The Prambanan Plain, Land of Ancient Ruins (part 1 of 3)

For history enthusiasts, Java can be magical land to discover great archaeological remains. Many have been found, and many are being excavated. Welcome to the world of Candi.

The Prambanan Plain, Capital of Ancient Kingdom

Map Prambanan Plain1

Map of The Prambanan Plain

The Prambanan Plain is a land consists of many archaeological remnants of thousand years old civilization. These are Candi Kalasan, Candi Sari, Prambanan Temple Complex and many others.

The Prambanan Plain, located in the border between Special Region of Yogyakarta Province, The Sleman Regency, and the Klaten Regency in Central Java. Yes indeed, it is where the mighty Prambanan temple compound located.

The Old Mataram Kingdom

Initially, it was the capital of Medang Kingdom or the Old Mataram Kingdom that flourished and at its peak of glory between 8th to 10th CE. As the result, monumental creations were created in the form of temples for religious purposes and grand monument like Borobudur.

Those ruins that were built on Prambanan Plain mostly during the reign the Sanjaya Dynasty that embraced Hinduism as the kingdom’s official religion, they lived side by side with the Buddhist community.

Our journey to Prambanan Plain is like going back to a time where our Javanese ancestor lived. Many ancient ruins are still to be found even today. The ruins scattered in many locations and centered in the Prambanan district of Klaten and Sleman regency.

UNESCO World Heritage Site

The largest ruins would be the Prambanan Temple Complex. Unfortunately, most people only know this temple complex, for it has been declared as one of World Heritage by UNESCO. They don’t know that in the same area they can see other ruins.

There are at least 18 ruins found on the Prambanan Plain. Scattered from the Klaten Regency of Central Java on the east to Sleman Regency of Yogyakarta region on the west. Many of the ruins, in fact, centered nearby the Prambanan Temple Complex.

If we are lucky to have enough time to travel around Prambanan, we can see some of the ruins that each has its own characteristics. It is not hard to find them, coz they are nearby one another.

We only need a map from our gadget to find them. Some of them can be found by walking from the Prambanan Temple which is in the same area.

The Candi Kalasan

If we come from the city of Yogyakarta, first we can find the Candi Kalasan. Probably 2 km before the Prambanan Temple Compound. We can even see it from the main road since it is 34 meters in height. As my point of view, it looks like more to ancient castle or palace than a religious building.

The size and the grand design is rather unique. Unlike other ruins in the area, which are a compound temple, it stands alone in an incredibly high.

Though it is not as tall as The Siva temple at Prambanan Compound, it exceeds the height of any other temple complex in the area.

Indeed, it was for a special reason, that is to worship the Female Bodhisattva, The Goddess Tara. The Mahayana Tantric was the main religion at the time of construction of the Candi Kalasan.

Though Royal’s family were Hindus, Buddhism was still the religion of most people. This shows us the tolerance between religions in old Javanese life.

Candi Kalasan 01

The Candi Kalasan

Candi Kalasan 03

Niches on Candi Kalasan

The Kalasan Stone Inscription

The Candi Kalasan has other names, the Kalibening Temple, as the stone inscription says, namely the Kalasan Inscription, dated in 700 Chaka or 778 AD.

It mentions how the High Buddhist Priest was able to persuade the King, who was a Hindu, to build the Temple of Kalasan for the worship of Bodhisattva Tara, and to construct the Buddhist monastery nearby, the Candi Sari, only hundreds meters away from Candi Kalasan.

If we have gone to Chiang Mai in Thailand, sadly I haven’t, we would remember of the Grand Temple of Wat Chedi Luang.

I think they both have a similar design, the square base and the four doors on each side with supposedly has stairs on every face of the temple. The construction of Wat Chedi Luang is around 14th CE, 6 centuries after the completion of Candi Kalasan.

Candi Kalasan 04

The Face of Candi Kalasan

Candi Kalasan 02

The Goddess Tara

What Remains of Candi Kalasan

The temple is not in complete shape, might be because of the earthquakes and eruptions of Merapi volcano through time. The community that, mostly, embraced Islam later, would be another reason for this ruin to be abandoned.

The present government could not completely restore once a magnificent building. There is, supposedly, a big bell shape stupa on its top and smaller 3 stupas on each of the 4 doors. All the four stairs going to the doors have also gone.

Luckily, most of the wall niches with beautiful carving are still intact. Some stone blocks, that were part of the building, are on the ground.

The feeling of proud and at the same time sad, mixed together when I visited the place. I was so proud that our ancestors did not just wear short and becoming a slave as the European countries see us so. Our ancestors were, actually, great in developing civilization.

Only an advanced civilization could build such a glorious building like this one. The sad feeling came when I see the ruins are not being taken cared of accordingly. We still need experts in archaeology, especially local archaeologist, to uncover the mysteries of ancient civilization found in Java.

If Egypt has Egyptology as the field of science, we should start to use the term Javanology as the field of science for uncovering the ancient Javanese Civilization.

Continue to read The Prambanan Plain, Land of Ancient Ruins (part 2 of 3)

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