As the largest Hindu temple in Southeast Asia, the beautiful and graceful temple of Prambanan is a magnificent spectacle and an icon of Indonesia’s cultural heritage.
Located not far from the Buddhist Borobudur temple, the proximity of the two temples tells us that on Java, Buddhism and Hinduism lived peacefully next to one another.
Prambanan is known locally as Roro Jonggrang, coming from the legend of the ‘slender virgin’. According to the legend once upon a time, there was a young and powerful man named Bandung Bondowoso. He wanted to marry a beautiful princess named Roro Jonggrang. Her father, the king, agreed and forced her to marry Bandung Bondowoso. Butm Sita did not love him yet could not refuse him.
After careful consideration, she thought of a way to refuse Bondowoso, whose magical power was well-known. She decided she would agree but only if Bondowoso built 1,000 temples in one night before the break of dawn
She insisted that the work must be completed before the rooster crowed, something she believed was impossible. But with the help of genies and his own magical powers, Bondowoso managed to complete 999 temples. Panicked, Jonggrang told the women of her village to start pounding rice so that the rooster would wake up and begin to crow. When Bondowoso heard this he was deeply disappointed and wildly enraged. When he found out that Roro Jonggrang had made the roosters crow, he turned her into stone, The statue of a slender virgin graces the main Prambanan temple, while a group of temples nearby is called the Candi Sewu or the Thousand Temples.
The temples at Prambanan were built in the 9th century. The biggest temple is dedicated to Shiva – the destroyer, and the two smaller ones which sit on its right and left are dedicated to Brahma -¬ the creator and Wisnhu – the sustainer. The tallest temple of Prambanan is a staggering 47 meters high. Its peak visible from far away 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 graceful 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.
Visitors to Prambanan wander around the temples on foot. This is the best way to enjoy the lush landscape and take in the detailed architecture and design of the temples up close.
This temple compound covers 39.8 hectares. In the main yard, there are the three main temples, as well as three Wahana temples, two Apit temples, and eight Patok temples surrounded by fences. In the second yard, there are another 224 Perwara temples. Wandering around here and examining the intricate stonework will be enough to keep you busy all day!
Compared to the temples in Angkor Wat, the temples of Prambanan are much easier to navigate and more tourist-friendly. The area surrounding Prambanan is developed, with a landscaped park and stores selling tourist souvenirs. While it’s not a temple set in a remote rustic setting, the splendor of the temple will make you quickly forget your surroundings. You will be transported back to an ancient time where ritual and culture dominated every part of life.
The closest cities to Prambanan, are either Yogyakarta (insert hyperlink) or Semarang. Garuda Indonesia, Mandala, Merpati Nusantara Airlines and a number of domestic airlines fly to these cities from Jakarta and other large cities in Indonesia. AirAsia is the first international airline that flies direct from Kuala Lumpur to Yogyakarta.
From Yogyakarta, you can rent a car to go to Klaten. From there, you can walk to the temple.
If have been busy and are really tired of walking, you can always call for a becak. With the cost of about Rp10,000 the Becak driver will bring you right up to the entrance gate of the Temple, not far from the ticket box.
The relief’s inside the temple show the epic story of Ramayana. Inside, there are also historical items such as the Lingga Batara Siwa stone, a symbol of fertility.
From May to October at full moon, the classic Javanese Ramayana ballet or dance drama (hyperlink) is performed by more than 250 dancers in an outdoor open stage with as its backdrop the full moon dramatically rising over the temples.
The epic Ramayana tells the story of Prince Rama and his wife Sita who are wandering in the forest. When Rama sees a golden deer he chases it, but not before drawing a circle around Sita. He tells her not to step out of the circle to stay safe. The king of ogres Rahwana lures Sita out of the circle, abducts her and carries her to his kingdom, Alengka.
The grief stricken Rama is assisted by the monkey king, Hanuman., who finds Sita in Rahwana’s palace. He burns Alengka and Sita is saved and restored to her husband.
While you are here you will want to snap as many photos as you can. The ticket you purchase to enter Prambanan is valid for a whole day meaning you can exit and re-enter the sites as many times as you wish. This is the same for tickets purchased for Borobudur temple. For photographers this means you can take pictures of the site at different times of the day.