Prambanan Travel Tip :: Sightseeing

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Entrance Fees

The main site of modern day Prambanan complex is inside a large, landscaped park. The complex is open daily from 6AM to 6PM. Try to get there early to beat the heat. Entry costs Indonesians less than $1, while foreigners are charged a fixed tourist rate of US$13 or US$7 for a registered student. Guides can be hired at the ticket office for about US$5 and as this is a complex monument, a guide is a very good idea.

Historical Monuments

Candi Lara (Loro) Jonggrang, or simply Candi Prambanan
The largest and most-visited of the temples just to the left of the main entrance. While there were 237 temples originally built, most have long since crumbled and the main remaining attractions are the six temples of the central court, richly decorated with carved reliefs. Three of them, known as the Trisakti (“three sacred places”), are particularly important:

Candi Shiva Mahadeva

This temple, dedicated to Shiva, is not only the largest of the temples, it is also the finest. The main spire soars 47m and the temple is lavishly carved. The ‘medallions’ that decorate its base have a characteristic Prambanan motif – small lions in niches flanked by kalpatura (trees of heaven) and a menagerie of stylised half-human and half-bird kinnara (heavenly beings). The vibrant scenes carved onto the inner wall of the gallery encircling the temple are from the Ramayana – they tell how Lord Rama’s wife, Sita, is abducted and how Hanuman the monkey god and Sugriwa the white monkey general eventually find and release her. To follow the story, ascend the main eastern stairway and go around the temple clockwise.

In the main chamber at the top of the eastern stairway, the four-armed statue of Shiva the Destroyer is notable for the fact that this mightiest of Hindu gods stands on a huge lotus pedestal, a symbol of Buddhism. In the southern cell is the potbellied and bearded Agastya, an incarnation of Shiva as divine teacher; in the western cell is a superb image of the elephant-headed Ganesha, Shiva’s son. In the northern cell, Durga, Shiva’s consort, can be seen killing the demon buffalo. Some people believe that the Durga image is actually an image of the Slender Virgin, who, legend has it, was turned to stone by a man she refused to marry. She is still the object of pilgrimage and her name is often used for the temple group.

Candi Brahma

This temple to the south, continues the story of the Ramayana and has a four-headed statue of Brahma, the god of creation.

Candi Vishnu

This temple to the north, reliefs on Candi Vishnu to the north tell the story of Lord Krishna, a hero of the Mahabharata epic. Inside is a four-armed image of Vishnu the Preserver.

Opposite the three large temples are three smaller temples originally dedicated to the vehicles of the gods. Only the statue of Nandi, Shiva’s bull, has survived.

Candi Nandi

This small shrine, facing Candi Shiva Mahadeva, houses one of Prambanan’s finest sculptures – a huge, powerful figure of the bull Nandi, the vehicle of Shiva.

Candi Lumbung and Candi Bubrah, two Buddhist temples, are located several hundred meters further north. They lie in ruins and are fenced off.

Buddhist Candi Sewu

The ‘Thousand Temples’, dating from around AD 850, originally consisted of a large central Buddhist temple surrounded by four rings of 240 smaller ‘guard’ temples. Outside the compound stood four sanctuaries at the points of the compass, of which
Candi Bubrah is the most southern one.

The renovated main temple is interesting for the unusual finely carved niches around the inner gallery, with shapes resembling those found in the Middle East. These niches would once have held bronze statues, but plundering of the temple went on for many years and many statues have been whisked away.

Candi Sewu lies about 1km north of the Shiva Mahadeva temple, past the small, partly renovated Candi Lumbung and Candi Bubrah. Entrance from the east side only.

Plaosan Temples

This northeastern group of temples is 3km from the Prambanan complex. It can be reached on foot by taking the road north from the main gate, going past Candi Sewu at the end of the main complex, and then taking a right turn. Stay on this road for
about 1km.

Built around the same time as the Prambanan temple group by Rakai Pikat an, the Plaosan temples combine both Hindu and Buddhist religious symbols and carvings. The temples are comprised of the main Plaosan Lor (Plaosan North) compound and the smaller Plaosan Kidul (Plaosan South), just a couple of hundred metres away.

This complex gives a good insight into the close relationship between Hinduism and Buddhism in 9th century Java. Buddhist Plaosan was built during the same reign as Candi Loro Jonggrang. The Hindu king at the time had a Buddhist wife. There are some excellent intact reliefs here although most of the statuary was looted long ago.

Plaosan Lor comprises two restored, identical main temples, surrounded by some 126 small shrines and solid stupas, most of which are now just a jumble of stone.

Two giant dwarapala (temple guardian statues) stand at the front of each main temple. The main temples, notable for their unusual three-part design, are two-storey, three-room structures, with an imitation storey above and a tiered roof of stupas rising to a single, larger one in the centre.

Inside each room are impressive stone Bodhisattvas on either side of an empty lotus pedestal, and intricately carved kala (dragon) heads above the many windows. The bronze Buddhas that once sat on the lotus pedestals have been removed.

Plaosan Kidul has more stupas and the remnants of a temple, but little renovation work has been done.

SOUTHERN GROUP

Candi Sajiwan

Not far from the village of Sajiwan, about 1.5km southeast of Prambanan village, are the ruins of this Buddhist temple. Around the temple’s base are carvings from the Jataka (episodes from the Buddha’s various lives).

Kraton Ratu Boko


Kraton Ratu Boko at the south of Prambanan, take the minor road from Prambanan towards Piyungan and this palace is on your left after about 3 km. Perched on top of a hill overlooking Prambanan, Kraton Ratu Boko (Palace of King Boko), a huge Hindu palace complex dating from the 9th century, is believed to have been the central court of the mighty Mataram empire. Little remains of the original complex. Renovations, while only partially successful, have included new stonework.

You can see the large gateway, walls, the platform of the main pendopo, Candi Pembakaran (Royal Crematorium) and a series of bathing places on different levels leading down to the nearby village. The view from this site to the Prambanan Plain is magnificent, especially at sunset, and worth the walk.

To reach Ratu Boko, travel 1.5km south on the road from Prambanan village to just southwest of where the river crosses the road. Near the ‘Yogya 18km’ signpost a steep rocky path leads up to the main site. Altogether it is about a one-hour walk. The site can be reached by car or motorcycle via a much longer route that goes around the back of the mountain.

Now incorporated into the Borobudur Park Authority, entry to Ratu Boko is a separately charged US$10.

WESTERN GROUP

There are three temples in this group between Yogyakarta and Prambanan, two of them close to Kalasan village on the main Yogyakarta road. Kalasan and Prambanan villages are 3km apart, so it is probably easiest to take a Colt or bus to cover this
stretch.

Candi Kalasan

Standing 50m off the main road near Kalasan village, this temple is one of the oldest Buddhist temples on the Prambanan Plain. A Sanskrit inscription of AD 778 refers to a temple dedicated to the female Bodhisattva, Tara, though the existing structure appears to have been built around the original one some years later. It has been partially restored during this century and has some fine detailed carvings on its southern side, where a huge, ornate kala head glowers over the doorway. At one time it was completely covered in coloured shining stucco, and traces of the hard, stonelike ‘diamond plaster’ that provided a base for paintwork can still be seen. The inner chamber of Kalasan once sheltered a huge bronze image of Buddha or Tara.

Candi Sari

About 200m north from Candi Kalasan, in the middle of coconut and banana groves, the Sari Temple has the three-part design of the larger Plaosan temple but is probably slightly older. Some students believe that its 2nd floor may have served as a dormitory for the Buddhist priests who took care of Candi Kalasan. The sculptured reliefs around the exterior are similar to those of Kalasan but are in much better condition.

Candi Sambisari

A country lane runs to this isolated temple, about 2.5km north of the main road. Sambisari is a Shiva temple and possibly the latest temple at Prambanan to be erected by the Mataram empire. It was discovered by a farmer in 1966. Excavated from under
ancient layers of protective volcanic ash and dust, it lies almost 6m below the surface of the surrounding fields and is remarkable for its perfectly preserved state. The inner sanctum of the temple is dominated by a large lingam and yoni (stylised penis and vagina), typical of Shiva temples.

Take the main road from Prambanan heading back towards Yogyakarta. When you reach the village of Sumbisari, turn north (right) and follow the small road to the end.

Other Attractions

Prambanan Museum

North of Candi Lara Jonggrang is a poorly displayed museum laid out in a series of small houses connected by walkways. Explanations are minimal, but entry is free so you might as well take a look. Prambanan Audio Visual, inside the museum grounds, is the park’s term for screenings of a bizarre movie entitled “Cosmic Harmony”, which seems to spend as much time lambasting the “industrial world” in general (and Jakarta in particular) as explaining the Prambanan site. Still, it makes for a fairly entertaining half-hour break and Rp 2,000 is not too bad a price to pay for the air-con. The film is available in several languages.

Note: Film viewing is available in the video section.

Ramayana Ballet

An open-air theatre inside the park, just west of Candi Prambanan, has ballet performances of the great Hindu epic Ramayana on four nights during each full moon between May and October. This performance, set against the lit back drop of Prambanan, is quite spell-binding. Enquire at travel agents locally or at your hotel for tickets and times.