Many people visit the magnificent ninth century Hindu Temples of Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu at the temple complex of Prambanan outside Yogyakarta in Central Java.
But not everybody visits the eight century Buddhist temple known as Candi Sewu which is nearby and consists of the main conical temple surrounded by many smaller temples, and Candi Sewu in Javanese translates to ‘a thousand temples’.
The temple is aligned to the four points of the compass and at each of the four entrance points stand the giant temple guardians or Raksasas, with a kris in their waist-band, a club in their right hand and a snake in their left hand, they stand ready to protect the ancient temple from those with malevolent intent. Sir Stamford Raffles describes the stone guardians after the temple was first recovered from the jungle in 1813:
In the course of my life I have never met with such stupendous and finished specimens of human labour, and of the science and taste of ‘ages long since forgot’ crowded together in so small a compass … Having had in view all the way one lofty pyramid or conical ruin, covered in foliage and surrounded by much smaller ones, in every stage of humbled majesty and decay, you find yourself on reaching the southern face, very suddenly between two gigantic figures in a kneeling posture, and of terrific forms, appearing to threaten you with uplifted clubs.
The Javanese legend of Loro Jonggrang (the exalted virgin) begins when Prince Bandung Bandawasa falls in love with her. She is the daughter of King and Queen Bako whose kingdom was conquered by the Bandawasa’s and who have killed her father. The Prince wants to marry Loro Jonggrang and as a way of saying no she requests the conqueror to prove his powers by building one thousand temples in a single night.
Prince Bandawasa and his demons seem to be just moments away from accomplishing this task when, alarmed by his progress, Princess Jonggrang asks the village women to pound their wooden rice mortars with their pestles, a sound mistaken by the roosters as the new dawn.
Upon hearing the roosters crow and fearing that the sun is about to rise, Bandawasa’s demon helpers flee. Before this false dawn Prince Bandawasa has already created 999 temples. In anger at his failure to be able to marry Loro Jonggrang he applies a curse on the Princess which turns her into stone.
Is Candi Sewu the site of the temples built by Prince Bandawasa as part of his condition to marry Princess Loro Jonggrang?
Is the statue of the Indian goddess Durga in the Shiva temple at Prambanan the embodiment of the beautiful princess?
You can find out, by joining Ian Burnet on ‘A Journey Across Java’ by train and mini-bus from August 17 to August 30, 2016. For all the details please go to: