Java is the most populous island in Indonesia and the majority of people there now practice Islam. At one time, however, Buddhism and Hinduism were widespread and there are two temples on the island that are monuments to those religions. The Borobudur Temple and the Prambanan Temple are both UNESCO World Heritage sites, located near the town of Yogyakarta, and certainly worthy of a visit.
The Prambanan Temple, built in the 9thcentury, consists of 224 temples of various shapes and sizes, some preserved and others retained as ruins. The buildings are characterized by their tall and pointed architecture typical of Hindu temple architecture. The inner square contains 16 temples that are dedicated to the three great Hindu divinities, Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver), and Shiva (the destroyer).
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The most significant one is the Shiva temple, which according to a sign posted at the site is the “God of God who was adored by the ancient Javanese”. Inside the temple are statues of Shiva, Durga, Agastya, and Ganesha.
The Shiva Temple is flanked to the north by the Brahma temple and to the south by the Vishnu temple. The bas-reliefs along the sides of the temples depict the legend of the great Indian epic Ramayana. UNESCO says these reliefs are “masterpieces of stone carvings”. Near them are three small temples dedicated to the animals that serve them, Bull for Shiva, Eagle for Brahma and Swan for Vishnu.
UNESCO says the Prambanan Temple compound “represents not only an architectural and cultural treasure … but also a standing proof of past religious peaceful cohabitation”. Restoration of the complex has been ongoing, with the most recent work required after an earthquake in 2006.
By Sylvia Fanjoy
Photo credits Sylvia Fanjoy
© Riding the buses 2012