Finding Spirituality in Indonesia — Prambanan — The Overshadowed Shrine

You can easily associate the Borobudur with Buddhism. Like Buddha, it resembles prosperity and it is well-rounded…

Prambanan, on the other hand, is slender and taller in shape, in accordance with Hindu architecture.

I find it more prepossessing than the Borobudur temple.

It is the largest temple complex on the Java island, with three main temples dedicated to the three great Hindu divinities: Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver/ maintainer) and Shiva (the destroyer). The main temple is dedicated to Shiva. The destroyer! Why?

It is believed that there needs to be destruction to make way for new life. (Trump the modern-day incarnation of Shiva? HELL NO!)

Lord ShivaThe Shiva shrine is the main shrine with 4 chambers. One with a statue of Lord Shiva. The other 3 chambers contain statues of Hindu Gods related to Shiva; his wife Durga, the sage Agastya, and Ganesha, his son.

Lord Shiva’s shrine

According to history, Rakai Pikatan, a Hindu prince from Sanjaya Dynasty, who had married into the ruling Buddhist Sailendra dynasty, built all the temples in the Prambanan complex, in the 8th century AD. Originally, the temple complex contained over 250 large and small temples.

It was then expanded by successive Hindu Mataram kings, who defeated the Sailendra kingdom, with the addition of the hundreds of perwara temples around the central temples. The temples collapsed during a major earthquake in the 16th century.

The rubble from the earthquake. The other smaller temples are slowly being restored till this date.

There is another local legend, known as Roro Jonggrang, which tells the tale of how the Prambanan complex was built. Bondowoso was in love with Roro Jonggrang and asked her to marry him. However, Roro Jonggrang was full of hatred because Bondowoso killed her father; hence, she tried to refuse his proposal by asking him a seemingly impossible task of building a thousand temples and two wells in one night. However, as a man who had an unseen troop of spirits, it was easy for Bondowoso to finish the task. After completing his 999th temple, Roro Jonggrang asked the villagers to pound rice and to set a fire in order to look like the morning had broken — in an attempt to thwart Bondowoso’s effort. Bondowoso realised that she had cheated him so he turned Roro Jonggrang into the 1,000th statue. It is said the statue of Durga is the statue of the slender virgin Roro Jonggrang. The locals love to share this tale.

Lord Vishnu’s shrineThe Hindu temples are decorated with reliefs illustrating the Indonesian version of the Ramayana epic which are masterpieces of stone carvings.

There is a museum within the Prambanan complex which describes the architecture of the temples and has some of the ruins/ carvings found during archaeological discoveries.

If you stay the night, you can watch the Ramayana ballet. During good weather, the dance is performed outside, with the Prambanan temples as the backdrop. However, during the rainy season, it is performed indoors.

Please note the ‘ballet’ is an Indonesian version. Not the classic Western ballet.

Ramayana is a Sanskrit tale, attributed to Valmiki, a poet, about the banishment of Rama (incarnation of Lord Vishnu) from his kingdom, the abduction of his wife, Sita, by Ravana (a demon) and her rescue, and Rama’s eventual restoration to the throne.

You may think Rama is the saint, but I certainly do not admire him! After rescuing her, he made Sita prove her purity by making her burn herself!! WTF!? Thank the heavens she left him after! Lol…. Also, we must hear Ravana’s side of the story, why did he kidnap Sita in the first place? Watch the ballet, you may find out why and may have more respect for Ravana instead :)

Did I go home more spiritual than before? I don’t know. I think so. To me, travelling is a form of meditation, it keeps you in the NOW — in the present moment. Based on this, I go home more enlightened than before, every time :)

Selamat Tinggal!

*If you enjoyed this, there are more tales of travels at