Prambanan Temple

The Prambanan Temple is reputed as the biggest and most beautiful Hindu Temple in Indonesia, and is a group of Hindu temples locally known as Roro Jonggrang.

Candi Prambanan, Indonesia

The temple complex has three concentric square

• Outer square (222 x 390 meters) surrounded by a 1 meter boundary wall.
• Middle square (110 x 110 meters) surrounded by a 1 meter boundary wall.
• Center square (34 x 34 meters) surrounded by a 1 meter boundary wall.

All the three squares have gates to connect the other squares. The outer square do not have temples. Inside the middle square there are 224 Perwara temples which are arranged in 4 rows of temples. The first row consists of 68 temples, followed by the second row (60 temples), the third row (52 temples) and the fourth row (44 temples ). The arrangement of temples is in such a way that shorter temples lies in the outside and getting higher toward the center. Inside the center square are sixteen small and big temples, Some of them are:

1. Ciwa Temple as the main temple.
2. Wisnu Temple in the North of Ciwa Temple.
3. Brahma Temple in the South of Ciwa Temple.
4. Nandi Temple in front of Ciwa Temple.
5. Temple A and B lies in front of Wisnu and Ciwa Temple.
6. Apit Temple lies in the North and the South flanking row of temples {the West and East row (apit = to flank)}
7. Four Kelir Temples in front of each gate of the main square.
8. Four Sudut Temples (sudut = corner) at each of the corner of the main square.

Ciwa Temple

The temple complex could be divided in another dimension. Vertically, the complex of temples consists of three groups of temples, the foot temples, the body temples and the top temples. This grouping is as a symbol of relationship between the heavenly Devine, the earth and mankind. The foot temples expresses the lower world (the commoners), the body temples shows the middle world, (the souls) and the top temples which express the highest world, the place for the Devine, God. The heavenly beings are expressed as human, animals, ornaments, trees and others.

Prambanan Temple complex

All of these pictures showed as the place for the Devines, the Mahameru Mountain (Mahameru mountain lies in East Java, near Malang). Lorojonggrang could be pictured as a replica of Mahameru Mountain which was shown the presence of Lokapala inscriptures at the foot of Ciwa temple which represent as God the guardian of the points of compass.

Ciwa Temples as the main temple had a gate at the East side. The stairs to this gate was wider compared to other stairs (The South, West and the North ). At the left and right side of the gate there were two statues, Nandiswara and Mahakala. These two statues are manifestation of Ciwa, and function as guards of the entrance gate. Ornamentals at the outer side of the wall were of Prambanan type, Kalamakara, heavenly beings in dancing and music playing postures, and other ornamentals representing God's heavenly nature, The base of the temple is surrounded by an open verandah with balustrade in the outer side. The inner side of the balustrade was inscripted Ramayana story as relief. The story of Ramayana is stated from the east.

The main body of the temple consist of four rooms, inside each room lies the statue of Agastya, the Ciwa, the Mahaguru (at the South room) Ganeca as a figure of the Son of Ciwa (at the West room), the statue of Durga Mahesasuramardini as Ciwa the Invulnerable (at the North room), and the statue of Ciwa Mahadewa (Ciwa the Supreme Devine) as the ultimate figure in the temple which occupied the central room. The top of the temple is a multi-story structure, each level is ornamented with diamond-shape figures. The overall dimension of the top temple is 47 meters high and 34 x 34 square meters. The very top part of the temple is a diamond shape structure.

Relief of Ciwa Temple

According to A.J. Bernet Kempers and Sukmono (1974), the inner side of the balustrade in inscripted with the story of Ramayana. In that story, Rama a reincarnation of Wisnu, Sinta his wife and Laksmana, his younger brother went to the wood. Many happenings occurred during their journey in the wood. Sinta was kidnapped by Rahwana, a demonic giant and ran into Rahwana's palace in Alengka. The Rama got a help from the king of the Ape Kingdom, Hanoman. Soldiers of apes leaded by Rama moved to Alengka. The row of the inscripted story ended at the scene where the soldiers of apes were making a bridge connecting to the palace of Rahwana.

The next is the main part of Ramayana story which can be followed by walking along the alley with the main temple at the right. It was told in that story that the Gods visited Wisnu, asking permission to be allowed to descend to earth in the form of Rama.

Inscription of the story of Ramayana
  • 1. Wicwamitra, the priest, asked Rama's father to face the demonic giants who frequently came disturbing his meditation.
  • 2. Rama and Laksmana defeated some giants.
  • 3-4. Rama is marrying Sinta as a prize in a contest using the Ciwa bow.
  • 5. Sinta was carried home. On his way home he met Paracurawa, which Rama was able to extend the bow.
  • 6-7. Due to the intrigues by one of his father's wife, Rama became illegible to inherit the throne. Bharata substituted his position, and then Rama went into the wood.
  • 7. Preparation for the cremation of his father.
  • 8. Bharata announced Rama that he would like to run the kingdom on behalf of Rama. As a symbol he put Rama's sandals at the throne.
  • 9. Rama and his companions entered the wood, having battles with male and female giants.
  • 10-12. Others go for hunting; Sinta was then kidnapped by Rahwana in the form of brahmana. Then Brahmana reformed back to Rahwana, jatayu, the King of the birds tried to save Sinta but was in faint.
  • 13-14. Rama met Hanoman.
  • 15. Laksmana took water and it turned out the tears of Sugriwa, the ape who was ousted from the kingdom by his own brother.
  • 16. Rama showed his superiority in archery to Sugriwa.
  • 17. An-interfere the battle between Sugriwa and his brother. Rama killed Sugriwa's brother by his arrow.
  • 18. Rama received honor from the people of the ape kingdom.
  • 19. An agreement to sent Hanoman to Alengka to spy Rahwana.
  • 20. Hanoman met Sinta.
  • 21. But Hanoman was captured and fortunately he was able to release himself. Finally he burned Alengka, Rahwana's Palace.
  • 22. Hanoman returned to Rama.
  • 23. Soldiers of apes marched toward the coast where Rama received an honor from the God of the sea.

Wisnu Temple

The overall structure of Wisnu Temple could be considered similar to Ciwa Temple but smaller in size 20 x 20 meters square and 23 meters high. This temple has only one stairway to the center of the temple, which is a room with Wisnu statue inside. The base of the temple is surrounded by an open space with balustrade around it.

Wisnu Temple

The inner side of the balustrade was in scripted a story in relief form. The story was about Krisna, an avatar of Wisnu. At the outer side of the foot of the temple were figures of Lokapala Gods in different posture. Other ornamentals were similar to that at Ciwa Temple.

Relief of Wisnu Temple

As has been reported by Bernet and Sukmono (1974), the relief at Wisnu Temple expressed the reincarnation of Wisnu in another form. The story is very popular in India but less well known in Indonesian literature and not known in relief's found in Indonesia.

It has been forecasted that Kangsa the Giant will be killed by Dewaki, the eight son of his cousin. To secure his safety, Kangsa killed all the seven son of his cousin. At that time the eight son was still in the womb of Dewaki's mother. So Kangsa observed the pregnant mother very carefully.

  • 1-4. The child whom will be born was a reincarnation of Wisnu. Kresna was able to save the baby by changing the baby with another. Kresna, so was the name of the baby, was raised among the shepherds.
  • 6. He was so naughty that one time he had to be tied to a stone (which usually used to grind seed grain). A female giant ape tried to feed Kresna, which had been poisoned. But Kresna sucked the milk so hard causing the female giant died. Another giant in the form of a buffalo stroke the shepherds.
  • 7. A big snake.
  • 8. A giant in the form of a donkey.
  • 9. Other giants were also killed. 10-14 while Kangsa was told that two babies were still alive.
  • 26. Krisna carried a big bow.

These reliefs did not show significant relationship between the childhood of Krisna and other stories about Krisna.

Brahma Temple

Brahma Temple

The form and size of Brahma Temples is much similar is much similar to Wisnu Temple. The size of Brahma Temple is 20 x20 meters-square and 23 meters high. Similar to Wisnu Temple, Brahma Temple has one room with one stairway to enter from the east. Inside the room there is four-headed Brahma Statue. At the foot of the temple were found a figure of a priest accompanied by other figures in a position of praying.
The ornaments exist all four sides of the temple. The foot of the temples surrounded by an open veranda with balustrade. At the inner side of the balustrade were relief's which tell the continuation of Ramayana story which were in scripted on Ciwa Temple. At the outer-side of the balustrade were found figure soft priest in the sitting position (praying). Other ornamentals were found at the foot of the temple, similar to that at Ciwa and Wisnu Temple.

Relief of Brahma Temple

According to Bernet Kempers and Sudirman (1974), it was mentioned that the relief at the balustrade of Brahma Temple contained the continuation of Ramayana story, but it turned out that some sequence of the story did not match, so it was not the actual arrangement of the temple stones when the temple was in restoration. Some of the lost stones (with relief) were found nearby the village and were returned back to the original arrangement.


Some of the scene (1-5 of previous paragraph), which showed apes marching, followed by scenes of the battle between the apes and Rahwana. That battle should ended by the death of the giants (6-12). One of Rahwana's brothers, Kumbokarno was woke up and attacking the apes (6-12). Then Kumbokarno died (8-9) and so was Rahwana (10). After this part of the story, the continuation was found elsewhere. In a short time, Sinta returned to Rama. Then Sinta was denied by Rama because she had been in Rahwana's palace. It was pictured she went into the wood, crossing the Gangga River (17). At a meditation site, she delivered a baby. Then she was seen picking up flowers with her child (21). On the relief number 25, two teenagers were in battle with a giant.

The actual story revealed that indeed the two teenagers were the children of Sinta going to the palace as singers to see their father. At that time there was a celebration. This part was called the celebration relief (30). This story is as a satire expressing the luxury life of priests. At the end of the story, Sinta was called into Rama's palace to proof her purity.

Nandi Temple

This temple faced to the west, with a dimension of 15 x15 meters and 25 meters high. This temple has also a single room with the statue of Nandi. Besides the statue of Nandi were found the statue of the God of the Sun and Chandra behind the statue of Nandi. Both Gods drove carriage each dragged by 7 horses (God of the Sun) and 10 horses (Chandra). The ornaments were similar to those found in other temples. In front of Wisnu Temple and Brahma Temple were found empty temples, called Temple A and Temple B. Each temple had the dimension of 13 x 13 meters and 22 meters high.

Apit Temple

Sudut Temple

Sudut Temple (sudut means corner) is located at each corner of the open veranda of the main temple with the dimension of 1.55 x 1.55 square meters and 4.10 meter high. The four Sudut Temple have no entrance stairway.

Apit Temples

Two Apit temples (flanking temple; apit means to flank) stood near the entrance gate, flanking two rows of temples, the West and East row.
Apit Temples had dimension of six times six square meters and sixteen meters high. Each temple had one entrance facing to the North and to the South.

The shape and structure of these temples were similar to other temples at Lorojonggrang complex, however the Apit Temples looked slimmer than the others due to the higher foot part.

The conspicuous feature of Apit Temples is the presence of a lion figure in sitting position and wide-open mouth; one of the front feet is raised.

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