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Sacred Sanctuaries of the Majapahit Period (II)

Several temples, mostly Siwait, were built during the Majapahit period. Based on architectural and structural features, the Majapahit temples have at least two styles, namely the temples in Singasari style or in Kidal style, and in Majapahit style.

The temples in Singasari style consist of 3 parts, base-body-roof, and have high roofs, have no  processional path to carry out pradaksina (circling the temple following the direction of the hands of the clock).  But the religious artists (silpin) of the Majapahit period have developed their creative capacities, thereby producing specific Majapahit period features, like the emergence of a set of stairs at the left and right of the entrance, meeting and forming one staircase to enter the temple.  One of the examples is the staircase of candi Pari.

Beside following the architectural characteristics, the Majapahit silpins created their own models, the terraced sanctuaries with or without the temple body proper.

The Majapahit terraced temples have characteristics that are not found in the pre-Majapahit period, namely the foot of the candi consists of three terraces,  of which one or more parts of the temple bodies are not found anymore.  Based on their characteristics these Majapahit terraced sanctuaries  two categories  can be distinguished:

  1. The foot of the building has three terraces, with two or one staircase, connecting the three terraces. With the existence of an entrance for the staircase  protruding to the front, the temple body seems to be shifted backwards from the central point of the construction.  Three niches at the temple body wall are places for  statues of certain gods. The temple roof has gone, possible it was made from easily destroyable material, but might have been storeyed like the Meru of Balinese pura.  This was brought to attention, because one relief at the wall of the candi Jago in Malang, shows reliefs and one of them a temple with a seven or nine pile roof.  Beside the candi Jago,  candi Rimbi near Jombang and the main Panataran temple near Blitar belong to this group.  This category of terraced sanctuaries is situated on the lowland.

  2. The second category of terraced sanctuaries usually consist of terraces and one low terrace on top of the third terrace called “batur” or “lapik”, cut through in the middel by successive flights of steps.  In front of the steps one or more altars were placed.  According to Bernet Kempers (1959), their function may be compared to that of the diminutive candis (the candi Apit) protecting the entraces to the first courtyard of candi Prambanan, or of the screen (aling-aling, kelir) which covers the doors of Javanese houses, the gateways of Balinese temples,  Islamic cemeteries, the kratons etc.  On top of this terraces there are three altars or two altars with one miniature temple,  sometimes only one altar .  The second category of terrace sanctuaries  are situated on mountain slopes, often giving impression of being “attached” to those slopes.  Examples of this category  are the terrece sanctuaries on slopes of Mount Penanggungan or Mount Pawitra, Mount Wilis, Mount Arjuna.

A unique temple from the early phase of Majapahit era, is candi Kotes, known also as candi Papoh. This temple which consists of a base (batur) with a flight of steps at the west side. The terrace supports two altars and one miniature temple, as those the second category of terraced sanctuaries.  However candi Kotes’ foot has no terrace, because it is located on the lowland not on the mountain’s slope.

There are temples with a specific form,  like  candi Sukuh which has a form resembling a yoni, and candi Naga in the Panataran complex consisting of a chamber without a roof. Candi Tegawangi near Pare, Kediri, has a square base and a sizeable  front projection for flight steps of the candi. There are temples probably have the same type as candi  Tegawangi, for instance candi Gambar Wetan on the southern slope  of Mount Kelud, candi Kedaton, on the slope of the Hyang Mountain in the vicinity of Probolinggo.

Not only the temple forms are different from those of the period before, but at that time various figures were pictured, like the Punakawan    and Emban figures  on some temple walls, among others at the candi Tegawangi.

When we look at the way of  depicting the figures, according to Edi Sedyawati, in general their features  resemble those of the wayang kulit.  Both legs of the figures are placed in one direction, the breast faces the front , while the face is also drawn sideways or for ¾ part sideways. If the figure faces the left, its upawita (caste string sign) hangs over the left shoulder, if the figure faces the right this string goes over the right shoulder, like in the leather puppets shadow play when they are changed  by the dalang or puppeteer.  

Besides, the Majapahit period reliefs play an important role related to the temple’s function. There are two kinds of temple decorations, i.e. the construction decorations, and ornamental decoration. The first kind is related to the structure balance of the temple , for instance the nisches, antefix, mouldings, pillars, while the second kind generally are narrative reliefs taken from Old Javanese and Middle Javanese literary works. What kind of atmosphere  did they want  to create by depicting  the stories  on the wall of the holy places ?  The sacred sanctuaries  dating from the Majapahit period are mostly Siwait, the Buddhist ones play only a minor role. The Siwaism from Siwasiddhantic  sect played an important role.  They stressed three kinds of teachings for the adepts, first: good moral teachings  (tata susila) as shown in the reliefs of candi Surawana, candi Rimbi, candi Panataran etc.Second: to purify one’s soul to achieve kawiratin, i.e. to give up wordliness, and the third is  the most important of the three is to attain kalepasan and moksa. Kalepasan and moksa is the doctrine concerning man’s effort  to liberate his soul  from worldly fetters by unification with the Highest Reality  through the complete cleansing  of one’s heart. Kalepasan can be achieved  while one is alive, where as moksa  can only be achieved at the moment the soul has left the body  to unite with the Paramasiva. The term moksa  in the Old-Javanese works is mantuk, mulih  which means “returning home”.   

The choice of the theme of the stories carved  are made comply with the need of the user of the sacret sanctuary.   For example, a narrative relief with the theme of release (moksa) is usually were chosen to decorate the wall of temples  of candi pendharmaan (the dharma temple)  of a deceased king, in order that his soul may attain moksa quickly. The story of Sudamala, for instance, depicted on wall of the candi Tegawangi , the dharma temple of king Matahun, Hayam Wuruk’s brother-in-law.

The core of the Sudamala narration is about  the redemption of sin (lukat, ruwat) of Durga Ranini in the form of  the curse on Uma by Bhatara Guru because she committed adultery with Brahma.  After twelve years staying at the Setra Gandamayu graveyard, Durga Ranini was redempted by Sadewa and Bhatara Guru, so that her sin vanished and she changed back again into the beautiful Uma.

The Arjunawiwaha is depicted on the walls of candis, and hermit’s cave. The theme is to attain kawiratin and kalepasan.  For instance this story is carved on the walls of hermit’ caves Selamangleng Tulungagung and Gua Pasir also near Tulungagung to create serene atmospheres.

I have to mention here the reliefs of Wisnu, the Ramayana and the Krsnayana, are depicted on the walls of the main temple of candi Panataran, near Blitar, a Siwait temple. Waisnawa in Jawa were not populer, however god Wisnu was worshipped by kings and heroes  as their istadewata (the chosen god by someone). In Hindu religion, Visnu is the god of welfare and give protection for men. Visnu in his avatara Rama is related to the doctrine of eight conduct of kings, in Jawa known as the astabrata. In the kakawin Ramayana the doctrines are found in Sarga  III 53-95 as Rama’s instruction to Bharata and in Sarga  XIII: 39-97 Rama’s instruction to Wibhisana. The two kakawins are depicted on the wall of the main temple of Panataran, because candi Panataran was Majapahit’s state temple.
Another example of the relationship between the choice of the theme of the stories, with the function of the temple we will mention the relief Bhimaswarga at candi Sukuh.   This  story is about Bhima in search of amrta water in the heaven of Siwa, for Pandu and Madrim’s souls.  After fighting the Yama’s army, Bhima succeeds in obtaining the amrta water from Siwa. Therefore at  the candi Sukuh, Bhima is regarded as the mediator between man and Siwa, for those who want to reach moksa.

Majapahit became the center of the mixing of Indian and local cultures. Many myths about  gods and goddesses which have never been heard of in India,  are found on Java.

The people of Majapahit in full awareness created new gods and goddesses. In the literary work the Tantu Panggelaran, it was mentioned implicitly that changes had been made, because “the Jambhudwipa (Indian) gods and goddesses had become Javanese gods and goddesses”,  for the summit of Mahameru mountain had been moved to the isle of Java.

Consequently a most unique Majapahit culture emerged.  Temples with the terraced structure imitating the Mahameru turned up everywhere, among others  candi Jago, candi Rimbi, the main temple of Panataran, and the temples of the hermits on the mountain slopes. This was also the case with the relief of the fanged giant woman Durga Ranini , with her hair sticking together, her bulging eyes, living on the graveyard, found as reliefs on the walls of candi Tegawangi and candi Sukuh. The story of Uma committing adultry is most astonishing, because in India Uma is regarded as the example of a faithful wife.

What about the function of the temples during the Eastern Javanese  period?  As not much is known yet about the function of the pre-Singasari period temples,the functions of the Singasari and Majapahit temples   will be discussed here.  There are two kinds of functions:

  1. Temples with double functions, namely as shrines for the worship of the gods, and as the pendharmaan  of the king and his royal family.  The word pendharmaan comes from the word “dharma”, which means “obligation” according to the Hindu religion.
    The dharma or obligation of a king is to construct a holy monuments, and to repair holy temples  that are damaged. After having constructed the holy temple and after the king has passed away, a statue is made in the form of his protecting god (istadewata), which is put in the main chamber (garbhagrha) of the temple that was established by the deceased king, as his dharma.  The protecting god may be the highest god or a certain chosen god.  The Singasari and Majapahit kings often were shaped as Siwa statues and at the same time as the Buddha statue, for were those two gods not the form of one, namely the Highest Reality?
    In the Old Javanese literary works, moksa is called mantuk or mulih ing dewapada (to return to the god’s feet). By creating this statue in the shape of Siwa and Buddha, the king’s soul becomes unified with his protecting god, attaining moksa.
    The dharma temples during the Singasari period are candi Kidal, the pendharmaan (Candi Dharma) of king Anusapati, candi Jago, the pendharmaan of king Wisnuwarddhana, and probably also candi Singasari as the pendharmaan of king Krtanegara.  This double function temple in the Majapahit period had a specific structure, the temple foot was triple terraced, and there was a main chamber at the temple’s body to place the shaped statue. An example is candi Jago near Tumpang, Malang and candi Rimbi near Jombang.
    An exception is the main Panataran temple, which has a temple body with garbhagrha, but has no special place of the king’s materialized statue, because the Panataran temple is a State temple, not a dharma temple. Until now the main statue of this candi is unknown.

  2. The second group of temples  merely function as  shrines for worship. Included are the hermit temples, mostly found on mountain slopes, for example at the Penanggungan, Arjuna, Wilis, and Lawu mountains.  This includes candi Sukuh, a temple used by hermits for self-purification ceremonies in order to reach release (moksa) soon by worshipping Parameswara and Bhima.As mentioned above in the candi Sukuh, Paramasiwa is found as a god for worship, but Bhima is regarded to be the mediator between man and Siwa, assisting man to attain moksa, and therefore considered an important figure.  The Bhima statue was found, but put beside the main Sukuh temple, while on top of the main temple there was a large lingga, which is now kept in the National Museum in Jakarta.


DR.Hariani Santiko

Translated by Mrs. Ediati Kamil  Master of Library Science