Hello everyone. Live long and prosper. I remembered my previous trip to two religious temples in my home country. I travelled there in September 2012, just before my graduation. The names of those two temples are Borobudur and Prambanan. Yes, as you thought, both of them are some of the most famous and historical landmarks in Indonesia. Located in the province of Central Java; they were built under the influence of Hindu and Buddhism. Let me start by explaining the temple of Borobudur. Borobudur is the world largest Mahayana Buddhist temple ever built, constructed during the reign of the Sailendra Dynasty in 9th century. It was designed in Javanese-Buddhist architecture. Sadly, since its discovery in the 19th century, a lot of stupas have been stolen and ended up in museums abroad. It was not until 1991 when UNESCO declared Borobudur as a World Heritage Site to protect the cultural legacy of this magnificent piece of art and architecture.
Borobudur is built as a single large stupa and when viewed from above, takes the form of a giant tantric Buddhist mandala, simultaneously representing the Buddhist cosmology and the nature of mind. The original foundation is a square, approximately 118 meters (387 ft.) on each side. It has nine platforms, of which the lower six are square and the upper three are circular. The upper platform features seventy-two small stupas surrounding one large central stupa. Each stupa is bell-shaped and pierced by numerous decorative openings. Statues of the Buddha sit inside the pierced enclosures. The design of Borobudur took the form of a step pyramid. Previously, the pre-historic Austronesian megalithic culture in Indonesia had constructed several earth mounds and stone step pyramid structures called punden berundak as discovered in Pangguyangan, Cisolok and Gunung Padang, West Java. The construction of stone pyramids is based on native beliefs that mountains and high places are the abode of ancestral spirits or hyangs. The punden berundak step pyramid is the basic design in Borobudur, believed to be the continuation of older megalithic tradition incorporated with Mahayana Buddhist ideas and symbolism. The monument’s three divisions symbolise the three “realms” of Buddhist cosmology, namely Kāmadhātu (the world of desires), Rupadhatu (the world of forms), and finally Arupadhatu (the formless world). Ordinary sentient beings live out their lives on the lowest level, the realm of desire. Those who have burnt out all desire for continued existence leave the world of desire and live in the world on the level of form alone: they see forms but are not drawn to them. Finally, full Buddhas go beyond even form and experience reality at its purest, most fundamental level, the formless ocean of nirvana. The liberation from the cycle of Saṃsāra where the enlightened soul had no longer attached to worldly form corresponds to the concept of Śūnyatā, the complete voidness or the non-existence of the self. Kāmadhātu is represented by the base, Rupadhatu by the five square platforms (the body), and Arupadhatu by the three circular platforms and the large topmost stupa. The architectural features between the three stages have metaphorical differences. For instance, square and detailed decorations in the Rupadhatu disappear into plain circular platforms in the Arupadhatu to represent how the world of forms—where men are still attached with forms and names—changes into the world of the formless.
Okay, let me tell you about the other temple now. The name is Prambanan. It is also called the temple of Rara Jonggrang (in Javanese it is named Roro Jonggrang). Similar to Borobudur, Prambanan was built in 9th century as well. Constructed as a large complex of Hindu temple in Central Java, it is dedicated to the Trimurti, the expression of God as the Creator (Brahma), the Preserver (Vishnu) and the Destroyer (Shiva). Together with Borobudur, Prambanan was declared a World Heritage site in 1991.
In the complex od Prambanan temple, there were 240 temples in total:
- 3 Trimurti temples: three main temples dedicated to Shiva, Visnu, and Brahma
- 3 Vahana temples: three temples in front of Trimurti temples dedicated to the vahana of each gods; Nandi, Garuda, and Hamsa
- 2 Apit temples: two temples located between the rows of Trimurti and Vahana temples on north and south side
- 4 Kelir temples: four small shrines located on 4 cardinal directions right beyond the 4 main gates of inner zone
- 4 Patok temples: four small shrines located on 4 corners of inner zone
- 224 Pervara temples: hundreds of temples arranged in 4 concentric square rows; numbers of temples from inner row to outer row are: 44, 52, 60, and 68
It is also called as the temple of Rara Jonggrang due to a popular folktale in Javanese culture. This legend of Rara 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 Rara Jonggrang, the daughter of King Boko. But the princess rejected his proposal of marriage because Bandung Bondowoso had killed King Boko and ruled her kingdom. Bandung Bondowoso insisted on the union, and finally Rara Jonggrang was forced to agree for a union in marriage, but she posed 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 condition, the princess woke her palace maids and ordered the women of the village to begin pounding rice and set a fire in the east of the temple, attempting 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 supernatural helpers fled back into the ground. The prince was furious about the trick and in revenge he cursed Rara 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 become the Sewu temple compounds nearby (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 Rara Jonggrang or Slender Virgin.