An UNESCO World Heritage site and the largest Hindu sanctuary in Southeast Asia, the Prambanan is, arguably, the most magnificent of the hundreds of temple remains in the Yogyakarta area. An inscription dated to 856 implies that the temple reached its final stages under the rule of a certain Rakai Pikatan Jatiningrat, who governed the area between c. 840-856. Given its extensive remains, however, construction must have begun several decades earlier.
The complex originally consisted of more than 200 shrines enclosing an inner courtyard that houses three central sanctuaries for the main gods of the Hindu trimurti, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, plus a number of smaller edifices. The massive central structure, dedicated to Shiva in His role as Destroyer, soars 47 m into the sky. It is flanked by two equally impressive towers, a little over two-thirds as high. Facing the three main buildings are three ‘attendant’ temples, popularly attributed to the gods’ mounts: Garuda is Visnu’s mythical giant bird; the bull Nandi and Hamsa the swan are the rides of, respectively, Shiva and Brahma. The central platform has been renovated and is open to the public. Of most of the surrounding shrines, though, today only remain heaps of scattered stones.
The sanctuary is embedded in an extensive park that includes three further temples, Lumbung, Bubrah and Sewu, all of Buddhist denomination, and built slightly earlier than Hindu Prambanan. Lumbung is under reconstruction. Of the Bubrah, in Javanese, appropriately, meaning ‘damaged’ or ‘broken’, today only the base remains. The extensive remains of Sewu, Indonesia’s second largest Buddhist temple, are described here.
16 temples and shrines are distributed over the central courtyard. It is possible to enter most of the temples and their chambers, some of which still contain the statues of Hindu Gods, lingering in the dark. The walls of their upper corridors are covered with reliefs narrating Hindu epics and decorative sculptures.
The Eastern chamber contains a three meter high statue of Shiva; however, we find the statues of Durga in the northern and Ganesha in the western chamber more impressive. The Southern chamber contains a smaller figure of Agastya. In popular legend, Durga embodies the beautiful princess Lara (or Rara) Jonggrang, turned to stone after she cunningly tried to avoid marriage with her father’s (a giant called Ratu Boko) enemy.
Vishnu & Brahma Temples
The Vishnu temple at the north side, and, probably more remarkable, Brahma’s edifice in the south, contain statues of their respective Gods. The reliefs on Brahma’s temple wall narrate an episode of the Ramayana, the war of Rama and the monkey army against Rahwana and the ensuing liberation of Sinta, Rama’s spouse.
Nandi, Angsa & Garuda
Of the opposite temples, only the central one still contains a statue, Nandi the bull.
There are several options to get onto Prambanan’s central courtyard and stroll around between the impressive temple buildings towering above the visitor. The shrines themselves are not easy to climb as stairs are steep and uneven. Assistance, however, is readily available for those who want to have a peek into one of the chambers, where statues of the Hindu Gods ghostly linger in the dark. We provide portable ramps, and organise carriers for wheelchair users who like to get up the shrines.
Visitors with visual impairment are allowed to palpate the reliefs with gloves, and guides are available to explain their mythical tales.
For detailed information with photos about accessibility at the Prambanan contact us.