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Prambanan Temple Compounds

Prambanan Java Indonesia

Prambanan Java Indonesia

  • Candi Prambanan, also called Candi Rara Jonggrang is a 9th century Hindu temple in Central Java, devoted to the Trimurti, the look of God as the Destroyer (Shiva), the Preserver (Vishnu) and the Creator (Brahma). The temple compound is situated about 17 kilometres northeast of the Yogyakarta city on the border between Yogyakarta and Central Java provinces.
  • The temple compound is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s the biggest Hindu temple site in Indonesia as well as among the largest in Southeast Asia. It’s characterised by its pointed and tall construction, characteristic of Hindu temple construction, and by the tall 47-metre high central building within a huge complex of separate temples. A number of visitors from all over the world visit Prambanan.



  • The first building of this biggest Hindu temple of ancient Java was finished in the mid-9th century. Rakai Pikatan started it as the answer to the nearby Sewu temples of Hindu Sanjaya Dynasty and Borobudur of the Buddhist Sailendra Dynasty. The construction of Prambanan probably intended to mark the reappearance of the Hindu Sanjaya Dynasty to authority in Central Java after Buddhist Sailendra Dynasty’s control for about a hundred years. The construction of this huge Hindu temple shows that the Medang court had changed its support from Mahayana Buddhism to Shivaist Hinduism.
  • Initially a temple was constructed by Rakai Pikatan at the place about 850 CE. As per the Shivagrha writing of 856 CE, the temple was constructed to honour Lord Shiva, and its original name was Shiva-laya or Shiva-grha. As per the Shivagrha writing, to alter the path of a river near Shivagrha Temple, a public water project was started in the course of the construction of the temple. The river, known as the Opak River, now flows from north to south on the west side of the Prambanan temple. Historians propose that initially the river was curved more to east and was considered excessively near to the main temple. The project was completed by cutting the river along north to south along the outer wall of the Shivagrha Temple. In order to create a broader area for the temple extension, the previous river path was filled in and leveled.
  • Successive Mataram kings, like Daksa and Tulodong expanded the temple compound by adding hundreds of perwara temples around the main temple. Prambanan was the royal temple of the Mataram Kingdom. Most of the state's sacrifices and religious ceremonies conducted there. Scholars estimate that at the peak of the kingdom, hundreds of Brahmins resided in the outer wall of the temple. The court of Mataram and the urban center were situated nearby.


  • Mpu Sindok, who founded the Isyana Dynasty, shifted the court to East Java in the 930s. The probable cause for shifting was a power struggle or an eruption of Mount Merapi volcano in central Java. That was the start of the decline of the temple. Soon it was abandoned and started to deteriorate.
  • In the 16th century, the temples collapsed during a devastating earthquake. Even though the temples did not remain a main center of worship, the relics dispersed around the area were still identifiable and known to the local people in later times. The ruins and the statues became the inspiration and the theme for the Loro Jonggrang folktale. In 1755, after the split of Mataram Sultanate, the Opak River and the temple ruins were used to demarcate the boundary between Surakarta and Yogyakarta Sultanates.


  • Before formal rediscovery, the Javanese locals in the nearby villages knew about the temple relics but they didn’t know about its history. Consequently, the locals developed legends and tales to describe the origin of shrines, imbued with legends of giants, and a cursed princess.
  • In early 19th century, the temple was centre of international attention. During Britain’s rule of the Dutch East Indies in 1811, a surveyor working under Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, Colin Mackenzie visited the temples. After that Sir Thomas ordered a complete survey of the ruins. However they remained abandoned for decades. Sculptures were carried off by Dutch residents as garden ornaments and the foundation stones were used by native villagers for construction.
  • In the 1880s, half-hearted diggings by archaeologists aided looting. Restoration was an uphill task due to the scale of the temple complex, theft and reuse of much of the original stonework at remote construction sites. The rebuilding of the main Shiva temple was finished in 1953 and inaugurated by President Sukarno. The government made a decision to reconstruct shrines only if more than 75% of their original stonework was available.

Prambanan Java Indonesia

Prambanan Java Indonesia

Contemporary events

  • The government removed the market which had sprung up nearby the temple as well as redeveloped the surrounding rice paddies and villages, in the early 1990s as an archaeological park. The park covers a huge area, from Yogyakarta-Solo main road in the south to the Sewu temple compound in the north. A State-owned Limited Liability Enterprise was created by the Indonesian government in 1992. This organisation is responsible for the park management of Borobudur, Prambanan, Ratu Boko as well as the nearby area.
  • In order to stage the ballet of the traditional Ramayana classic, the Trimurti open-air and indoor stages were constructed. This old Javanese dance is the centuries old dance of the Javanese court. It has been performed every full moon night in the Prambanan temple, since the 1960s. Prambanan has become one of the main cultural and archaeological tourism attractions in Indonesia since then.
  • Since the rebuilding of the main shrines in the 1990s, Prambanan has been retrieved as a main religious center for Hindu ceremonies and rituals in Java. Javanese and Balinese Hindu people in Central Java and Yogyakarta invigorated their practices of yearly performing their holy rituals in Prambanan, such as Nyepi, Tawur Kesanga and Galungan.
  • During the May 2006 Java earthquake, the shrine was damaged. After some weeks, the site was re-opened for visitors.
  • There’s great importance of the site. 114,951 foreign visitors and 856,029 Indonesian visitors visited Prambanan in 2008. The renovation of Nandi temple completed in January 2009.
  • The Kelud volcano broke out on 13 February 2014, severely damaging Prambanan, Borobudur and Ratu Boko in Central Java and Yogyakarta. Consequently on 14 February 2014, these main tourist attractions were closed for visitors. Prambanan was not affected four years earlier, in 2010 by Merapi volcanic ash and eruption because the ashfall and wind were directed towards west and affected Borobudur.
  • In 2012, the Central Java Heritage Preservation Authority proposed that the area in and around Prambanan must be preserved as sanctuary area. The suggested area is situated in Prambanan Plain and includes main temples in the area such as Plaosan, Sari, Kalasan, Ratu Boko and Prambanan temples. The reserve area is intended to be treated like Angkor archaeological area in Cambodia, meaning that government must decline or stop the permission to build any new buildings, particularly the multi-storied buildings. The aim was to protect this area from present day obstacles and the encroachments of restaurants, hotels and any tourism-related businesses and buildings.

Pambranan Java Indonesia

Pambranan Java Indonesia

The temple compound

  • Originally there were a total of 240 temples standing in Prambanan. The Prambanan Temple Compound consists of:

1.         3 Trimurti temples:   3 main temples devoted to Brahma, Visnu, and Shiva.

2.         3 Vahana temples:   3 temples devoted to Hamsa, Garuda and Nandi.

3.         2 Apit temples:   2 temples situated between the rows of Vahana and Trimurti shrines on south and north side.

4.         4 Kelir temples:   4 small temples situated on 4 basic directions beyond the four main gates of inner zone

5.         4 Patok temples:   4 small temples situated on 4 corners of inner zone.

6.         224 Pervara temples:   224 temples arranged in four concentric square rows.

  • Once there were 240 temples in the Prambanan compound. All 8 small temples and 8 main temples in inner zone have been rebuilt. Out of 224 original pervara temples, just 2 have been renovated. Most of them have decayed; just scattered stones are left. The Prambanan temple complex has 3 zones; the outer zone, the middle zone which has hundreds of small shrines, and the holiest inner zone which has 8 main shrines and 8 small temples.
  • At Prambanan, the Hindu temple complex is based on a square plan which has 3 zone yards, each surrounded by 4 walls perforated by 4 big gates. The outer zone is a big area. The outermost walled perimeter was in the northeast, southwest direction.

Pambranan Java Indonesia