Monday, October 21, 2013

It Started with an Old Photo of Prambanan

It all started with a photo, an old photo of my cousins from when they traveled to Indonesia back when their dad still worked in the country. My cousins were still kids at the time, as can be seen from their genuinely wacky poses. The photo has been a part, a staple really, of family albums and later on family reunion slideshows for longer than I can remember. It was always something that we as a family, my three cousins included, liked to amuse ourselves with.

Old Photo of Prambanan
Wacky poses back when wacky poses were not invented yet
Photo by Rely Baluyot

Growing up, I have always been curious about the photo and the intriguing place where it was taken. For some reason, I have always believed it to be Borobudur, an ancient temple in Central Java. I would soon discover I was wrong, of course, something I would only realize too late. The photo was actually taken in another ancient temple in Central Java—Prambanan.

Prambanan, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
The Prambanan archeological park is comprised by a number of temples. This is part of the main set of temples called Lara Jonggrang.

Prambanan is a set of temples dating as far back as the eighth century, when Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms still ruled Java Island. The main set of temples, called Lara Jonggrang, is Hindu, signifying the dominance of the Sanjaya Dynasty in the region. The Sanjayas were Hindu rulers whose kingdom was centered in the northern part of Central Java. The south, meanwhile, was ruled by the Sailendra Dynasty, Buddhists.

Related Post: How to Go to Prambanan from Yogyakarta

The Lara Jonggrang temples are dedicated to the sacred Hindu trinity. The largest one—Candi Siva, located in the center and standing 47 meters high, was built in honor of the most revered Hindu god back then in these parts: Shiva, the destroyer.

Prambanan, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Lara Jonggrang has the best preserved Hindu temples in the Prambanan archeological park.

Prambanan, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Though preservation work is ongoing, Lara Jonggrang is open for visitors.

Prambanan, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Some areas have been condoned off due to preservation work, but tourists can still climb up to explore the interiors of some of the temples here.

Though Prambanan is mainly Hindu, this is not to say that the Buddhists did not have anything to do with the temples here. Historians believe that the Hindu Sanjayas and the Buddhist Sailendras were united in marriage during the ninth century. Buddhist symbols (like the lotus) have been seen in some of the temples of Prambanan. Additionally, another temple in the Prambanan complex—Candi Sewu—is, well, Buddhist.

Prambanan, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Candi Sewu, located a few hundred meters north of Lara Jonggrang

Prambanan, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Unlike Lara Jonggrang, Candi Sewu is not Hindu, but rather Buddhist.
Prambanan, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
The stupas of Candi Sewu seem to resemble those in Borobudur, an ancient Buddhist temple nearby.

Prambanan, Yogyakarta, IndonesiaDetails of the massive stone structure that is Candi Sewu

I went to Prambanan as I was traveling through Yogyakarta. From the entrance, I approached the main set of temples, Lara Jonggrang, from the front thereby giving me a very grand first look. Candi Siva (Shiva Temple) being the largest was the most impressive in height and detail. The relief art lining the walls, I would later learn, were depictions of the Hindu epic Ramayana. If I had the time (and money), I would have caught a Ramayana performance here. Local artists regularly stage the epic at night in the open air theater with the temples all lit up as the backdrop.

Of course, the temples were as beautifully preserved as they are because preservation work here has been going on since 1930. Sixty-one years later, in 1991, the work was finally recognized by UNESCO. Prambanan was inscribed as a World Heritage Site. Since then, the Prambanan archeological park has been one of the most visited destinations in Indonesia.

Related Post: How to Go to Prambanan from Yogyakarta

Prambanan, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
It is astounding how detailed the relief art is on the walls of the Lara Jonggrang temples.

Prambanan, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
I think it was obvious that I gravitated towards Candi Siva the most.

Prambanan, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Some parts of the temples seem to show the impressive reconstruction work they have gone through.

As I mentioned, I did not realize that the old photo of my cousins was taken here in Prambanan, not in Borobudur. Truth be told, I would have loved to recreate the photo, Photoshop myself doing the three poses, and maybe have it as another family album staple. But it was too late, realizing my mistake only after I had already visited and left the temple complex.

Having the temples mixed up did not matter, of course. The photo of Prambanan has always been part of the reason for which I wanted to travel to Indonesia. When I finally got the chance to visit Prambanan this year, the trip was more rewarding that I ever imagined it would be.

Prambanan
The writer at the Prambanan archeological park, the impressive Candi Siva in the background

Related Post: How to Go to Prambanan from Yogyakarta


Has an old photo ever inspired you to travel? Where was the photo taken? Have you gone on the trip?


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