Prambanan Temple is the biggest Hindu temple in South-East Asia. This temple is located close to a big Buddhist temple, Borobudur. Both temples were built during the same century, around 9th. Thus, we may conclude that during that time, the influence of Buddha and Hindu are very strong in Java. Just like Borobudur, Prambanan is also cited as UNESCO World Heritage and becomes favorites amongst tourists.

The Prambanan Complex (Source: Flickr. Credit: Thrillseekr)
The Prambanan Complex
(Source: Flickr. Credit: Thrillseekr)

How To Get There

Prambanan is very much accessible. If you are from other countries, take a flight to Yogyakarta, to Adi-Sucipto International Airport. If your country does not have a direct route to Yogyakarta, you can have a transit at Jakarta. From Adi-Sucipto International Airport, you can take a public bus named TransJogja.

The bus will cost you only $0.2 and will take you directly from the airport to the bus stop across the Prambanan Complex. From there, you would just need to walk across the road and enter the gate. TransJogja is also available from almost every vocal point in Yogyakarta. So you might be able to use this too from the hotel you are staying at.

 

Where to Stay

Any kinds of hotels or inns are very much easy to find in Yogyakarta as the city counts as tourism city. From a bunk bed hostel to five-starred resort are available at this city.

 

History

It is believed that Prambanan was built as a reaction to the construction of the great Buddhist temple, Borobudur. The construction of Prambanan was initiated by Rakai Pikatan to commemorate the return of the influence of Hindu Sanjaya Dynasti over Central Java after it was dominated for a century by Buddhist Syailendra Dynasty who made Borobudur.

Around the tenth century, there was a huge volcanic eruption and earthquake on Mount Merapi, which is located not very far from Prambanan. Due to this, people started to evacuate, leaving the temple covered in ashes. The earthquake also caused some temple parts to collapse. This was the time when the temple started to get forgotten and deteriorate.

All the time, the locals who live around Prambanan have known that there were temple ruins at the area. But they had no idea about the history or the value of it. Thus, they just ignore these ruins and leave it be.

These ruins started to get proper attention at 1733, during the Dutch colonialism era in Indonesia. That was when a Dutch officer accidentally visited this village and stumbled upon these ruins. It was almost a century after the temple started to get abandoned. Since then, reconstruction and revitalization process was practiced gradually.

Some ruins of Prambanan are Still Not Assembled Yet (Source: Flickr. Credit: Demis de Haan)
Some ruins of Prambanan are Still Not Assembled Yet
(Source: Flickr. Credit: Demis de Haan)

Legend

Even though there was a strong estimation on how and why Prambanan was built, there is a famous legend about it that tells a slightly different story. Historians believe that this legend came up because the locals knew about the ruins but they had no idea of the history. So, they made up a story to tell to their children.

Anyway, the legend says that there was a beautiful princess named Roro Jonggrang, the daughter of Prabu Boko, a cruel king in Boko Kingdom. One day, Prabu Boko went to a war against Pengging Kingdom, leaving her daughter at the palace. At that war, he was killed by Pengging prince named Bandung Bondowoso who is known to have supernatural power.

After he killed the king, Bandug Bondowoso went to Boko Kingdom and see Roro Jonggrang. At that moment, he instantly fell deeply in love with Roro Jonggrang. Therefore, he proposed to her. Still mourning about his father, Roro Jonggrang softly rejected the proposal. But Bandung Bondowoso never gave up so he tried again and again to ensure the princess into marrying him.

Being sly, Roro Jonggrang pretended to accept the proposal with one term. He must build one thousand temples in one night. She thought it was a clever idea as it is impossible to complete that task. But she did not know that Bandung Bondowoso had supernatural power.

So when the night begins, Bandung Bondowoso started to meditate and summon hundreds of demons to help him with the construction. When it is almost sunrise time, they had already built 999 temples. Afraid that the plan might not work, Roro Jonggrang immediately woke up all of her maids and ordered them to started pounding the rice and encouraging the chicken to crow.

Hearing the sound of chicken crows and the girls pounding rice, the demons thought it was already morning and leave immediately before finishing the last temple. Seeing that Bandung Bondowoso failed to complete the task, Roro Jonggrang said that the marriage is no longer possible. But unfortunately for her, he found out that she tricked him to this failure. Feeling betrayed, Bandung Bondowoso then angrily cursed Roro Jonggrang into stone and be the 1,000th temple.

 

The Temple

The temple was built as an honor to Trimurti, the three main Gods in Hindu theology. Although the legend said that there were 1,000 temples on Prambanan, in fact there were only 240 of it. Those temples formed in several compunds.

Three main temples are the hugest and located at the center of the area. This formation is called Trimurti Temple. These three temples are dedicated to three main Gods of Hindu. The one in the middle, the biggest one, is dedicated for Lord Shiva, the Destroyer God. Two temples on the left and right side of Shiva temple are dedicated to Lord Brahma the Creator God and Lord Vishnu the Keeper God.

Trimurti Temple at Night (Source: flickr. Credit: anwar siak)
Trimurti Temple at Night
(Source: flickr. Credit: anwar siak)

Right in front the Trimurti temple, there is Vahana temple. Vahana means the sacred animal used as vehicle by Gods. Thus, Vahana Temple is dedicated to the vahana used by each God. In front of Shiva Temple, there is the temple for Nandi the Bull.

In front of Brahma Temple, there is a temple for Hamsa the Swan. And in front of Vishnu Temple, there is a temple dedicated for his vahana, Garuda the Kite. The Vahana Temple is much smaller to the Trimurti Temple.

The architecture of Hindu Temple is based on Vastu Shastra, the science of architecture and construction of Hindu. The main layout has the shape of mandala as a symbol of universe. The temple spires are towering high just like any other Hindu temple.

The temple is vertically divided into three zones while each zone represents a realm of Hindu concept. The lowest level represents the less holiest realm of mortal creature such as human and animals. The middle zone represents the realm of holy people such as lesser Gods and ascetics. The upper zone represents the highest and holiest realm of Gods.

Prambanan also has plenty of reliefs carved on the temple stones. The most famous relief tells a story of Ramayana, a romance between God Rama and Goddess Sinta. There are also reliefs that tell about Bhagavata Phurana, Lokapala, Brahmin, Devata, and Kalpataru.

 

Sendratari Ramayana

When visiting Prambanan Complex, do not forget to watch Sendratari Ramayana, a theatrical performance with dances and no dialogue that tells a story of Ramayana. The performance is majestic with lighting effects, dramatic music, and even fire actions.

Sendratari Ramayana is performed in an indoor theater located inside the Prambanan Complex Park. When it is on the dry season, the act will be performed on open stage using the majestic Prambanan Temple as its background.

Sendratari Ramayana Performed on Open Theater (Source: Flickr. Credit: ENU Brawijaya)
Sendratari Ramayana Performed on Open Theater
(Source: Flickr. Credit: ENU Brawijaya)

Schedule of Sendratari Ramayana:

  • Indoor Theater
    • Month : November to April
    • Days : Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday
    • Hour : starts at 19.30 and ends at 21.30
    • Ticket Rate for Student Class is $2.25
    • Ticket Rate for Second Class is $7.5
    • Ticket Rate for First Class is $13
    • Ticket Rate for Special Class is $18.75
  • Open Theater
    • Month : May to October
    • Days : Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday
    • Hour : starts at 19.30 and ends at 21.30
    • Ticket Rate for Student Class is $2.25
    • Ticket Rate for Second Class is $7.5
    • Ticket Rate for First Class is $13
    • Ticket Rate for Special Class is $18.75
    • Ticket Rate for VIP Class is $26.25

 

Tips

  • The ticket price to enter Prambanan is $13 for adult and $6.5 for kids under six years old.
  • When coming to Yogyakarta to visit Prambanan, it is recommended to also visit Borobudur Temple which is only 45 minutes away.
  • Sendratari Ramayana is best to see on open theater. Thus, try coming there during dry season.
  • Yogyakarta is a tourism city. It has many other attractions. Try exploring those as well.

 

Prambanan is not only great to see, but it has incredible histories and legends to tell. Watching the Sendratari Ramayana is also worth it. Many tourists would like to wait until nighttime to get to watch this incredible performance with the majestic Prambanan Complex is on the background.