Prambanan is a Hindu temple complex from the 9th century CE located near Bokoharjo on the Indonesian island of Java. Prambanan’s architecture corresponds to Hindu architectural traditions based on Vastu Shastra, and thus the sanctuary consequently represents Hindu views of cosmology in its design and layout. It is dedicated to the Trimurti of Hinduism – Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Prambanan is Indonesia‘s largest Hindu temple and one of Southeast Asia‘s most fantastic Hindu temples. In 1991 CE, the temple complex was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is currently one of Indonesia’s admired historical sites. This article concentrates on the Prambanan temple’s social and political significance, architectural design, and its effects on the urban landscape.

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Prambanan Temple compound_©

Some historians assert that between c. 840 and 850 CE, King Rakai Pikatan ordered the construction of Prambanan. The main temple complex was created and designed under the direction of Rakai Pikatan, while Rakai Kayuwangi, Balitung, Daksa, and Tulodong, among other succeeding monarchs, soon afterwards constructed additional buildings. The Hindu Sanjaya dynasty, which competed with the Buddhist Sailendra dynasty for control of the “Medang”/Mataram kingdom in central Java, was represented by Rakai Pikatan and his heirs. It is important to remember that the Sailendra dynasty oversaw Borobudur’s development as a Buddhist temple. Some academics believe that Prambanan’s origins were a direct aesthetic, political, and religious response to those of Borobudur and the rival Sailendra dynasty because of the proximity of the two structures just 19 km apart.

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Temple of Shiva_©

The Shivagrha inscription states that a public water work to alter the path of a river close to the Shivagrha temple was carried out when the temple was under construction. On the western side of the Prambanan temple complex, a river known as the Opak River currently flows from north to south. According to historians, the river was once curled farther to the east and was too close to the main shrine. According to experts, the river rerouted to protect the temple complex from the flood of lahar volcanic debris from the Merapi volcano. Cutting the river on a north-south axis within the perimeter of the Shivagrha Temple complex marked the project’s completion. The original river course was dried in and levelled to allow for the expansion of the temple and the placement of groups of pervara (additional) temples, indicating the temple’s significance to society.

inscription on temple walls_©,_Candi_Prambanan_1071.jpg

The father of the Khmer Empire, King Jayavarman II (802–1431 CE), spent a significant portion of his life in Java, as per ancient Khmer sources. Samaratungga appointed him as the administrator of Indrapura, which would subsequently become Champa’s capital city around 875 CE. According to mythology, Jayavarman visited both Prambanan and Borobudur, which gave him the idea to construct the massive city of Angkor Wat. This is quite likely since during the eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries CE, the Sailendra and Sanjaya dynasties greatly influenced politics and culture in what is now Java, Sumatra, Malaya, and southern Cambodia through their thalassocracies.

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Traditional ceremony held near temple compound_©

The government cleared out the market that had grown up close to the temple in the early 1990s and turned the nearby communities and rice terraces into an archaeological park. The park extends over an immense area, including the entire Prambanan complex, the remains of the Lumbung and Bubrah temples, and as far north as the Sewu temple compound. A State-owned Limited Liability Enterprise (Persero) called “PT Taman Wisata Candi Borobudur, Prambanan, dan Ratu Boko” was established by the Indonesian government in 1992 as the organisation in charge of managing the parks in and around Borobudur, Prambanan, and Ratu Boko. On the west side of the temple, across the Opak River, Trimurti open-air and indoor sets were built to dance the conventional Ramayana story. The millennia dance of the Javanese court is this ancient dance. It has been carried out in the Prambanan temple every full-moon night since the 1960s. Since then, Prambanan has become one of Indonesia’s top spots for archaeological and cultural tourism.

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Cross section of shiva Temple_©

The candi architecture adheres to the traditional Vastu Shastra-based Hindu architectural practices. Mandala temple design arrangements and the customary tall, towering spires of Hindu temples were incorporated into the temple’s design. The candi was created to resemble Meru, the sacred mountain and home of the gods. The temple serves as a representation of the Hindu cosmos following the strata of Loka.

The candi layout and construction acknowledge the order of the zones, which range from the least holy to the holiest kingdoms. The Hindu-Buddhist Indic heritage of architecture accepts the idea of grouping things into three portions or three elements. Therefore, the temple’s architecture, plan, and layout adhere to the principle of allocating space among three elements, popularly known as the foot (base), body (centre), and head (roof). They are Svarloka, indicated by the top of Hindu structures typically adorned with Ratna (Sanskrit: jewel) or vajra, and Bhurloka, which is depicted by the outer courtyard and the foot (base) component of each temple. Sacred architecture equated the monarch (devaraja) with the divine, with the temple as both a monument to the king and home of gods.

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Detailing on Temple’s wall_©

In its original form, Prambanan contained 240 temples. Three Trimurti temples honouring Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma are located within the Prambanan Temple Compound. There are three temples dedicated to the vahana of each divinity in front of the Trimurti temples. Nandi, Garuda, and Hamsa. Between the rows of Trimurti and Vahana sanctuaries on the north and south sides, there are two Apit temples. Small shrines known as the”4 Kelir Temples” can be found in the inner zone’s four main gates’ immediate surroundings.4 Patok Temples( Tiny Shrine) in the 4 Inner Zone Corners.224 Pervara temples are organised in four concentric square rows with temple counts of 44, 52, 60, and 68 from the inner to the outer row.

Inner compound of Prambanan, Java’s 9th century Hindu temple_©

The deserted Javanese Prambanan around 950 CE, a little more than a century after completion. The locals never lost interest in the foundation, and Prambanan remained in the legend. In the 20th century CE, research and restoration of Prambanan got underway. Today Prambanan is the most visited temple in Indonesia.


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Saima is a young interior designer who loves to research, write, and design. She holds a master's degree in interior design and is a firm believer that words have the ability to alter the course of events and improve the quality of life.