21 Years Constructing The "Giant Puzzle of Stone"

Kalasan, Sleman, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
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After being buried under the earth for hundreds of years, the first slab of the stone was discovered in 1966. It took 21 years to excavate and construct hundreds of "puzzle" pieces of the stones before Sambisari temple finally stands firmly.

Updated on 24 October 2018

See 11 photos of Sambisari Temple

Ticket Price (2018)
IDR 10,000

Opening Hours
Monday to Sunday: 7AM - 5PM

Mr. Karyowinangun did not have any hunch of what was going to happen on one early morning in 1966. When he was preparing the ground for cultivation with his hoe, he felt it bumping a big stone. When he checked it, he saw carvings on the stone. Karyowinangun and the local people wondered about the existence of the stone.

Knowing the discovery, the archeological department came to the site and defined Karyowinangun's field to be archeological site. The carved stone was supposed to be part of a temple that possibly was buried in the area. Excavation was then executed to find hundreds slabs of stone and ancient statues. It turned to be true that those stones were components of a temple.

After 21 years, we can enjoy the beauty of the temple. The temple building named Sambisari stands grandly in Sambisari Village, Purwomartani Sub-District, Kalasan District, Sleman Regency, 10 kilometer away from Yogyakarta city center. You can reach this place by going eastward through the Yogya-Solo road until you see a signboard directing to this temple. Then, you turn left to follow the road.

Arriving at the area of the temple, YogYES first got surprised. Looking at the center of the temple area, there was an only pile of stones of less than 2 meters high. YogYES wondered if it Sambisari temple was that small? Approaching nearer, we will find the answer. In fact, Sambisari temple is 6,5 meters below the surrounding land.

Sambisari temple is predicted to be constructed between 812 - 838 AD, possibly under the government of Rakai Garung. The complex of the temple consists of 1 main temple and 3 supporting temples. There are 2 fences surrounding the temple complex, on the fences was totally reconstructed, while the other was only showed a little in the east side of the temple. Still function as borders, there are 8 stand phalluses distributed in each point of direction.

The main temple building is unique since it does not have shoe basement like other temples in Java. At the same time, the foot of the temple functions as the foundation to make the temple even on the ground. The foot part of the temple is left plain, without reliefs or decorations. Various elements most of them are of plants ornaments are found on the body to the outer part of the temple top. The ornaments look like batik motif.

Stepping up the stairs of the entrance of the temple, we will see an ornament of a dragon in the open mouth of makara (the magical animal in Hindu mythology). The figure of makara in Sambisari is an evolution of the makara form in India that can be in the form of a unification of elephant and fish or a crocodile and curved-tail fish.

The narrow verandah as wide as 1 meter will be found after passing through the last stair of the main temple entrance. Walking around it, you will see 3 cavities with one statue in each of them. In the north part, there is a statue of Durga (the wife of Siva) with 8 hands each of which is holding a weapon. Meanwhile, in the east side, there is Ganesha statue (son of Durga). In the southern side, there is Agastya statue with aksamala on his neck.

Entering the primary compartment of the temple, we can see quite big phallus and yoni measuring at around 1.5 meters. Its existence shows that this temple was build as the place for worshipping Siva. The phallus and the yoni behind this temple were also used to make the holy water. Usually, the water is poured on the phallus and let flow toward the small ditch on the yoni, then it is accommodated in a container.

Exiting from the main temple to go westwards, we will be able to see the three supporting temples (perwara) standing in the opposite direction. There was a prediction that this perwara temple was intentionally constructed without roof because when excavation was done, no roof stones were discovered. The inner part of the central supporting temples (perwara) has a square saucer decorated with dragon ornament and a padmasana on it. Possibly, padmasana and the saucers were utilized as places for statues or offerings.

When we have been satisfied with enjoying the beauty of the temple, we may leave for the information room. Some photographs featuring the rice field owned by Mr. Karyowinangun before the excavation and the early condition of the temple at the early time of the discovery. There are also photographs of the excavation processes and the temple reconstruction that lasted for tens of years, including the photographs of other goods such as bronze statues found during the excavation that are kept in Building of Archeological Heritance Preservation.

The beauty of Sambisari temple that we can enjoy at present time is the result of hard works of the archeologists for 21 years. The temple that initially looked like a giant puzzle was reconstructed piece by piece for the continuation of one more heritance of the great culture in the past.