Exactly when the small Pawon temple was constructed is near impossible to say, as the ancient Javanese kingdoms seldom documented their history as written texts. Examination between the style and the carvings suggests that’s Pawon is slightly older than Borobudur, which means it was built sometime during the 8th or 9th century.
Local stories tell that there used to be a road from Mendut to Pawon and all the way over to Borobudur. This road was supposedly used by Buddhist pilgrims, who started their pilgrimage at Mendut and ended it with a climb to the top of Borobudur. Even though the original road is gone, Buddhist pilgrims still walk from Mendut to Pawon and on to Borobudur during their pilgrimages.
Despite this fact, the function of Pawon itself is not certain. Some believed Pawon simply served to purify the mind of the pilgrims prior to ascending Borobudur. Others say while this is true, the Pawon temple also served as a grave for one of the old Javanese kings.
The name of the temple, “Pawon”, supports their theory. While “Pawon” literally means “kitchen” in Javanese, it derives from the word “Per-awu-an” meaning “Place that contains dust”. Another theory is that Pawon was not a grave, but a place to store King Indra’s weapon; Varja.
Why visit Pawon ?
While quite small, the Pawon temple still has a lot to offer anyone interested in architecture and history. Above the entrance to the Pawon temple, visitors can see a Kala-Makara arch; a decoration typically found above doors in Indonesian temples and shrines. All around the outer walls of Pawon, visitors can see carvings of men and women. These are symbolizing “Boddhisattvas” and “Taras” – Buddhist names for people who have reached enlightenment.
The Tree of Life
One of the outer walls of the Pawon temple depicts a relief of “Kalpataru”; the Tree of Life which divine powers can fulfill wishes. The details on the relief are remarkable – despite its age. The left side at top of the tree depicts an Apsara – a female cloud spirit. The other side depicts a Devata – a Hindu guardian spirit.
On either side of the tree’s base stands a Kinnari. A Kinnari is a mythical creature, half woman half bird, renowned for dance, song and poetry. She is also a traditional symbol of beauty, grace and accomplishment. By looking carefully at the relief, one can even see the small wings of the Kinnari.
The roof section of Pawon is covered in five small stupas – the Buddhist mound-like structure often used to hold relics. Whether or not these stupas contain any relics is unknown.
Even though Pawon is significantly smaller than its neighboring two temples, it is still a remarkable temple. Historians have even dubbed it as “the jewel of Javanese temple architecture” due to its simplicity, symmetry and harmony.
Pawon is located close to Yogyakarta, Indonesia.The temple is located in between Borobudur. to the northwest and Mendut to the southwest. For the exact location of Pawon, check out the location Map to the right.