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Mendut is one of several temples in the area which all date back to around 8th and 9th century. Mendut is often mentioned together with two other nearby Buddhist temples; Pawon and Borobudur. Out of these three temples, Mendut is the oldest one.
More precisely, inscriptions have shown that Candi Mendut was built by King Indra in 824 during the Sailendra dynasty – one of two mighty kingdoms in ancient Java. It was the same dynasty who built the famous Borobudur and many other Buddhist temples in the region.
Over the course of history, Candi Mendut fell into a ruinous state. In 1836, it was rediscovered as a ruin covered with bushes and vegetation. The restoration of Mendut started at 1897 and was finished around 30 years later.
Why visit Mendut ?
The main feature of Mendut is, in contrast to many other temples, not its outside but its inside. The inside holds three great statues.
The main statue depicts Sakyamuni, more commonly known as Gautama Buddha or simply Buddha. Visitors paying extra attention to the way he is holding his hands will be able to spot a very typical Buddhist gesture. Forming your hands in a specific way as a religious symbol is within Hinduism and Buddhism known as a “Mudra”. The one depicted in this statue is called the “Dharmacakra mudrā” – also known as “the turning of the Dharma Wheel.”
This represents a central moment in the life of Buddha when he preached his first sermon after his Enlightenment, in Deer Park in Sarnath. Gautama Buddha is generally the only one who performs this mudra, as it is seen as a symbol of the teacher.
On either side sits two Bodhisattvas – divinities who have been blessed with enlightenment. One of them, Avalokitesvara, is said to liberate devotees from the karma of speech while the other one, Vajrapani, liberates from the karma of thought. The Buddha statue itself is said to liberate its devotees from bodily karma.
Sadly, many Buddhist statues on the surrounding temples have been damaged, destroyed or looted. However, these three statues are well persevered, making them one of the greatest examples of Buddhist art in Java.
While the statues are the temples main features, one shouldn’t forget about the rest the temple can offer. Candi Mendut is stacked with beautiful carvings and reliefs.
Visitors can find these on the outer side of each of the balustrades leading up towards the temple entrance. When the building was restored, some of the stones were missing, which lead to difficulties in identifying the different stories. Now that the pieces are back in place, reading the stories is much easier.
There are a total of four tales; one of them is about Brahmin and a crab, another one about Swans and turtles. The third one is about two friends, whose friendship gets destroyed by greed and the final story is about two parrots.
Even to this day, Mendut is used as a religious temple. When Buddhist pilgrims visit Borobudur, they always visit Mendut first. They then walk to the nearby temple Pawon and end their pilgrimage with a climb to the top of Borobudur. While Mendut is not as famous as its bigger cousin, Borobudur, it still stands strong as one of the greatest Buddhist temples on ancient Java.
Candi Mendut is located some 45 minutes northeast of Yogyakarta, Indonesia It sits on a hill in the town of Muntilan in the Magelang District. Most travel agents in Yogyakarta offer the day-trip excursion to this temple as part of the tour to Candi Borobudur located nearby.
Candi Mendut is located some 2 miles east of its more popular cousin, Candi Borobudur. Mendut Temple is another temple, much bigger then Pawon temple and is located on the road to Yogyakarta. For the exact location of Mendut, check out the Location Map to the right.
A decoration at the entrance. © Simon White.
The Jakata tales. © Simon White.
Candi Mendut decorations. © Simon White.
Interactive location map. For a larger and more detailed map, check out our Indonesia map.
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