi-shaded parkland for 20 minutes.


Prambanan tickets are available for purchase online. A Prambanan–Borobudur cheap ticket and a Prambanan–Kraton Ratu Boko combo are two options. Be aware that the latter is only good for two days and does not include the additional fee for visiting at dawn or dusk.