The Prambanan Temple Compound: The 240 Ancient Rocket-Like Hindu Structures
Prambanan is a set of more than 200 Hindu temples built in the distant past and dedicated to the Trímurti, the expression of God as the Creator (Brahma), the Preserver (Vishnu) and the Destroyer (Shivá).
This magnificent ancient site is located about 18 km east of Yogyakarta.
The temples are believed to have been built during the 9th century under the Sanjaya dynasty of the first Kingdom of Mataram in the Central Java region.
An inscription dated in the year 856 marks what is possibly its founding stone.
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Prambanan is considered the most significant Hindu temple site in Indonesia, and one of the biggest in Southeast Asia.
The stunning rocket-like structures are characterized by its tall and pointed architecture style, which, according to historians, are typical of Hindu architecture and by a towering 47-meter-high central building inside a large complex of individual temples. Scholars note that the design of Prambanan temple follows the typical Hindu architecture traditions based on Vastu Shastra— a traditional Hindu system of architecture which translates to “science of architecture.
Prambanan, built in honor to Shiva
According to the Shivagrha inscription of 856 CE, the Prambanan Temple Compound was built to honor Lord Shiva. Scholars argue that its original name was either Shiva-grha (the House of Shiva) or Shiva-laya (the Realm of Shiva).
Its architecture is unlike anything I’ve ever come across.
According to historical reference, there were originally 240 temples standing in Prambanan.
The Prambanan Temple Compound consists of:
- 3 Trimurti temples: The three main temples dedicated to Shiva, Visnu, and Brahma.
- 3 Vahana temples: three temples in front of Trimurti temples dedicated to the vahana of each gods; Nandi, Garuda, and Hamsa.
- 2 Apit temples: two temples located between the rows of Trimurti and Vahana temples on north and south side.
- 4 Kelir temples: four small shrines located on 4 cardinal directions right beyond the 4 main gates of inner zone.
- 4 Patok temples: four small shrines located on 4 corners of the inner zone.
- 224 Pervara temples: hundreds of temples arranged in 4 concentric square rows; numbers of temples from inner row to outer row are: 44, 52, 60, and 68.
As noted by Lonely Planet, the temple compound suffered extensive damage in the 2006 earthquake. Although the temples survived, hundreds of stone blocks collapsed to the ground and cracked (479 in the Shiva temple alone).