The Most Beautiful Hindu Temple in the World

One of the largest Hindu temple in Southeast Asia, the beautiful and elegant temple of Prambanan is a magnificent spectacle and an icon of Indonesia’s cultural heritage.

Located not far from the Buddhist Borobudur temple, Prambanan is located in Central Java, roughly 20 kilometres from Yogyakarta, the renowned cultural centre of Java.

The temples at Prambanan were built in the 9th century. The tallest temple of Prambanan is a staggering 47 meters high. Its peak visible from a quite a distant and rises high above the ruins of the other temples.

After hundreds of years of neglect, the Prambanan temple was rediscovered by CA Lons, a Dutchman, in 1733. Since then, this temple has been revitalized and today is widely regarded as the most beautiful and elegant Hindu temple in Indonesia. The grandeur, complexity, and integrated architectural concept of Prambanan, makes this a truly amazing structure. As a unique cultural and architectural marvel, Prambanan was declared a World Heritage site in 1991 by UNESCO.

Prambanan temple has three main temples in the primary yard; Vishnu temple – the Sustainer; Brahma temple – the Creator; and Shiva temple – the Destroyer. These three temples are symbols of Trimurti in the Hindu beliefs. All face to the east. Each main temple has an accompanying temple facing to the west, namely Nandini for Shiva, Angsa for Brahma, and Garuda for Vishnu. Besides them, there are 2 side temples, 4 colored temples and 4 corner temples. In the second area, there are 224 temples.

Entering Shiva temple, which is the highest temple and is located in the middle, you will find four rooms. One main room contains the Shiva statue, while the other three rooms contain the statues of Durga (Shiva's wife), Agastya (Shiva's teacher), and Ganesha (Shiva's son). Durga statue is said to be the statue of Roro Jonggrang in the legends.

In Vishnu temple, located to the north of Shiva temple, you will find only one room with Vishnu statue in it. In the Brahma temple, located to the south of Shiva temple, there is only one room with a Brahma statue in it. Prambanan also has information panels describing the story of Ramayana. Experts say that the panels is similar to the story of Ramayana that is told from generation to generation.

The legend

The popular legend of Loro Jonggrang is what connects the site of the Ratu Boko Palace, the origin of the Durga statue in northern cell/chamber of the main shrine, and the origin of the Sewu temple complex nearby. The legend tells of the story about Prince Bandung Bondowoso who fell in love with Princess Loro Jonggrang, the daughter of King Boko. The princess rejected his proposal of marriage because Bandung Bondowoso had killed King Boko and ruled her kingdom. Bandung Bondowoso insisted on the union. Finally Loro Jonggrang was forced to agree to the union in marriage, but she made one impossible condition: Bandung must build her a thousand temples in only one night.

The Prince entered into meditation and conjured up a multitude of spirits (demons) from the earth. Helped by supernatural beings, he succeeded in building 999 temples. When the prince was about to complete the last temple, the princess woke all her palace maids and ordered the women of the village to begin pounding rice and set a fire in the east of the temple, in attempt to make the prince and the spirits believe that the sun was about to rise. As the cocks began to crow, fooled by the light and the sounds of morning time, the spirits (demons) fled back into the ground. The prince was furious about the deception and in revenge he cursed Loro Jonggrang to stone. She became the last and the most beautiful of the thousand statues. According to the traditions, the unfinished thousandth temple created by the demons became the Sewu temple (Sewu means "thousands" in Javanese), and the Princess is the image of Durga in the north cell of the Shiva temple at Prambanan, which is still known as Loro Jonggrang or Slender Virgin.

Other temples around Prambanan

The Prambanan Plain span between the southern slopes of Merapi volcano in the north and Sewu mountain range in the south, near the present border of Yogyakarta province and the Klaten Regency, Central Java. Apart from the Lara Jonggrang complex, and the Prambanan plain, is the location of some of the earliest Buddhist temples in Indonesia. Not far to the north are the ruins of Bubrah temple, Lumbung temple, and Sewu temple. Further east are the Plaosan temple. To the west are the Kalasan temple and Sari temple, while further to the west are the Sambisari temples, and finally to the south are the Ratu Boko compounds which are on higher grounds. The discoveries of these archaeological sites are scattered only a few miles away, and were suggested that these area was an important religious, political, and urban center.

North of the Lara Jongrang complex

Candi Lumbung. Buddhist-style, consisting of one main temple surrounded by 16 smaller ones.
Candi Bubrah. Buddhist temple still in ruins.
Sewu. Buddhist temple complex, older than Roro Jonggrang. A main sanctuary surrounded by many smaller temples. Well preserved guardian statues, replicas of which stand in the central courtyard at the Jogja Kraton.
Candi Morangan. Hindu temple complex buried several meters under volcanic ashes, located northwest from Prambanan.
Candi Plaosan. Buddhist, probably 9th century. Thought to have been built by a Hindu king for his Buddhist queen. Two main temples with reliefs of Boddhisatva and Tara. Also rows of slender stupas.

South of the Lara Jongrang complex
Ratu Boko. Complex of fortified gates, bathing pools, and elevated walled stone enclosure, all located on top of the hill.
Sajiwan. Buddhist temple decorated with reliefs concerning education. The base and staircase are decorated with animal fables.
Banyunibo. A Buddhist temple with a unique roof design.
Candi Barong. A Hindu temple complex with large stepped stone courtyard. Located on the slope of the hill.
Candi Ijo. A cluster of Hindu temple located near the top of Ijo hill. The main temple houses a large lingam and yoni statue.
Arca Bugisan. Seven Buddha and bodhisattva statues, some collapsed, representing different poses and expressions.

West of the Lara Jongrang complex
Kalasan. 8th century Buddhist temple built in commemoration of the marriage of a king and his princess bride, ornamented with finely carved reliefs.
Sari. Once a sanctuary for Buddhist priests, discovered in the 8th century. Nine stupas at the top with two rooms beneath, each believed to be places for priests to meditate.
Sambisari. 9th century Hindu temple discovered in 1966, once buried 6.5 metres under volcanic ash. The main temple houses a linga and yoni statue, and the wall surrounding it displayed the images of Agastya, Durga, and Ganesha.
Gebang. A small Hindu temple discovered in 1937 located near the Yogyakarta northern ring-road. The temple displays the statue of Ganesha and interesting carving of faces on the roof.
Candi Gana. Rich in statues, bas-reliefs and sculpted stones. Frequent representations of children or dwarfs with raised hands. Located in the middle of the housing complex. Under restoration since 1997.
Candi Kedulan. Discovered in 1994 by sand diggers, 4 meters deep. Secondary temples not yet fully excavated.


By plane
Yogyakarta's airport is just ten kilometers from Prambanan. A taxi can be taken directly to the site and should cost approximately Rp 50,000.

By bus

You will be able to see Prambanan temple in a short distance across the street. There are a few Horse Carts waiting for passengers near Prambanan bus station, which will cost of approximately Rp. 15,000,- (fifteen thousands rupiah), the cart will deliver you from Prambanan bus station to the entrance gate of Prambanan temple and will also be available to take you back from the temple to the station again. The horse carts are also a unique experience when we have a moment to visit Prambanan Temple.

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