A Timeless Love Story in a Temple Basking in Glory

Jalan Raya Jogja - Solo Km 16, Prambanan, Sleman, Yogyakarta 55571, Indonesia
(0274) 496 401

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Prambanan Temple was built in the ninth century. Soaring 47 meters into the sky with all of its alluring ornaments, the beauty of this Hindu temple is beyond compare. It is located 17 km to the west of the center of Jogja and can easily be visited by bus.

Updated on 3 September 2019

Prambanan Temple
( / Jaya Tri Hartono)

Opening Times
Open daily 06.00 - 17.00

Admission (2019)
USD 25

"To America and back," said my taxi driver jokingly while pointing towards the odometer on his car—a Ford—that showed 300,000 km. We both laughed. Knowing that I could have easily taken a Trans Jogja bus instead of a taxi to get to Prambanan Temple made me regret taking a taxi, but the kindness of this driver made me feel lucky.

The Legend of Roro Jonggrang

"Legend says that a princess was cursed and turned into a statue standing inside Prambanan Temple." He told me the complete story without being asked.

Long time ago, there lived a beautiful princess named Roro Jonggrang. Her beauty attracted a prince named Bandung Bondowoso. He asked her to marry him but Roro Jonggrang had a condition. To politely turn down the proposal without insulting Bandung Bondowoso, she demanded a thousand temples to be built overnight. To her surprise, the prince said that he would do as she demanded.

Bandung Bondowoso then requested the help of a horde of spirits to build the temples in a single night. When the 999th temple was erected, Roro Jonggrang ordered the villagers to light fires and pound rice using large mortars. The spirits thought that the sun had risen and ran like hell. Enraged by the princess' trickery, Bandung Bondowoso cursed her, turning the princess into a stone statue to complete the 1,000 temples.

"The statue is still standing until now, you can see it for yourself later," said the taxi driver.

We then found ourselves almost arriving at the temple. The 47 meters high Roro Jonggrang Temple was visible even from the highway. Even distance could not conceal its beauty!

The History of Prambanan Temple

Prambanan is the biggest Hindu temple in Indonesia as well as one of the most beautiful temples in Southeast Asia. According to the inscription of Siwargha plaque, the temple was constructed during the reign of Rakai Pikatan (mid ninth century) of Ancient Mataram Kingdom.

However, due to an inexplicable cause, the center of the government was moved to East Java by the end of the tenth century. As a result, this epic temple was abandoned and left unattended; some parts of the temple were later buried by the volcanic materials spewed by Merapi Volcano. Prambanan then slowly became a dense forest.

Hundreds of years later, the ruins of the temple were discovered. No one knew its history at that time. As a result, the Legend of Roro Jonggrang was born and then passed down from one generation to another.

No serious restoration effort was started until the 1930s and the main temple's restoration was not completed until 1953.

Prambanan Temple Compound

There are around 240 major and minor temples within the Prambanan Temple compound. However, only 18 of that total amount are successfully restored, while the others remain scattered as piles of stones.

Three of the 8 main temples are called the Trimurti ("three forms"). These three temples are dedicated to the three most important deities in Hindu: Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Destroyer.

( / Jaya Tri Hartono)

Shiva Temple, which is located in the center, is the biggest temple in the complex. It consists of 5 chambers: east, south, west, north and a main chamber at the center of the temple. The eastern chamber is connected to the main chamber housing the 3 meters Shiva Mahadeva statue. The northern chamber houses the statue of Durga Mahishasuramardini, the wife of Shiva. This Durga statue is what referred to as Roro Jonggrang in the local legend.

( / Jaya Tri Hartono)

Across the Trimurti temples, there are three smaller temples dedicated for the vehicles of each deity: Nandi (ox) for Shiva, Hamsa (swan) for Brahma and Garuda for Vishnu.

Ramayana Relief

Prambanan Temple is embellished by reliefs telling the epic of Ramayana and Krishnayana. The epic of Ramayana begins with the birth of Rama and followed by a series of important events, namely the kidnapping of Sita (Rama's wife) by Rahvana, Sita rescue effort led by Hanuman (the monkey king), Rama's reunion with his wife Sita and the crowning of Rama's son.

This epic is carved in the inner part of the wall along the hallway gallery surrounding the main temples. The relief is to be read by circling the temple in a clockwise manner starting from the eastern side of Shiva Temple (42 scenes) and then proceeding to Brahma Temple (30 scenes).

Not far from Prambanan Temple, the timeless love story of Rama and Sita is also performed in ballet shows every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday night. Prambanan Ramayana Ballet holds the Guinness World Record for both the maximum number of dancers involved in a single Ramayana ballet performance and the longest and most frequent Ramayana ballet organizer from 1961 to 2012. London and New York have The Phantom of the Opera, Jogja has Ramayana ballet. During the dry season, the performance will use the outdoor stage and the Prambanan Temple itself will serve as the background.

Prambanan Photo Spots

YogYes's photographer have shared with me some of the best photo spots in Prambanan Temple, namely the Bu Ani spot, Perwara Temple ruin spot and Shiva Mandala spot.

Before entering the temple's courtyard from the main road, take a turn to the south. From this spot you can take a picture of the main temples with a mahogany tree as the foreground. This spot is also called the Bu Ani spot.

Another spot widely known among photographers is a spot where the ruins of Perwara Temples serve as a dramatic foreground for the main temples.

( / Jaya Tri Hartono)

Before the sun sets, the visitors will be inquired to leave the complex by the security officers. However, you can still take incredible sunset pictures in Prambanan Temple from the Shiva Mandala court near the exit of the main temples' courtyard. If your visit coincides with a Ramayana Ballet performance, the main temples will be illuminated with spectacular lights. The lights will help you take incredible shots.

( / Daniel Antonius Kristanto)

Going home, I chose to take a short walk to the Prambanan terminal across the street and took a 1A Trans Jogja bus to Malioboro. On the way home I googled a little and found out that Jogja is only 15,000 km apart from America and that the earth's circumference at the equator is only 40,000 km. In other words, the distance traveled by the taxi taking me to Prambanan was more than the distance from Jogja to America. It had also gone around the world for 7 times!

Getting there:
Catch Trans Jogja 1A from Malioboro or Adisutjipto Airport then stop at Halte Prambanan