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Candi Prambanan 2

Candi Siwa [continued]

The base of the body of the Siwa Temple is decorated with 24 panels depicting the regensts of the heavenly quarters (Astadikpalaka).

Ritual deposits (peripihs) as  “prana-pratistha”

It should be mentioned here, that  Hindu temples in general have  depository objects buried at the site or entombed within the building, placed inside a receptacle or a rectangular stone slab with a hole or holes 9 or 12 holes,   put in a pit  under the statue in the main chamber. The deposit pit  of candi Siwa is 13 meters deep. When this pit  was dug, at a depth of 5,75 meters a case of  stone slab was found containing beads mixed with charcoal and bones of  goats and chicken used in ceremonies, agate stones, inscriptions. This ritual deposits (peripih ) are prana-pratistha, providing “life force” to the temple construction, so that it is suitable as a dewagrha [house of the gods].  Besides in the pit, these ritual deposits are also found in other parts of the temple. Possibly like in Bali,   planting this ritual items in earthenware vessels is done twice, namely before the building is constructed and after the building is completed to be made official.

The temples in the Prambanan complex, on premise first courtyard as well as on the second courtyard  have a similar structure with that of the candi Siwa, but are smaller, and have only one chamber.

Candi Brahma

Candi Brahma is located in the south  south of candi Siwa. It is not as large as candi Siwa, has a rectangular groundplan of 20 x 20 square meters and a height of 33 meters. It has only one chamber, namely the main chamber [garbhagrha] containing the statue of god Brahma with four hands and four heads, standing on a yoni pedestal. On the wall of the temple foot are panels with Prambanan motives, beautiful and richly varied with kalpawrksa flanking figures. At the outside of the balustrade are bearded figures, using sirascakra, sitting cross-legged with the hands in various postures.

The upper part of the balustrade is decorated with high amalaka, of large measurements , totalling 72, adding to the beauty of the candi.  While on the inside of the balustrade are found reliefs, continuing the Ramayana narrative, depicted on candi Siwa.

The scenes start from the east and picture the following:
The relief starts with Rama and Laksmana and the gods, apsaris and other heaven inhabitants, happy with Rama’s success in reaching Suwela mountain in Alengka. The monkeys also enjoy the beauty and the fruit growing on Suwela mountain [1-2].

The ten-headed Rawana has a monkey in front of him, namely Anggada, acting as Rama’s envoy, reminding Rawana to return Sita. Between Rawana and Anggada is a large cooking pot. Rawana puts up his thumb and invites him to eat [3]. War starts  and many  are killed in action [4-9].

Inclusive Kumbhakarna and Rawana himself [10-12]


Nothing is told about Rama and Sita’s reunion, but the following scenes picture the illicit rumors about Sita’s purity after being held for so long as Rawana’s prisoner [13-16]. Sita is forced to retreat in the woods and stays at the hermitage of priest Wiswamitra [17-20]. In the hermitage Sita gives birth to a child [18], followed by scenes of beautifully clothed figures with bright faces [19].  Sita is pictured picking flowers and fruit [20]. But suddenly not one, but two boys are shown in various scenes, hunting in the forest, appearing before the priest, fighting giants, and attending a meeting.  In the Indian Ramayana of Valmiki, it is told that Sita gave birth to two sons named Kusa and Lava. But in panel 18 Sita only gives birth to one baby, the other one is not shown. The scene of the two boys in a meeting, may picture that both sons went to the palace of their father as singers at a great festivity. They are singing the narrative of Rama and Sinta. The relief on candi Brahma  ends with Sita being swallowed by the earth, while Rama is deeply regretful for his behavior toward Sinta, but is unable to do anything  about it.

The wall of the body of candi Brahma is not decorated with the Astadikpalaka relief like candi Siwa, but shows reliefs of bearded figures. In each niche/panel are found three bearded figures sitting cross-legged, their two hands in various postures, flanked by other figures.  The bearded figures must be gods, because they wear  the jatamakuta   [hair arranged in a crown], and  have a sacred mark [prabha] around their head. It is not clear who they are, but some are of the opinion that they are the seven holy men from Hindu mythology [Saptarsi]. They appear at each manwantara, the distribution of kalpa or the cyclus of world creation-destruction [pralaya]  One kalpa consits of 14 manwantara. Although there are seven of them, at each manwantara the holy man is different. Here the Saptarsi depicted are Kasyaya, Atri, Wasistha, Wiswamitra, Gautama, Jamadagni, and Bharadwaja.  The holy men of this mythos are considered to be “ sons of god Brahma”.



Candi Wisnu

Candi Wisnu is located at the right of candi Siwa, and has the same structure as candi Brahma, but in the main chamber [garbhagrha] stands a statue of Wisnu of 2,27 meter height, four armed, holding a club, a triangle [?], a cakra  and a winged sangkha. The foot of the temple is decorated with 18 Prambanan motives, some of them without a lion in the niche.

The outside of the balustrade is adorned by  figures sitting on a decorated base, with the hands in various postures, wearing the jatamakuta, each flanked by two women. The figures may be god Wisnu flanked by Sri and Laksmi.  On the inside of the balustrade is found a narrative relief, identified by prof. Dr. Poerbotjaroko [1915] as the Kresnayana story, while  Stein Callenfels recognized some scenes, among others the scene of Kresna as a very naughty little boy, tied to a mortar by his foster mother. Kresna, however, was still able to walk by dragging the stome mortar, so that many trees were felled by him.


By walking with the candi on the right side [mapradaksina], the consecutive scenes are as follows:

According to predictions, king Kamsa will be killed by Dewaki’s children, so that Kamsa orders to kill them. But two children escape death, namely Balarama and Kresna, because they are substituted by other baby’s [1-4].

They are brought up by their foster mother, Yasoda, and live among the shepherds. Because of his naughtiness, at one time Kresna is tied to a stone mortar by his foster mother, but Yasoda finds it difficult to find a rope that is long enough. Kresna is able to walk by dragging the mortar, and passing many tress these are felled [5].

A woman giant named Putana tries to breastfeed  Kresna and Balarama with her poisoned milk. But Kresna is sucking so strongly, that Putana dies [6]

Kresna defends his shepherd friends, by killing  giants in the form of a wild ox, a large snake and a donkey [7-9].

Balarama carrying a plow as weapon and Kresna continue their fight against the giants [10-14].

The following scenes are difficult to depict, except for the scene when Kresna departs to Kamsa’s place taking with him a large arch [29].

Candi Wahana and Candi A and B

In front of the abovementioned three temples, there are three smaller temples in a row, at first all three called candi Wahana. The temple facing candi Siwa may indeed be called candi Wahana, because it contains a Nandi statue with a length of two meters, lying down in the center of the chamber, and two other statues Candra and Surya. Surya is riding a carriage drawn by seven horses, holding a lotus flower  in front of his breast. The Candra statue is riding a carriage drawn by ten horses, holding a Soma in the right hand and a pataka [flag] in the left hand.

The two temples facing candi Wisnu and candi Brahma are not called candi Wahana [wahana means “carriage”], because the Angsa statue [wahana of god Brahma] as well as the Garuda statue [wahana of god Wisnu] were never found in those temples. In the temple facing candi Wisnu even a Siwa statue was found of small measurement, while a statue of Garuda from Telega Lor village was placed in this temple. Therefore the candi in front of candi Wisnu is called candi A [not candi Garuda] and the temple facing candi Brahma is called candi B.

Candi Perwara on the Second Courtyard

Inside the second courtyars are 224 perwara temples, arranged in four rows. Many of the stones, however, are missing, so that many of these perwara temples cannot be restorated any more. The land of premise II is slanted, so that there is  spacing between the rows.

The situation of the  main temple  in the center, surrounded by  Perwara temples is usually found with the Central Javanese sanctuaries in Central Java.  Candi Kalasan, candi Lumbung, candi Sewu. candi Plaosan Lor etc. are surrounded by a number of Perwara temples. This system of temple site is not found with the East Javanese styles of temples in East Java. For instance candi Tegawangi, candi Panataran, candi Perwara or smaller size temples are placed on the front courtyard, while its main temple is found on the courtyard behind those Perwara temples.

There is a possibility that these Perwara temples were constructed by religious donators [anumodha] like the Perwara temples at candi Plaosan Lor.  The difference is that on the Perwara temples at Plaosan Lor the names of the religious donators are mentioned, while this is not the case with candi Prambanan. For example candi Plaosan Lor mentions “anumodha rakai pikatan”, “anumodha rakai gurunwangi” etc.

As for the construction of candi Prambanan, J.G. de Casparis, epigrapher on  Old Javanese, thinks it was established in the ninth century. His finding is based on a Siwagrha inscription from the year 778 Saka or 856 A.D.  On this plaque is mentioned that a group of temples was ordained during the reign of Rakai Pikatan, a king of the Sanjaya dynasty.

Candi Prambanan is a Siwa temple; this is clearly visible from the measurement of Siwa temples which is far larger than the Brahma or Wisnu temples, and is found in the center of a temple complex.

The Siwa religion was known in Central Java around the seventh century A.D.., from the existence of a Sojomerto inscription in Pallawa characters and using the Old Malay language, mentioning Dapunta Selendra of Siwa religion.  After the Sojomerto inscription a very important prasasti on the Siwa religion was found, namely the Canggal inscription from 732 A.D. , menthing the name of king Sanjaya, son of Sanna.  This inscription is in the Sansekerta language with Pallawa characters, mentioning the consruction of a lingga on Sthirangga hill, for the people’s well-being. The following five couplets contain praise for god Siwa, Wisnu and Brahma, , with praise for Siwa in three couplets, while Wisnu and Brahma each are praised in one couplet. Siwa in the inscription has three eyes, eight bodies [astatanu] and is praised by the Yogins.  By mentioning the eight bodied Siwa, this means that Siwa is the highest god, existing everywhere all around the universe, because his eight bodies are the sun, the moon, Yajamana [man] , and the five mahabhuta namely water, fire, land, air, and wind.

In 1991 when candi A and candi B were restorated, the ritual deposits were found in the well of candi B, mentioning the dasa lokapala gods and goddesses [ guardians of the ten compass points]. It mentions the Hindu religious teaching which is important for those who want moksa, namely the “dharma” Hindu teaching meaning “duty of all human beings”, “wairajya” which is. training to eliminate the ego [ahamkara ] and “jnana”, the sacred knowledge to eliminate ignorance [awidya], in order to attain moksa, the union of Atman and Brahman, identified with Siwa in the Hindu-Siwa religion. The inscription also contains the sentence : om pascima gatra ya namah, meaning “ honor to the body [image] of the god of the west”, and this god is Siwa Mahadewa. Meanwhile the statue of god Siwa Mahadewa is in the most sacred chamber [garbagrha] of candi Siwa.

Candi Nagara or the State Temple of  Ancient Mataram Kingdom

Artefactual data as well as inscriptions show that candi Prambanan is a temple to praise god Siwa. It is therefore surprising that the narrative reliefs are not stories about Siwa, but about god Wisnu.  Wisnu in the Hindu religion is the god who protects man, and on Java in particular, Wisnu is praised by the kings and heroes. The king praises Wisnu, because this god has taught  the niti or eight attitudes of a king in the Ramayana to Bharata, and on Java this teaching is known as astabrata. Therefore god Wisnu alsways becomes the istadewata [the god of one’s choice] of  the kings, although the king converts to the  Siwait religion. Looking at the carved  narratives of Wisnu, and taking note of the very extensive candi Prambanan complex, the author is of the opinion that candi Prambanan is a state temple or the candi of the Ancient Mataram kingdom.  During the Ancient Mataram period there were indeed two royal dynasties, namely the Sailendra dynasty of Buddhist religion, and the Sanjaya dynasty of Hindu-Siwa religion. But through the marriage of Rakai Pikatan from the Sanjaya dynasty with Pramodhawardhani, princess of the Sailendra dynasty of  Buddhist religion, it is not impossible that the state temple was of Siwa religious nature.

Here the author would like to put forward, that a few hundred years later, during the period of the Majapahit kingdom, this occurrence was repeated again, when the state temple of Majapahit kingdom  i.e. the candi Panataran also contained reliefs of the Ramayana and Kresnayana stories on the walls of its main candi.


DR. Hariani Santiko

Translated by Mrs. Ediati Kamil  Master of Library Science