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Kraton Ratu Boko history

Kraton Ratu Boku was build during the reign of a descendant of the Sailendra dynasty – one of the most powerful kingdoms on ancient Java. Exactly when the Ratu Boko was built is difficult to say, as the ancient Javanese didn’t write any formal documentation.

However, inscriptions mention Ratu Boko being occupied as early as in the 8th century. The exact purpose of Ratu Boko is also hard to say. Some different theories have evolved, the most recognized one being that Ratu Boko was in fact a fortified monastery.

Inscriptions and symbols

Inscriptions tell us that the palace initially was named “Abhayagiri Vihara” – which literally means “monastery on a peaceful hill”. This supports the theory that it was built for seclusion purpose and focused on spiritual life.

Throughout Ratu Boko, visitors can find both Hindu and Buddhist symbols. These show, just like many other temple sites in the area show, that the two religions lived side by side in peace on ancient Java.

Loro Jonggrang

The site has gotten its name from the legendary king Boko, one of the main characters in the famous folklore called “Loro Jonggrang”. This folklore connects the Ratu Boko Palace, the Durga statue in Prambanan temple with the Sewu temple.

The legend tells the story about two ancient and neighboring kingdoms in Java, Pengging and Boko. The two kingdoms raged war against each other and after a series of devastating battles, Pengging came out victorious. In the last battle, the Pengging Prince, filled with supernatural powers, defeated the enemy king. After his victory, the Prince requested a marriage between himself and the dead king’s daughter, whose beauty was unmatched.

To get the full story of “Loro Jonggrang”, check out Sewu temple.

Why visit Kraton Ratu Boko ?

The vast Kraton Ratu Boko, also known as Ratu Boko’s Palace, is different compared to many other heritage sites around Java. While the majority of the heritage sites are temples or shrines, this place is more like a ruin than anything else.

Due to its ruinous condition, it can be hard to make any sense of the place and many tourists reject Ratu Boko for this reason.

However, Ratu Boko has a very special history and charm connected to it, so don’t let its ruinous looks fool you.

Ratu Boko structures

Ratu Boko is built on a high plateau, divided into several terraces. While many of the original buildings is believed to have been constructed in wood, and thus no longer present, Ratu Boko still have several interesting buildings.
The most obvious building is the beautiful main gate.

By looking closely at the first of the two gates, visitors can read an inscription; “Panabwara”. This word was inscribed by one of the leaders of the time with the intention of legitimating his authority as well as to give ‘power’ to the gate.

Close to the main gate stands a temple made of white stones, known as Candi Badu Putih, which means the Temple of White Stones. Another temple located nearby is the Combustion temple. The function of this two leveled square temple was, as the name suggests, to burn dead bodies.

Amerta Mantana

By doing some exploration of Ratu Boko, visitors can also find several smaller temples, meditation caves as well as ponds made for bathing. One particular pool within the bathing place is considered sacred by Hindu people and is called ‘Amerta Mantana’. It is believed that the water of Amerta brings luck for anyone who uses it. Hindu people still use it to this very day during the Tawur Agung ceremony. This is a purification ceremony which takes place one day before “Nyepi”: the Hindu New Year.

Outstanding views

Due to its location on a plateau, many spots of in Kraton Ratu Boku will provide a great panoramic view of Prambanan with Mount Merapi in the background. Many say that the great thing about Ratu Boko is that it’s such a calm and peaceful place. Somehow the spirit of the old monastery still surrounds this beautiful place.

Kraton Ratu Boko location

Kraton Ratu Boko is located on a plateau, south of Prambanan in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. In order to get to Kraton Ratu Boko, take the minor road from Prambanan towards Piyungan and one will find the remains of this palace to the left after about three kilometers.

For the exact location of Kraton Ratu Boku, check out the location Map to the right.

Ratu Boko Video

Pawon history

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.

Function

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

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.

Stupas

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 location

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.

Pawon Video

Sewu history

Unknown to many is that the history of Sewu Temple is closely associated with the locally famous legend of “Loro Jonggrang”.

Loro Jonggrang

The legend tells the story about two ancient and neighboring kingdoms in Java, Pengging and Boko. The two kingdoms raged war against each other and after a series of devastating battles, Pengging came out victorious. In the last battle, the Pengging Prince, filled with supernatural powers, defeated the enemy king. After his victory, the Prince requested a marriage between himself and the dead king’s daughter, whose beauty was unmatched.

The princess, known as Loro Jonggrang, refused to marry the man who killed her father. She was finally forced to give in, but presented the Prince two impossible conditions in order for the marriage to take place; first the prince must build a well named Jalatunda and second, he must construct a thousand temples in only one night.

The love struck prince agreed on the conditions and immediately started working on the well. Using his supernatural powers once again, the prince swiftly finished construction of the well in no time.

To fulfill the second condition, the prince entered into meditation and conjured a multitude of demon spirits from the earth. With their help he built the first 999 temples and started working on the final one. To force a stop to his efforts, the princess and her maidens lit a fire in the east and begin pounding rice; a traditional Javanese dawn activity. Fooled into thinking the sun is about to rise, the spirits fled back into the earth leaving the last temple unfinished.

The prince became furious when he learned of the deception and placed a curse on Loro Jonggrang which turned her into a stone statue. In this way, she herself became a feature of the final temple thus completing its construction and fulfilling the conditions for their marriage.

A popular folklore

This legend is a local popular folklore which is said to explain the origin of Central Java’s famous archaeological sites; such as of the Kraton Ratu Boko palace, the statue in northern chamber of the main Prambanan temple aswell as the Sewu temple.

The name “Candi Sewu” actually means “A thousand temples” – referring to the 1000 temples the prince was forced to build.

Construction

The Sewu temple was likely built somewhere during the 8th century. The fact that this temple was built near the Prambanan temple, which is a Hindu Temple, indicated that the Hindus and Buddhist lived in harmony during this time.

The grand scale of this temple complex suggests that Candi Sewu was a Royal Buddhist Temple and one of the most important religious centers in ancient Java.

Earthquake damage

Sewu Temple was severely damaged during the earthquake in Java in 2006. The structural damage was significant and central temple suffered the worst. Large pieces of debris were scattered over the ground and cracks between stone blocks were detected.

To prevent the central temple from collapse, metal frame structures were erected on four corners and attached to support the main temple.

Why visit Sewu ?

Sewu Temple is the second largest Buddhist temple in Central Java after Borobudur and one of the best pieces of ancient Javanese architecture in the world.

Even though Sewu Temple complex doesn’t include 1000 temples – as the legend says – it is absolutely huge. There are a total of 257 buildings in the complex, arranged in rows surrounding the main temple. This arrangement is known as a “Mandala pattern” – an expression of how Mahayana Buddhism views the universe.

Today, Sewu is somewhat overshadowed by the nearby Prambanan , but Candi Sewu is definitely one of the most interesting Javanese temples around.

Sewu location

Sewu is located on Java, Indonesia.. The temple is situated around 18km east of Yogyakarta city. on the boundary between Yogyakarta and Central Java province. Sewu Temple is located just to the north of its more famous big brother, Prambanan. For the exact location of Sewu, check out the location Map to the right.

Sewu video

Borobudur history

It’s difficult to say exactly when and why Borobudur was built, as there are no written records to be found. Archeoligists and historians estimate that Borobudur was built during the Sailendra dynasty, in mid 8th century, and took around 75 years to complete. Borobudur is only one of several temples located in central Java built during this era.

Rival dynasties

Borobudur was built during an era where power shifted between two rival families, the Buddhist Sailendras and the Hindu Sanjayas. Both built large temples, this one being Saildendras largest temple while Prambanan was the Sanjayas greatest temple.

Even though these two dynasties were rivals, archeologists have come to believe that there was never a large scale religious conflict on Java. They point to the fact that temples of different religion have been allowed to remain, even during times when the rival was in power.

Abandoned

Borobudur was later abandoned, for what reason is still unknown. What is known is that the center of power moved from central Java to east Java in the 10th century and that several volcanic eruptions took place during the same period. If the eruptions caused the abandonment is hard to say, but many say it is the most likely reason for the abandonment.

Others believe Borobudur was used actively as a temple all the way into the 16th century, until the majority of the population converted to Islam. Again, the exact reason why it was abandoned is impossible say.

The legend

Even though Borobudur lay hidden for centuries under layers of volcanic ash and jungle growth; the monument was not completely forgotten. According to the Javanese history scripts, smaller rebel battles have taken place close to the temple and some notes associate the temple with bad luck and misery.

One script mentions the misfortune of the crown prince of the Yogyakarta Sultanate – who despite the curse of the temple – paid it a visit in 1757. Upon returning to his palace after the Borobudur visit, he fell ill and died the very next day.

Rediscovery

Borobudur was discovered for the first time by foreigners in the early 19th century, during the short British rule of the Dutch East Indies. The appointed Governor, General Thomas Stamford Raffles, had heard about a hidden temple in the jungle in central Java and he decided to investigate it.

He sent an expedition of around 200 men who managed to find the temple. In order to get a grasp of the sheer size of the temple, they were forced to clear it of vegetation and dig away loads of earth. Reports of the founding were sent back to the Governor, who ordered Borobudur to be fully revealed. The work on removing all the earth was finished in 1835.

Although fully exposed in all its beauty, appreciation of the site developed slowly and it served for some time largely as a source of souvenirs and income for “souvenir hunters” and thieves.

Early restoration

Borobudur started to receive some attention in the early 20th century, when a restoration project was initiated. Due to the limited budget, the restoration was primarily focused on cleaning the sculptures.

During this restoration, it was discovered that three of the Buddhist temples in the region; Borobudur, Pawon and Mendut, are lined in one straight line position.

Buddhist tradition

According to native folk tales, there used to be a brick-paved road with walls on both sides connecting Borobudur, Pawon and Mendutto each other. The three temples have similar architecture and ornamentation deriving from the same time period, which suggests that some ritual relationship existed between the three temples.

In order to honor this relationship, the pilgrims of today start their pilgrimage from Mendut and walk the distance to Pawon and Borobudur where they climb the temple.

UNESCO project

In the late 1960s, the rather newly formed Indonesian Government initiated a major restoration project in order to bring Borobudur back to its former glory. They requested help from the international community in order to renovate and protect Borobudur.

The Indonesian government and UNESCO then undertook the complete overhaul of the monument in a big restoration project between 1975 and 1982. The project involved more than 600 people and included improving the foundation, cleaning of all the carvings and also a new drainage system. These restorations saved the temple from slowly disintegrating and made Borobudur what it is today.

Why visit Borobudur ?

The massive Borobudur is the largest Buddhist monument in the world. In Indonesian, ancient temples are known as candi; thus “Borobudur Temple” is locally known as Candi Borobudur.

This amazing temple not only serves as a shrine to the Lord Buddha, but it is also a place for Buddhist pilgrimage. It also serves as Indonesia’s most visited site, as it attracts lots of travelers each year. No wonder – as it is one of the most fascinating temples ever built.

Design

Borobudur is a spectacular temple not to miss. The temple is essentially built as one massive stupa. A stupa is a Buddhist burial mound for Buddhist leaders and holy relics. According to the Buddhist cosmology, there are three stages of mental preparation.

Each one of these preparations is linked to one of the many worlds or “planes” that exists within Buddhism. Borobudur is based around these three stages of mental preparation where each platform represents one of the three stages of mental preparation.

The platforms

The temple has a total of nine platforms, of which the lower six are square and the upper three are circular. The first platform, the base, represents Kāmadhātu – the world of desires. The rest of the square platforms represent Rupadhatu – the world of forms and the upper three circular platforms, together with the main stupa, represent the formless world – Arupadhatu.

Stunning relief

The walls on the lower platforms are covered in beautiful relief panels, depicting stories from Buddhism. The main part shows the descent of the Lord Buddha from the Tushita heaven and ends with his first sermon. The panels on the wall are read from right to left, while on the balustrade read from left to right. This conforms with the ritual performed by pilgrims who move climb the temple in a clockwise direction while keeping the sanctuary to their right.

The stupas

At the upper circular levels, visitors to Borobudur will find seventy-two small stupas surrounding one large central stupa. Visitors paying close attention to these stupas will see that they are decorated in different ways.

The outer levels have diamond shaped holes, while the inner levels have square holes. The diamond shaped holes stands for instability, the square holes for stability and the main stupa is solid which stands for eternity. This one again refers to the formless world – Arupadhatu – and represents how the world of forms changes to the world of the formless.

Each stupa holds a Statue of Buddha – each one except the main stupa which is empty. Of the original 504 Buddha statues covering Borobudur, over 300 are damaged and 43 are missing. Since the monument’s discovery, Buddha heads have been stolen as collector’s items, which is the reason why many statues are headless.

The hidden foot

In 1885, a hidden structure under the base was accidentally discovered. When the “hidden foot” was fully reviled they say that it also contained reliefs which, like the base, describe the world of desire.

Only a small part of the hidden foot can be seen, as majority of the hidden foot is covered in a stone encasement, for which reason is unknown. The main theory however, is that the encasement base was constructed long ago to add extra weight to the base, as the original base might have been incorrectly designed.

Today, Borobudur is the single most visited tourist attraction in Indonesia with several million visitors each year.

Borobudur location

Borobudur is located on top of a small hill near the larger town of Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia. For the exact location of Borobudur, check out the Location Map to the right.

Borobudur video gallery

Mendut history

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 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.

Jataka tales

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.
Some of the more notable ones are the detailed fairy tales, known as Jataka tales.

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.

Religious use

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.

Mendut location

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.

Candi Mendut Video