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Sacred Sanctuaries of the Eastern Javanese Period (X-XVI)

A. The Ancient Mataram Kingdom moved to East Java

In the tenth century, for a reason yet unknown, the center of the Ancient Mataram Kingdom was moved to East Java by king Mpu Sindok titled Sri Isanawikrama Dharmatunggadewa. He was the founder (wangsakara) of the Isana dynasty, reigning from the year 929 until 948 A.D.This new kingdom kept its name of Mataram.

Since the reign of Mpu Sindok, the Siwa religion of the Siwasiddhanta school developed on Java , which had its origin in South India. On Java, however, various changes occurred in  its teachings, as well as in its rituals.

The Siwasiddhanta texts known as the Tutur, containing dogmatic instructions   of the Siwasiddhanta religion which are transmitted  by the gurus to the pupils.. According to P.J.Zoetmulder, the term tutur is  a translation of the Sanskrit word smrti, means to remember, to teach, to memorize.  The oldest among those Tutur was the Tutur Bhuwanakosa, which has been written by R.Goris (1926) as his Ph D theses.  This Siwasiddhanta religion became the royal religion of the Isana dynasty until the Majapahit kings. Some adhered to the Buddha Mahayana religion, but there were not many of them.

Like in the Central Javanese Period, ritual means had the form of temples known as candis, sacred pools  (patirthan) and hermitage caves. But not much is left of the remains of those sacred  places in this early  of the Eastern Javanese period.

The sacred sanctuaries  can be divided in three groups, namely first the sacred sanctuaries from Mpu Sindok’s period until the Kadiri  period, secondly the sacred sanctuaries from the Singasari kingdom, and thirdly the sacred monuments of the Majapahit  period.

B. The Ancient Sanctuaries  During The Reign Of Mpu Sindok Until The Kadiri Period

Many names of the sacred places were mentioned on the inscriptions issued by Mpu Sindok until the Kadiri period, but not many remains of the ritual means were found. The reason is unclear; possibly those sacred sanctuaries were made of wood or other easily destroyable material. Some of the sacred remains probably  have actually not appeared on the surface yet. On the inscriptions we find the names vihara, prasada (temples with high uprising roofs), patapan, dharma Karesyan, parhyangan and other.

Examples of the  remains of the first group are the sacred pools or bathing places (patirthan) of Belahan on the eastern  slope of Penanggungan mountain, and the Jalatunda sacred pool at the western slope of the same mountain. The candi Gurah  near Kediri, the Selamangleng hermitage  cave of Kediri, the hermitage cave Selamangleng of Tulungagung, and some  small “rice granaries” made of stone were also found spread out in the region between Madiun and Pasuruhan.

Patirthan Belahan in fact constitutes a complex with various temple buildings, but  now only the bathing place of brick  is left, about 6  metres long.  It consists of a rectangular basin,  the walls of the basin  are partly cut into the slope of the mountain, with two fountains in the form of two statues of goddesses, possibly  Sri and Laksmi.
Between both goddesses is a central niche, figured formerly to be the place of a statue of Wisnu riding on the garuda, clearly in the form of a fountain statue. The three of the niches  are shaded  by parasols in reliefs.

Research of Th. Resink (1967) proved that patirthan Belahan was made by Mpu Sindok, so it is much older than the Airlangga period.  Sri and Laksmi were made into fountains, because they are Wisnu’s sakti (energy), and in India since the Veda’s  time, Wisnu was regarded as the protector of diksa  (redemption of sin) ceremonies with holy water. The water of the Belahan bathing place flows out of the breast of Sri and of the navel of Laksmi, as sin cleansing holy water.

Patirthan Jalatunda is situated at the western slope of Penanggungan mountain, carved in the coral wall facing west.

The rectangular pool is 16 meters long and 13 meters wide, which originally was enclosed by walls on its foursides. A large pool and two small basins are found in the left and right corners. On the right basin is found an inscription with the word “gempeng” in Old-Javanese characters which meaning is unclear, and above the left one the date 899 Saka (977 AD) is seen.  High up against the back wall there is a monumental throne and according to FDK Bosch (1961), this throne with an oval nimbus (prabha) was  a place of a certain deity which is already lost.

The central pool in the middle functions as a water reservoir, while water flowing from the coral walls to the fountain have the form of a semi-lingga as top piece, surrounded by eight smaller linggas in a variety of measurements. A dragon is twisted around the lower part of the nine linggas, and a lotus form underlayer supports the dragon from below.

Water from the central pool flows to the large pool through 16 fountains,which upper parts are decorated with panels of  Pandawa narrative reliefs from the Adiparwa.

The scenes pictured start with bhagawan Palasara, grandfather of the Pandawas, and Durgandini (panels I-IV), followed by scenes of the Pandawas (panels V-X), Abimanyu and Utari, his wife (panel XI), Pariksit, son of Abimanyu who dies from a bite of the snake Taksaka (panel XII), king Janamejaya takes revenge on the snake for the death of his father by holding a snake sacrifice or sarpayajna (panel XIII), the marriage of king Sahasranika, son of Janamejaya, with Mrgawati (panel XIV), the pregnant Mrgawati is abducted by a garuda and flown to a forest (in the Adiparwa it is told that Mrgawati gives birth to a son named Udayana, and as token the child gets a bracelet from his mother) (panel XV), the meeting of Udayana with a man of a Sabara tribes (panel XVI).

On the pool base was found a stone urn  by E.J.W.B.Wardenaar in 1817.  This urn containing ashes and other ritual deposits among others  ceremonial objects, the remains of animal bones probably from an animal sacrifized  on the ritual.

In the East Java region many patirthan are found, some with fountains, others without, and water directly flowing from the pool’s well.

Patirthan Sanggariti, often called candi Sanggariti is situated in Batu, Malang, and is also an important bathing place, estimated to have its origin during Sindok’s reign or even before Sindok. The most interesting part of this patirthan, the water from the pit in the temple chamber (garbagrha) is hot, and considered as medicinal water, now still used by a hotel and channelled to special bathrooms.

Sacred pools are an important means in Hindu religious rituals as well as in Buddhist ones. By bathing oneself with this holy water, all “dirt” (klesa) will be cleansed  from the body. According to  the Tuturs, the wise man will in the first place execute his worldly duties, before contemplating the liberation of the soul. And before  doing all the ceremonies , a ritual bathing known as matirtha should be done. 

For instance in the kakawin Ghatotkacasraya was written  by Mpu Sedah and Panuluh during the reign of king Jayabhaya, strophe XXIX:7-10 tells a story about Abhimanyu who is wandering in the woods and who is advised by his servants to “meta tirtha”  in order to be cleansed from “klesa ing sarira" (the dirt of the body and soul). After that Abhimanyu is asked to pronounce a magic formula (the kutamantra) in worship of Paramasiwa.


Beside sacred pools, during the Kadiri period hermitage caves were found, namely the Selamangleng cave in Tulungagung, and the Selamangleng cave in Kediri. In the Tulungagung Selamangleng cave  the Arjunawiwaha narrative relief is  depicted on the cave wall.

The Arjunawiwaha narrative relief was chosen for the cave wall to enliven  the sphere of ascetism in the cave mentioned.

The Kediri Selamangleng cave is much larger and consists of two chambers. The central chamber wall shows a relief with mountains and settlements, and  dwellings of the mountain population .It is interesting that the relief shows between the mountains on the plains graves and scattered bones, while nearby are shown small “rice granaries’ , who first were thought to be places dedicated to Dewi Sri, the goddess of a fertile rice harvest, but turned out to be chiti or burial tokens. They are thought as stone “small barns”  dedicated to Dewi Sri, because on the roof surface there are inscriptions  sri in Old-Javanese script and a picture of a winged sangkha , the conch-shell attribute of Wisnu.

During the Old Javanese period there existed two kinds of burial, namely cremation with having the ashes floated on the sea or rivers, and the second kind of burial was by putting the corpse on burial ground (like in Trunyan?).

Then this was indicated by small “granaries” with inscriptions reading sri or a winged sangkha relief on top of it. Sri as the energy of Wisnu is the goddess of  well-being, here on this world as well as in the hereafter, while the winged sangkha symbolizes the exit of atma from the body.

When a king and his relatives die, a statue in the form of a protecting god (istadewata) is made and put in his dharma temple, namely the temple that was built by the king when he was still alive , as the  dharma (obligation) of a king. But when the deceased is not a king or his relative, then the corpse is put on a sema (grave) by putting the corpse on the ground, with a token in the form of a chiti , a kind of small “barn” with the inscription of Sri on its roof.

Patirthan and hermitage caves are found all through the Majapahit period, because in the Siwasiddhanta religion, the teaching is stressed on ways to attain kamoksan, namely the effort to merge oneself with Paramasiwa.  First a concrete daily ceremony was to be held, then an abstract concentration of thought was carried out at the patirthan, as well as in the hermitage caves.

C. Sacred Sanctuaries During The Singasari  Period

The Kadiri kingdom (Daha) collapsed in the year 1144 Saka (1222 A.D.) after Kadiri with its king Krtajaya was defeated by  Ken Arok titled Sri Ranggah Rajasa, reigning in Kutaraja, the capital of the Tumapel kingdom or Singasari. Since then the Isana dynasty was replaced by the Girindra dynasty or the Rajasa dynasty until 1292 A.D.

During the period of this Singasari kingdom, various temples were constructed with specific styles, the oldest one being candi Kidal in the Rejokidal village ,near Tumpang, Malang.

According to the kakawin Nagarakrtagama, candi Kidal is the dharma temple  of  king Anusapati, the second king of the Singasari kingdom, who died in 1248 AD.  King Anusapati is shaped as a Siwa statue (Siwawimbha), which formerly was placed in the main chamber (garbhagrha) of candi Kidal, but now has vanished.

Candi Kidal has the structure of temples from the Singasari period, constructed of three parts, the temple foot-body-roof, but without a processional path  or pradaksinapatha to walk  around  the temple, like in the temples of the Ancient  Mataram period. Without the pradaksinapatha between the foot and the body of the temple, added with a sharp and high tower-like roof topped with a cube, candi Kidal as well as the other tempels of the Singasari period have a slender look.

With a blend of  harmonious decorative style based on its art form ,these temples  show a specific art style, which I call “the Singasari art style”.  Temples of this Singasari style, with some variation, are also found in the Majapahit period.

One of the characteristics of candi Kidal, also found in the Majapahit period temples, is the emergence of the naga and garuda decorative forms. Candi Kidal, eventhough it is a Saiwa temple, is adorned with the garuda and dragon (nagas), even a pair of nagas replacing the pair of makara as door frame decoration, like on the Ancient Mataram temples.

So where in the old Mataram temples the door was decorated with the kala-makara, the Singasari style temples were adorned with the kala-naga decorative form.

The garuda-naga decoration is related to the Garudeya mythology, telling the story of garuda in search of amrta water to redeem his mother from the slavery of the nagas’ mother.

The amrta water is stored at the top of the Meru and guarded by a pair of dragons (nagas), but thanks to garuda’s supernatural power, the amrta is taken. Wisnu is so astonished with  garuda’s power and courange, that he asks garuda to become his wahana (vehicle).

With the existence of the garuda-naga motive on the Singasari period temples, and later on those of the Majapahit period, the concept is shown that the candi is a replica of the cosmic mountain, the Mahameru, the abode of Siwa and the other gods.

Other temples of this period are candi Jago, in Tumpang village, Malang, candi Singasari, candi Jawi and candi Sawentar. Candi Jago is a dharma temple of king Wisnuwardhana, fourth king of the Singasari kingdom. This temple was once restored by Adityawarman during the reign of king Tribhuwanottungadewi, but its structure was changed conform that of the Majapahit period temples.

Both temples, namely candi Jawi and candi Singasari are of Siwa-Buddha character , constructed by king Krtanagara, last king of Singasari. He himself was of Buddha Tantrayana religion , but for certain reasons Krtanagara revived the Siwa-Buddha comcept, namely the view on the similarity of the Highest Reality  of the Buddha, Siwa, and Waisnawa religions with all their emanations. This Highest Reality is only one, called with various names, namely Bhattara Buddha or Paramasunya by the adherers of Buddhism, Sang Hyang Paramasiwa by the adherers of the Siwa religion, and Bhatara Nirguna by the adherers of the Waisnawa religion.

In this way the similarity is not covering the whole religious system, but each religion still exists with its respective sacred structures, its priests, as well as its adherers carrying out ceremonies conform their respective religious regulations.

Candi Jawi and candi Singasari are given Buddhist and Siwa religious characteristics, Saiwa statues are placed in the central chamber (garbhagrha) and the entering chambers, while the statue of Bhattara Buddha is placed above and unseen, because he is the Paramasunya (The Highest Emptiness).  Its Siwa-Buddha features are also visible at the top of candi Jawi in the form of a cube and a stupa.

In the kakawin Nagarakrtagama, strophe LXVI mentions that Krtanegara wanted the Buddhist and Siwa religious adherers to carry out a joint worship in that temple.

Besides its relief style, candi Jawi also shows its uniqueness by its flat and  “in profile“ style, which by some researchers is called  the wayang style.

Because of its difference from the naturalistic relief styles of Central Javanese period, often there is misunderstanding  that  the Eastern Javanese  temple art has degraded. This is not true; the explanation is that the religious artists (silpin) of the Eastern Javanese period mingled local concepts with  their creation.  According to Edi Sedyawati, this flat form was influenced by the form of flat puppets used in the worship ceremony for the dead (mawayang bwat hyang).  Afterwards this mass performance continued the “tradition of flat figures”, by presenting stories from Hindu myths and epics. This meant that a blending had taken place between foreign (Hindu) elements and original Javanese elements.


DR. Hariani Santiko

Translated by Mrs. Ediati Kamil  Master of Library Science