During our trip around Yogyakarta, we planned to visit the largest ancient Hindu temple in Indonesia, the Candi Prambanan. We set out to go there after having lunch and exploring the Candi Borobudur earlier that day. The Candi Prambanan temple differs from the Candi Borobudur in the fact that it is a Hindu temple complex, while the aforementioned temple was a Buddhist one.
If you go to either one, you get the option of buying a combination ticket for both temples. I would recommend doing this as it saves you some money buying single tickets. The only disadvantage is you have to visit the temples within two days otherwise the ticket will expire.
Entrance tickets; foreigner and local visitor. The IDR 375k ticket includes entrance to both the Candi Borobudur and Candi Prambanan within two days.
The Candi Prambanan explained:
The island of Java in Indonesia was the home of the influential Hindu-Buddhist Majapahit Empire for several centuries. Throughout the height of the empire, countless candi (Javanese buildings dating back to the 8th and the 16th century) were built. Among these buildings are the famous Buddhist Candi Borobudur, and also the unique-looking Hindu Prambanan temple. Then during the 16th century, after the fall of the Majapahit Empire and the rising Islamic influence, less and less candi were built and many older temples disintegrated or fell into ruin.
You could say that the Candi Prambanan has been through a lot. It was built in the 9th century and after years of use it was abandoned, forgotten, and it started to deteriorate. Then in the 16th century a large earthquake destroyed most of the temple. Like the Candi Borobudur, local people knew of its existence, but it was largely neglected. The temple was discovered once again in the 19th century, only to be the victim of thieves and looters that took parts of the temple home for decoration or to sell on the black market. During the Dutch occupation in 1930 the proper restoration of the complex definitively began. Finally, the temple was damaged once more during an earthquake in 2006 and every few years the temple is covered under a layer of volcanic ash spewed by the numerous volcanoes in the area. So, all in all, the temple has quite an interesting history. It is one of the results of it being constructed in such a dynamic and naturally volatile region.
Entering the Candi Prambanan temple complex, you will undoubtedly see the three large towers rising in the background. These are the three main buildings of the Candi Prambanan. The left temple is dedicated to Brahma, the right to Vishnu, while the largest center building is dedicated to Shiva. This is directly related to Hinduism, as the three most important deities of Hinduism are Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Respectively: the creator of the world, the keeper, and the destroyer or transformer. Together they form the Great Trinity and it is said that after Shiva has destroyed the world, Brahma creates it once more, while Vishu preserves it during this time.
Upon getting closer to the three main temples you will see many large blocks of stone used in building the temples scattered in piles across the ground. I believe this is the result of the various earthquakes, which damaged the buildings significantly throughout the years. While there is a lot of rubble around the site, the temples are in pretty decent condition to to the still-ongoing restoration processes.
Exploring the main buildings was quite interesting. The sides of the temples are decorated with very cool bas-relief panes depicting stories out of the Hindu epics Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The heroes Rama and Krishna are featured in many of the panels and others are quite erotic looking. These are some of the oldest Hindu bas-relief panels found in Indonesia. The condition of these bas-reliefs was a bit better than the ones at the Candi Borobudur. They seemed less weathered and eroded. The inside of the temples was mostly empty, except for a large statue of the god to which the building was dedicated.
We visited the Candi Prambanan late in the afternoon and I think this is one of the best times to see the place. It was averagely crowded and there were maybe a few hundred people there. Naturally, of which 99% were taking selfies with the temples on the background. Many visitors seemed to be more interested in getting a perfect selfie then the temples itself. But, to each his own. Still, the temple buildings looked amazingly beautiful showered in the warm afternoon light and the sun is more tolerable at that time so you can explore and enjoy the sights and buildings better.
After visiting the main temples, you have the option to see a few smaller temples located in the same complex, but a few kilometers away. There is also a small museum and a deer park that can be visited there. We just opted to see the museum and deer. Afterwards we headed back to the car and like at the Candi Borobudur, this is the worst part of the temple complex, as you have to walk through a maze of souvenir shops with sometimes quite aggressive touts. Still this didn’t really lessen the fun we had at the temple, which was just excellent.
A few times a week Ramayana theatre performances and shows are held in front of the temple during the evening. We hoped to catch one of these shows, but unfortunately they were not scheduled during our days there. If you can, you should try to see one of these shows, because it could be such a beautiful and unique environment to see an essential and entertaining part of Javanese culture, folklore and history.
Overall, the Candi Prambanan is another must-see experience while in Yogyakarta or Indonesia. It is a spectacular and fascinating temple complex with a deep rich history and it is part of the Javanese and Indonesian culture and heritage and definitely worth a visit.