The same day that we saw Java's massive, ancient Buddhist temple, Borobudur at sunrise, we also saw Java's massive, ancient Hindu temple, Prambanan, at sunset. Pretty amazing bookends to a day otherwise mainly spent lounging by the pool at our hotel in Jogja!!
The guidebooks all seem to downplay Prambanan in favor of Borobudur, but we think that they're both worth doing, especially since they're both so close to Jogjakarta. Getting to see yet another monument to another religion that's had a major influence on Indonesia was pretty amazing.
Built shortly after Borobudur in the 9th century, Prambanan was meant to honor the Trimurti, the expression of God as the Creator (Brahma), the Sustainer (Vishnu) and the Destroyer (Shiva). Unlike Borobudur, which is one large structure, Prambanan is a series of temples.. three main temples surrounded by 240 mini temples.
There is a local legend (the Rara Jonggrang legend) about the circumstances surrounding the construction of the temples. The tale as told by our guide was a little bit hard to follow, but I confirmed his telling using ye olde interwebs. The gist of it is that there was a prince who fell in love with and proposed to a princess who rejected his proposal (because he had killed her father, the king) unless he could build her a thousand temples in one night. Faced with this daunting task, the prince conjured up a bunch of demons who helped him build 999 of those temples... as he was about to get started on the 1000th temple, the princess pulled some supernatural shenanigans herself and faked dawn with the help of her handmaids by getting the daily rice pounding started. That set the prince off, and he turned the princess into stone... she became the final temple and largest temple, the Shiva temple.
Now, our guide told us, kids are superstitious about bringing significant others to the temple, lest a similar situation occurs...
Like Borobudur, Prambanan has been damaged over time by earthquakes and volcanoes, and was abandoned for hundreds of years before being pieced back together.
The carving above, our initially a bit surly but ultimately amusing guide explained to us, was frequently used throughout the Prambanan complex... a lion, with two wish-fulfilling kalpataru trees on either side, flanked by kinanas, or half-human, half-animals.
Our guide was pretty savvy about the ideal photo-taking locations on the complex.
The temples are ringed with carvings that tell the Hindu epic, the Ramayana (probably the Javanese version, which is significantly different from the original Hindu version). Our guide took the time to describe to us some of the highlights of the story, including the part of the story where Rama subjects Sita to the "purity test" (AKA throws her into the fire). He joked that nowadays, the husband would be pulled into the fire, too. Oh, that joker.
Meghan caught the above shot of the temple with a plane flying overhead...
Even the waterspouts were carved with these elaborate dragon heads (above).
The temples are surrounded by hundreds of these lotus shaped bells.
You could enter some of the temples, but others were still closed off since the earthquakes had rendered them unstable.
The guide said that this guy, above to the left, is a priest, and that you can tell because he has a long beard. The longer the beard, the wiser the priest, said our guide. Our guide also instructed me to take a photo of this guy above to the right because of the great detail. He does know what he's talking about, it seems.
This one, he assured us, was a must see. He insisted that I take a photo. Look closely, he said. It's "artistic, not pornographic," he repeated. Then he pointed out the fella's giant third leg.
I tried, only mildly successfully, to capture the temple after the sunset: