Sunday, October 16, 2011

Candi Prambanan - The Prambanan Temple

Candi Prambanan is Indonesia's cultural heritage which amazes me most. Borobudur is of course majestic in size. But I hold Prambanan dear in my heart. This temple compound is distinctively pretty. Each temple was delicately created, as if it was specifically built for a woman (I have had this thought even before I heard the story of Lara Jonggrang, you see). Unlike Borobudur, the spiritual vibe here is also stronger. Many ghost stories revolve around Prambanan. In fact, a photographer who is a friend of mine, had his camera broken when he took a picture of Dewa Wisnu in one of the major temples in Prambanan. A local said that my friend was supposed to whisper the word "amit" --which means 'excuse me'-- first before he take pictures of the sculpture. That's how you give courtesy to the spirits there. Prambanan also keeps some tragic stories --the sort of story that I fancy.

The story which is believed by the locals live around Candi Prambanan is that the temple was once built for a very beautiful princess named Lara Jonggrang. We can find a sculpture of her inside the main temple in Prambanan, that is the Candi Siwa. If you are wondering about how pretty Lara Jonggrang was, that someone can build a huge temple compound to please her, the answer is in her name. Imagine Lara Jonggrang in her heyday as someone who has a rockin body as Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. This is because Lara Jonggrang means 'Slender Virgin' (I highly doubt Ms Whiteley is still a virgin though). Men seemed to be willing to go beyond the distance, no matter how far just to make the slender virgin smile at them.

Lara Jonggrang was once lived in Keraton Boko, a small kingdom within the authority area of a powerful kingdom named Kerajaan Pengging. The prosperous Pengging Kingdom ruled by a wise king named Prabu Damar Moyo who has a son named Bandung Bondowoso.

Lara's father, Prabu Boko, the ruler of Boko kingdom was the opposite of Prabu Damar Moyo in terms of character. He was a cruel king with physical appearance resembles a flesh-eating giant rather than a human. Funnily, his genes didn't passed on to his daughter. Lara Jonggrang grew up as a very beautiful lady which the locals refer to as 'an angel sent from heaven'.

Prabu Boko had long desired to revolt against the Pengging Kingdom and overthrow Prabu Damar Moyo from his throne. On a one fine day he ordered his warlord, Patih Gupolo (who  is said to also has an appearance resembles a giant) to gather forces. Patih Gupolo quickly trained young men to fight and forcefully confiscated any property he can get from the Boko kingdom's citizens to fund the war.

Once the preparation had completed, Prabu Boko led his troops marched to the Pengging Kingdom for war. The war cost many lives on both sides. When Prabu Damar Moyo found out that his people started to suffer from hunger and poverty because of the war, he sent his son, Bandung Bondowoso to fight Prabu Boko to end the battle.

The war between Bandung Bondowoso and Prabu Boko was fierce. Unfortunately for Prabu Boko that Bandung had a super power that he couldn't match. The king ended up killed by the Pengging prince.

Patih Gupolo ran away when he saw his king slayed. Bandung chased him to Keraton Boko, determined to eradicate all usurpers alive. At the Boko kingdom, Patih Gupolo went straight to see Lara Jonggrang and told her that her father died in battle, killed by a Pengging warrior named Bandung Bondowoso. The princess was devastated by her grief. 

Prince Bandung Bondowoso, who didn't expect to see such beauty possessed by Lara Jonggrang, was shaken upon arrival in Keraton Boko. It didn't take long for him to ask her to be his wife. Lara Jonggrang wasn't willing to accept his proposal of course, knowing the prince as the murderer of her father. But she couldn't say no as Bandung had conquered her kingdom. Lara Jonggrang tried to find tricks to escape the prince's marriage proposal. She came up with two challenges that the Prince should fulfilled. She will marry the prince if Bandung can build her 1,000 temples in one night. She also wanted the prince to make her a well.

Bandung accepted the challenge. He made the well first, which was named the 'Jala Tunda' well. He called the princess to look at the well when it finished. The princess came, unimpressed and asked the prince to go down the well (No local knows why the prince did what she asked. Did the princess say that it was so he can tell her about the depth of the well?). As Bandung reached the bottom of the well, Lara Jonggrang told Patih Gupolo to fill the well with stones. The prince was trapped inside. Lara Jonggrang and Patih Gupolo thought that they have successfully killed Bandung Bondowoso. What they didn't know was that Bandung was a special man with amazing super power. He was still alive and he meditated to get out from the well. He made it.

Bandung went to see Lara in huge rage. But Lara's beauty was so extraordinary that he couldn't help but to forgive her. Lara asked Bandung about the temples that he had promised her. And just like any man who is in love, Bandung did what his lady told to do. He started to work on the temples.

Bandung called a large number of supernatural creatures to help him build 1,000 temples in one night. This was worrying the princess. Afraid if Bandung Bondowoso could meet the challenge ontime, she ordered the girls around the Prambanan area to pound rice in mortars and burn the hay to create light –from the fire--, as if the morning has come. The roosters were also somehow started to crow.

Hearing the roosters crow, rice pounded and a bright light in the East, the supernatural creatures stop their work. They told Bandung Bondowoso that they couldn’t continue to work on the last temple as the morning has arrived. However, Bandung Bondowoso had the feeling that those were fake signs.  

He called the princess to come and count how many temples have been built. The total was 999. There was only one more temple left unfinished. Lara Jonggrang made this as an excuse to refuse his marriage proposal. Bandung Bondowoso felt cheated and tricked that he went mad and cursed Lara Jonggrang into a statue which he placed inside the last temple. As if that wasn’t enough, Bandung Bondowoso cursed the girls around the Prambanan area into spinsters, as they took part in the princess’ trick.

Today, the myth has grown into a belief that a young couple will have their relationship end sooner or later after they visit the Prambanan compound. 

Several months ago I visited Prambanan for my travel article. It was not long after the Merapi eruption. Prambanan was not affected much by the disaster though. But it has not fully recovered from the series of earthquakes happened years ago. Here are some photos which i took while i was there.

Candi Apit
stairs...i love stairs
inside one of the temples...i can't remember which one

Candi Siwa, the biggest in the compound. Visitors weren't allowed to go inside. The temple was still under restoration.
at the bottom left: a top part of the temple which perhaps fell during one of the earthquakes

more ruins
Prambanan is situated in a very windy area. I don't know if it's an area with great thunder storms. But i can see lightning rods in some of the tallest temples.
a cable to connect the lightning rod to the ground

the name sign of each temple is put on the ground like this. there's no money to make more appropriate name signs? i don't know

this looks like a temporary stage meant for visitors who would want to take pictures of the whole Prambanan compound

the greatest thing of being a president (even the bad one as Soeharto), you would have your name engraved in lots of important places. My mom would die to see my name on one of Indonesia's cultural heritage sites!!
more ruins...restoring a Hindu temple is like solving a very difficult puzzle. It must be hard to find which stone is right to be put in which order.
I challenge every genius out there to come to Indonesia to solve this puzzle for good. And maybe I can entertain you afterwards with a fine story about what happen if someone can remove Bandung Bondowoso's curse on Lara Jonggrang, and she comes to life in the 21 century.

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