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


Not far from Prambanan Compound, we can see other smaller ancient ruins. They are Candi Lumbung, Candi Bubrah, and Candi Sewu. The last one is somehow got my interest.

Candi Lumbung and Candi Bubrah

Only a few hundreds of meters walk and we can see them right away. There isn’t much left from the first two ruins I saw. At the ruins of Candi Lumbung, we shall see a badly damaged central building surrounded by smaller temples.

By looking at the architectural type, we can see that it is a Buddhist Candi. Only four or five smaller temples survived or well restored, each has stupa on its top.

At the ruin of Candi Bubrah, initially was just a bunch of shapeless piled rocks, is a restoration in progress. It seems that they are building a new one, based on the original rock structure as its foundation.

I have no idea if it will still hold the name ancient since most of the materials are new. What was a shapeless ruin has now become a beautiful new building? Such a deceiving status.

Candi Lumbung 01

Main Temple of Candi Lumbung

Candi Lumbung 02

Inside Candi Lumbung

Candi Lumbung 03

Smaller Building at Candi Lumbung

Candi Lumbung 04

Dewi Tara Statue

The Candi Sewu

At the ruins of Candi Sewu, however, we can see compound of an ancient Buddhist monastery. Similar to Prambanan Compound, it has one large structure at the center that surrounded by many smaller Candi.

As many as two hundred and ninety-six temples, this where the name comes from, Sewu means many refers to the many structures.

At the entrances in all four directions, we can see the giant guardian statues called the Dwarapalas. Each holding a baseball stick like a weapon.

Ruins of Candi Sewu, to me, is the most exotic Buddhist ancient ruins. The shape is typical Buddhist but in a unique way.

Unlike Borobudur that intensifies on its massive scale to be the admiration point, Candi Sewu is rather more artistic.

It has both Buddhism and Hinduism aspect of its architecture. Maybe the reigning dynasty, which was Hindus, has influenced the architecture at the time of its construction.

Many surrounding temples has become a heap of rocks but in square shape foundation. Some of them are well restored. This what makes the ruins look exotic.

As if we are exploring the ruins in original shape when it was rediscovered a hundred years ago.

Candi Sewu 02

Stupas on top of Main Building Candi Sewu

Candi Sewu 03

Main Building

Candi Sewu 04

Relief of Bodhisattva

Candi Sewu 05

Posing in front of main temple

Raffles’s Note

Thanks to Thomas Stamford Raffles colonial administration, where many ancient ruins like Borobudur and Prambanan to be rediscovered and maintained as well as the first attempt of restoration.

Though they also robbed many of Javanese historical objects like part of Candi or Javanese ancient literature during their five years British colonial administration (1811-1816) in Java.

However, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles succeed in constructing, more than any historian today (as he claimed), Java’s history in his monumental book “The History of Java”. In his book he mentions about the Candi Sewu:

“The exterior of this great temple contains great variety of ornamental sculpture; but no human or emblematical figures, or even niches in the wall, as in all the small temples surrounding it. The capital of the pilasters (as in the niches in the body of the temples) are indeed supported by the very diminutive figures before mentioned; but nothing further appears in that way throughout the whole structure. The style, taste, and manner of execution, are everywhere light , chaste, and beautiful, evincing a fertile invention, most delicate workmanship, and experience in the art. All the figures occupying the niches of the smaller temples (and there were thirteen to each of the two hundred and ninety-six) are wonderful variety of mythological characters, which the Brahmin said figured in the Hindu legends”. (History of Java II, page 22, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles)

I don’t think there is a better description of this temple than the above paragraph written by Raffles himself.

All I could feel during my visit was the admiration of Javanese craftsmanship, of how they managed to build such structures in many different ways, though they are in the same location.

Candi Sewu 06

Main Temple Yard

Candi Sewu 07

Main Temple and smaller Ruins

Learning From the Past

There is, however, two more ancient compound, they are Candi Plaosan Lor and Candi Plaosan Kidul that located only about five hundred meters from these ruins.

Only that we ran out of time, so I wasn’t able to complete my mission on Prambanan Plain.

Discovering remains of ancient civilization, for me, is not just to enjoy the grandeur and architectural design. It is more to learn how our ancestor lives their life.

And to understand the culture and level of welfare that they have so that they could build such monumental creations. Civilization is not just a great building, is derived from the word civil that could become civilian which mean the people.

So civilization is about how the people live, how they interact one to another, and about their characteristic.

Read next travel story: Independence Day vs. Gili Ketapang Island, Snorkeling Time!

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