The magnificent Hindu Shivaite temple, Prambanan is by far the most commonly visited and the most complete in regards to restoration. The architectural style looks to a degree similar to Angkor Wat, with a number of tall slender somewhat jagged spires, the largest soaring 47 metres. Based on a square mandala plan, it once comprised more than 240 temples. Two hundred and forty. Many of the smaller shrines are still in ruins, and the slow jigsaw puzzle of reconstruction is ongoing. Extensive damage in the 2006 earthquake hampered this process, however the main structures are restored to their former glory.
We’ll forgive you if you’ve never heard of Prambanan until now, as Borobudur certainly steals the limelight when it come to antiquities in Central Java. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed temple complex of Prambanan however is captivating in its own right.
Perhaps due to its lack of fame internationally, the temples here offer delightful surprises and constantly charm visitors—believe us, you’ll be in awe. The complex contains the greatest legacy of ancient Hindu and Buddhist sites in Indonesian built between the eighth and tenth centuries when the ruling Hindu Mataram empire and Buddhist Shailendra kingdoms of Java were in their heyday.
Prambanan Temple Complex encompasses the temples of Prambanan (locally called Loro Jonggrang), Lumbung, Bubrah and Sewu. Outside the fenced compound, other temples (requiring separate entry fees) include Plaosan, Kraton Ratu Boko, Sajiwan, Kalasan, Sari, Sambisari and more. Perhaps there are still yet relics of the ancient metropolis beneath the silt and sands. You could spend days exploring the area, but make the most of your entry ticket and make the effort to see all within the Prambanan Temple Complex itself. We certainly weren’t disappointed.[/vc_column_text]
Intricate relief carvings depicting scenes from the Ramayana adorn the main walkways and the interiors contain some extremely fine large sculptural works. Take a torch as the cambers of the shrines are unlit. The four chambers of the commanding Shiva temple showcase statues of a large four armed Shiva, Agastya the guru, elephant-headed Ganesh, and a rather voluptuous statue of Durga, Shiva’s consort. Local legend is that the Durga statue is in fact the princess, Loro Jonggrang. The story goes Loro Jonggrang was forced to agree to an unwanted marriage to Prince Bandung Bondowoso, the murderer of her father. She posed an impossible condition: her suitor must build her one thousand temples in only one night. Being the dastardly evil chap that he was, the prince enlisted the help of demons who quickly built 999 temples. Worried, quick-thinking Loro Jonggrang started a huge fire in the east, causing the cocks to crow and the demons to believe it was dawn (who subsequently fled). Angry and not to be bamboozled, he turned her to stone — the one thousandth temple.
Sewu and the Northern Temples
In an almost direct line north from Prambanan sit two small Buddhist temple complexes, Lumbung, Bubrah and larger Sewu temples, all older than Prambanan. This group is less visited, but well worth taking the time to explore. A small train will drop you 800 metres away at Sewu temple (or stop for five minutes for a quick look), passing the others on the way. The train is included in your ticket for foreign tourists and 7,500 rupiah for domestic tourists. If you have plenty of time, it’s an easy walk to explore all three. Alternatively bicycles can be hired for 10,000 rupiah or 20,000 rupiah for a tandem.
Beautiful Sewu is the second largest Buddhist temple complex in Indonesia and predates larger Borobudur (although Sewu covers a lager ground area). The temple is in the slow process of reconstruction, and guarded by two well preserved dvarapala statues, replicas of which stand in the central courtyard of the Kraton in Yogyakarta. The name in Javanese means “one thousand temples” however it’s a bit short of the mark as there are *only* 249 temples and is most likely a reference to the Loro Jonggrang story. The wonderful transcendent atmosphere coupled with the absence of tourists makes this a worthwhile detour.
Plaosan is another large and sublime temple complex, approximately three kilometres by road northeast of Prambanan, and requires a separate ticket. Interestingly it’s a Buddhist temple allegedly built by a Hindu king for his Buddhist wife, and like most in this area is an architectural blend of styles. The temple flanks two sides of the road with a larger Lor (north) complex and smaller Kidul (south) complex. Ticket is by “donation”; we were asked to contribute 5,000 rupiah. We visited in the late afternoon and the temples appeared to be a spectacular red colour, howerer we were told it was just a trick of the light.
Kraton Ratu Boko
About three kilometres south of Prambanan, perched on a small hill, Kraton Ratu Boko is believed to have been the palace (kraton) of King Boko (of the Loro Jonggrang legend). We were unable to visit this site, however it’s a hugely popular (and probably spectacular) spot for sunset, and at this time the tickets cost a bit less too. Prices include transport from Prambanan.
A spectacular cultural dance performance of the Hindu epic Ramayana story with more than 200 performers is staged near Prambanan most Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays (do check to confirm), 19:30 to 21:30. May to October the show is performed on an outdoor stage (weather permitting) with Prambanan temple as a backdrop. It’s quite the sight and highly recommended. November to April the venue moves inside to the Tri Murti theatre. Ticket prices start at 125,000 rupiah up to 375,000 rupiah for VIP seats. Bookings can be made from travel agencies in Yogya, with transport around 60,000 rupiah return, additional.
Foreign : adult/child under 10yr US$25/15; guide 100,000Rp
Indonesian : adult/child under 10yr IDR 30.000/ 12.500; guide 100,000Rp
Tickets for the temple can be purchased online from its website, along with a combined Prambanan–Kraton Ratu Boko package (adult/child under 10years US$40/25), which includes a free shuttle between the two complexes. There’s also a Prambanan–Borobudur discount ticket (adult/child US$40/25) – but it’s only valid for two days, and note that it isn’t available for those wanting to visit Borobudur at sunrise or sunset.
How to get there
Prambanan lies 18 kilometres northeast of central Yogyakarta or just eight kilometres from the airport. Conveniently, Prambanan is a stop on the TransJogja busway. Route 1A (grey) takes about 45 minutes from central Yogya. The fare is 3,600 rupiah. Alternatively, many travel agents offer Prambanan trips, either separately or bundled with Borobudur or other attractions, starting around 85,000 rupiah for a return trip excluding entry fees.
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