Touted as the most beautiful and graceful Hindu temple in Indonesia, Prambanan Temple complex is dedicated to the “Trimurtis” – the three great Hindu divinities, Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma. The behemoth complex with three main temples stands as the magnum opus of Hindu culture of the tenth century. The temple compound sprawling an area of 39.8 hectares has found place in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.
Magnificent Network of Temples
The complex in its original form contained a total of 240 temples. But now only 18 temples can be found here. This includes eight main temples and eight small temples in the core zone, and two ancillary temples. Many ancillary temples have not been restored.
Shiva Temple located in the middle is the highest temple in the complex. The slim structure soars pointedly to 47-metre-height. A 3-meter high statue of Shiva is placed here. Statues of Rishi Agastya, Ganesha, Parvati and Durga (in the form of ‘Mahisasuramardini’) are also there in the Shiva temple. Shiva is believed to be the most preferred deity here.
Vishnu temple is to the north of Shiva temple and Brahma temple is located to the south of Shiva temple. Each of these main temples has accompanying temples facing to the west, dedicated to the divine animals that serve these deities: one each for Nandini (Shiva’s bull), Hamsa or Swan (Brahma’s vehicle) and Garuda (Mythical bird that is the mount of lord Vishnu). The temples are adorned with carvings and figurines depicting the epic of the Ramayana.
A Bit of History
The temple in the Prambanan archaeological park was built around the year 850 BC by Rakai Pikatan, a Hindu prince from Sanjaya Dynasty. The temple compound was expanded by Balitung Maha Sambu , during the kingdom of Mataram Medang. After the Mataram dynasty’s move to East Java, the complex remained largely abandoned from the 10th century. A major earthquake in the 16th century is believed to cause major damage to the temples here.
In 1811, a surveyor named Colin Mackenzie working for Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles happened to discover the ruins of Prambanan. But no serious excavations followed till 1918. Namesake excavations and surveys during the period only facilitated looting. Proper restoration work began in the 1930 and continues till date.
The temple compound is one of the biggest in Southeast Asia, and attracts thousands of tourists from all over the globe.