In the Shadow of a Giant Prambanan Temple

Prambanan DancerJust to the east of Yogyakarta and in the shadow of the highly respected and revered Mt. Merapi is the temple complex of Prambanan and UNESCO World Heritage site.

Building began in the 9th century and continued for another 130 years. The final result being a series of highly ornate and religiously important temples that  stand today as a testament to the efforts of generations. One of the more remarkable features of Prambanan is the fact that the complex contains temples of two religious groups; Hindu and Buddhist.

Buddhism had been the earlier religion in Java and temples had been constructed. As Hinduism became the primary religious doctrine in the 9th century the massive temple at Prambanan dedicated to Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva was built. It is 154 feet tall and was constructed as an answer to the Buddhist temples nearby. It is said to mark the return of Hindu dominance after almost a century where-in Buddhist leaders had ruled the area.

The day begins as all days begin when traveling; map out the town and head to the sites that made you want to come here in the first place. By the time the day would be over I will have explored the city, taken refuge from the heat in the Sultans palace, an underground mosque, and a royal garden swimming pool complex created originally for the wives of the sultan. 

It would end at Prambanan with dinner and a performance by the Royal Ramayana Ballet.

For anyone old enough to remember “The King and I” with Yul Brynner, immersing yourself in the palace of Yogyakarta’s sultan is like walking through the real life set of this iconic movie. The pomp and ceremony are explained in detail by guides, as are the impressive buildings, decorations, photographs, paintings, and ornaments; all reflecting an image of grandeur to be expected from a sultan and his household.

The gamelan orchestra, the dancers, the guards, the servants, and the thousands of workers that reside on the palace grounds, to the marble imported from Italy, the stained glass imported from Holland, the royal batiks, the relics, antiques, and gifts from leaders around the world…all culminating to help you establish an accurate picture in your mind of how life was and how it has adapted to more modern times.

The grandfather of the current sultan had 21 wives and 70 children. His eldest son who was born to wife number two became the next sultan. He had 5 wives and was both a powerful political figure for Indonesia as well as the natural governor for the Yogyakarta region.

Today’s sultan has taken just one wife and does not intend to take others.

He currently has 5 daughters and no sons giving rise to the debate about from where the next sultan will come. Some argue it is time for a woman, the sultans eldest, to take the reins when the time is required however under current law the sultan must be male and therefore may fall to the nephew; the son of the existing sultans brother.

Just this fact alone ignites the imagination with thoughts of the evil nephew taking over the empire and ruling with an iron fist; casting everyone back into a feudal society.

It’s the meat on the bone of countless stories.

As you enter into the grounds of Prambanan you have little choice but to be struck by the size and magnitude of the buildings in front of you.  As you read and take in the facts and legends you begin to fully appreciate the ground on which you stand.

Over 1500 years of workmanship and worship. Families who dedicated generations to the completion of this complex. The intricacies of the stone carvings and the natural beauty and energy of the area is inspiring.

Upon leaving Prambanan the day had already been long. The performance of the Ramayana dovetail perfectly, completing the transition from written word to magnificent ruins to legend and dance.

The performance of the Ramayana was incredible and the talents of the troupe apparent especially when it came to the more acrobatic leaps and throws. The audience marveled at their ability to transform themselves into the animal characters they portrayed and rather than simply applying a costume as a representation they seemed to alter their entire demeanor; performing moves with grace and agility.

With stars in the sky and the ominous silhouette of Merapi in the distance, the life-force of Prambanan began to speak in whispers.

4 thoughts on “In the Shadow of a Giant Prambanan Temple

  1. It’s amazing that the current Sultan’s grandfather had 21 wives and 70 children and he has only 1 wife and 5 children. Times have really changed. It would be nice to think that times had changed enough that they would allow one of the daughters to become the next Sultan.


    1. Hi dear Susan, I have a short reply: On and about 2005 I was invited to a extraordinary Wedding Party in Jakarta. That was a special wedding, Bride and Groom were relatives of the Sultan of Jogyakarta at that time. That was to me, an Unforgetable Wedding Party I’ve never experience in my whole life. I think there were 2500 people (guest’s) invited. Never forget that special extraordinary Wedding Party!!! with lovely grtz. moonie manengkei xxx Sept. 19th. 2014.


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