A Shiva in Indonesia at Prambanan

11:37 pm | | Comments 8

Having talked about Borobudur Temple in Indonesia earlier, Prambanan temple can’t be left far behind. We have seen some sunset  photos of the Prambanan Temple earlier,  its now time to talk in some detail about it. Prambanan temple is in central Java and close to city of Yogyakarta. It is largest hindu temple in Indonesia located in area which is termed as Prambanan plains. It is also one of the biggest in South East Asia.


Prambanan temple is dedicated to tridev- Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh (Shiva). There are six main temples- Shiva in the centre, Brahma to his right and Vishnu to his left. And right opposite to temples of these three deities are the three temples of their respective vahanas- Nandi in front of Shiva, Garuda in front of Vishnu and Hamsa (swan) in front of Brahma. All temples are although built in typical hindu architecture, but there are few signs of fusion with Java architecture. For its cultural and architectural importance this temple compound is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


The temple was built in 9th century and in that context it predates many of India’s most famous temples. In this area, it was the period of tussle between Hindu and Buddhist dynasties. And it is often said that Prambanan was an hindu answer to Buddhist Borobudur. But both temples were built in almost same time period and are very close to each other. Nevertheless, fact is that Prambanan plains are home to classical cultures of Hindu and Buddhism periods. A number of inscriptions, statues, temples as well as ruins of royal residences from that classical period of Java are dotted in the plain.


The inscriptions say that there were originally 240 temples in the complex built in a concentric Mandala layout. Besides those six main temples there were 2 Apit temples on north and south ends of the row between the tridev and their vahana temples, 4 Kelir temples in four directions facing right the four main gates of inner zones and 4 Patok temples on four corners of inner zone. These temples completed the inner zone and then there were 224 temples in four concentric square rows in outer zones. But the abandonment, neglect, weathering and catastrophes like quakes and volcanic eruptions damaged almost whole of the complex. They were rediscovered first by Britishers during their very short occupation of the are and then by Dutch. Later Indonesian government after country’s independence under Sukarno took the massive reconstruction exercise.


But it was too damaged to reconstruct it completely. Hence only the six of the main temples and a couple of other temples were reconstructed. Most of the 224 temples in the outer zones can be seen only by there foundations. No upper structure is there. But even in what was reconstructed, this is a glorious temple and a precious piece of world heritage.


Temple gets a steady stream of visitors from Indonesia as well as world over. There number is more than a million every year.

In Prambanan complex a Shiva temple at the centre is of great significance as it denotes the patronage to Shaivism or shaivite hinduism by local hindu rulers. Shiva temple is also the biggest and it has three smaller temples inside- Agastya rishi in south, Ganesha in the west and Durga in the north. Vishnu and Brahma temples don’t have any other temples inside.

Among the vahana temples, only Nandi temple has a statue. But statues of Garuda and the Hamsa (swan) are missing. There are many narrative panels, statues on the outer walls, corner stones depicting many hindu mythologies.

The most significant part of the temple is the relief panels inside the temples. These narrative bas-reliefs were carved on the walls of the corridors around the temples sanctorum (pradakshina path). Interestingly reliefs on the Shiva temple are from Ramayana while those on the Vishnu temple are from Krishnayana (Bhagavata Purana). A look at some of the reliefs.

The hindu stories in reliefs at temples from 9th century is amazing. It is rare to find anything like that even in India.

Overall, this temple has been a sort of revelation for us during our trip.



  1. Beautiful post

    1. swamiupendra says:

      Thanks guys for liking it. Means a lot!

  2. Rashminotes says:

    Wow! Very nice Swami:)

    1. swamiupendra says:

      Thanks a lot Rashmi. Its encouraging.

  3. rANG bIRANGE says:

    Stunning architecture

    1. swamiupendra says:

      Indeed it is and more importantly it has survived more than 1100 years of turbulence.

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