Welcome to the largest Hindu Temple in Indonesia;the Prambanan Temple compound.
This temple, locally referred to as Loro Jonggrang Temple,is one of the many magnificent temples in the area.
These temples are the remains ofthe powerful civilizations that lived on the Java Island.
Exactly when this beautiful temple compound was build is hard to say, as there is no formalwritten records of the construction of Prambanan.
It is believed to have been built in the 9thcentury during Ancient Java's greatest empire, The Mataram Sultanate.
During this time, powerof central Java shifted between different families.
The construction of Prambanan wasprobably built to mark the return of the Sanjaya dynasty after almost a century of under controlby the rival Sailendra.
During this era, it was not uncommon for the different dynastiesto raise monuments and temples in their name, not only as a way to display their dominance,but also to fortify their religion in the area.
This is the reason why so many templesin the area which dates back to this period.
As Prambanan is a Hindu Temple, it hardlycomes as a surprise that the Sanjaya's were Hindus.
The Sailendra's however, were Buddhists,and the ones responsible for many of the Buddhist temples in the area, the most famous one beingBorobudur.
Many see Prambanan as Sanjaya's response to Sailendra's mighty Borobudur.
While both dynasties main temples seem quite similar, there are some distinct differencesbetween them.
The difference between Prambanan and Borobudur in not only that they worshipdifferent religions, but there is also a distinct architectural difference between the two.
If you visit both temples, you will see that this one consists more of sharp sculpted towersin contrast to the vast horizontal bulk of Buddhist Borobudur.
The new Sanjaya dynasty controlled the island around 100 years until the Isyana dynastytook over in the 10th century.
They moved the court to East Java, for which reason isstill unknown.
This marked the beginning of the temple's decline, as it soon became abandonedand began to deteriorate.
Disaster struck the temple in the mid 16thcentury, when a major earthquake caused many of the temples to collapse and left the areain ruins.
Prambanan Temple was unknown to the worlduntil the beginning of the 19th century, when a surveyor stumbled upon the temple by chanceduring Britain's short-lived rule of the Dutch East Indies.
Even though a full survey ofthe ruins was commissioned, they remained neglected for decades.
The British and Dutchlooted the ruins and took sculptures as garden ornaments while native villagers used foundationstone as construction material.
The looting later ceased and restoration ofthe area began in 1918.
The restoration team had a policy that at least 75% of the originalmasonry needed to be available in order to restore a temple.
As much material were stolenand reused at remote construction sites, only the foundations of most of the smaller templesare now visible with no plans for their reconstruction.
Now that you know the history of this mightytemple, I'll give you some information about the temple buildings themselves.
The three main temples are called Trimurti — "the three forms".
It is a Hindu conceptwhich includes three gods; Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Keeper, and Shiva the Destroyer.
The one you are standing in front of right now, the largest temple, is dedicated to Shiva.
It consists of five chambers; one large and four smaller ones.
Inside the large main chamberyou can find a large three meters statue depicting Shiva and in the smaller chambers statuesof Hindu gods related to Shiva.
In the northern chamber you can find a statue of Durga; theslender Virgin.
She is one of the main characters in the folktale "Loro Jonggrang" that hasgiven the temple its local name.
In the folktale she refuses to become married and as a penaltyshe gets turned into stone.
Let's talk some about the other temple buildings.
The north temple, to the right of the main one, is dedicated to Vishnu the Keeper.
Thistemple consists of one main chamber which houses a statue of Vishnu.
On the balustradesin Vishnu temple you can find series of magnificent bas-relief depicting Krishnayana; the storyof lord Krishna.
Make sure you don't miss it.
The south temple is dedicated to Brahma the Creator and is also made up of one large mainchamber with a statue of Brahma.
The bas-reliefs along the balustrades on the gallery aroundboth Brahma and Shiva temple depict the Hindu legend of Ramayana.
They illustrate how Sita,the wife of Rama, is abducted by Ravana.
The monkey king Hanuman brings his army to helpRama and rescue Sita.
If you look around, you will see that in frontof each of the three main temples stands a smaller shrine.
These shrines are dedicatedto the mounts of the respective gods; the bull Nandi for Shiva, the swan Hamsa for Brahmaand the eagle Garuda for Vishnu.
In front of the temple dedicated to Shiva'smount, you can see a statue of Nandi the bull.
You can also see a statue of Chandra the godof moon and Surya the god of sun, both standing in carriages drawn by horses.
The other shrinesprobably also had a statue of their respective mount, but were most likely stolen duringthe Dutch occupancy.
In the main temple area, you can also find some smaller shrines surroundingthe main temples.
The purposes of these shrines still rather unknown, but they were likelyplaces of worship for the Brahmins and their disciples.
The temple compound consists of in total 237 temples, either big or small and in differentconditions.
Surrounding the main temple area are 224 small identical temples, though manyof them lie in ruins.
These are called "Candi Perwara" — the Guardian Temples.
Some believethat the temples represent the Mataram caste system, as the temples are arranged in fourrows, and that each row was designed to be used by one caste only.
Others believe theywere quite simply a place for meditation.
Surrounding the whole temple compound is theouter zone which is believed to have housed a park, living quarters and other supportivebuildings.
As these buildings are believed to have been built in organic material, nothingis left of them today.
One thing to keep an extra eye on is the openair theatre, located just west of Prambanan temple, across the small river.
The theatrehas ballet performances of the great Hindu legend of Ramayana during some parts of theyear.
This act, performed during full moon, set against an illuminated Prambanan, is quitespell-binding.
The local travel agents and hotels usually know the times of any upcomingshow, be sure to check it out.
Today, the Prambanan Temple Compound is listedas a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it has become one of Indonesia's key tourist attractionsand a major landmark in the area.