Prambanan Temple is the largest Hindu temple compound in Central Java in Indonesia, located approximately 18 km east of Yogyakarta.

The temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the largest Hindu temples in south-east Asia. It is characterised by its tall and pointed architecture, typical of Hindu temple architecture, and by the 47m high central building inside a large complex of individual temples.


It was built around 850 CE by either Rakai Pikatan, king of the second Mataram dynasty, or Balitung Maha Sambu, during the Sanjaya Dynasty. Not long after its construction, the temple was abandoned and began to deteriorate. Reconstruction of the compound began in 1918. The main building was completed in around 1953. Much of the original stonework has been stolen and reused at remote construction sites. A temple will only be rebuilt if at least 75% of the original stones are available, and therefore only the foundation walls of most of the smaller shrines are now visible and with no plans for their reconstruction. The temple was damaged during the earthquake in Java in 2006. Early photos suggest that although the complex appears to be structurally intact, damage is significant. Large pieces of debris, including carvings, were scattered over the ground. The temple has been closed to the public until damage can be fully assessed. The head of Yogyakarta Archaeological Conservation Agency stated that: "it will take months to identify the precise damage". However, some weeks later in 2006 the site re-opened for visitors. The immediate surroundings of the Hindu temples remain off-limits for safety reasons.

Loro Jonggrang complex

The Prambanan temple complex consists of three zones. The outer zone is a large space marked by a rectangular wall (destroyed). The original function is unknown; possibilities are that it was a sacred park, or priests' boarding school (ashram). The supporting buildings for the temple complex were made from organic material; as a consequence no remains occur.

The middle zone consisted of four rows of 224 individual small shrines. These concentric rows of temples were made in identical design. Each row towards the center is slightly elevated. These shrines are called "Candi Perwara" or complementary temples, the additional buildings of the main temple. Some believed it was offered to the king as a sign of submission. The Perwara are arranged in four rows around the central temples, some believed it has something to do with four castes, made according to the rank of the people allowed to enter them; the row nearest to the central compound was accessible to the priests only, the other three were reserved for the nobles, the knights, and the simple people respectively. While another believed that the four rows of Perwara has nothing to do with four castes, it just simply made as meditation place for priests and as worship place for devotees.

The central compound is the holiest among the three zones. Its the square elevated platform surrounded by square stone wall with stone gates on each four cardinal points. This holiest compound is assembled of eight main shrines or candi. The three main shrines, called Trimurti ("three forms"), are dedicated to the three gods: Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Keeper, and Shiva the Destroyer. The other three shrine in front of three main temples is dedicated to vahana of each gods. Between these row of main temple, on north and south side stands two Candi Apit. Beside these 8 main temples, there's also 8 smaller shrines; 4 Candi Kelir on four cardinal direction of the entrance, and 4 Candi Patok on four corner.

The Shiva shrine at the center contains five chambers, four small chamber in every cardinal direction and one bigger main chamber in central part of the temple. The east chamber connect to central chamber that houses a three meter high statue of Shiva Mahadeva. The statue of Shiva stands on Yoni pedestal that bears the carving of Naga serpents on north side of pedestal. The other three smaller chambers contain statues of Hindu Gods related to Shiva; his consort Durga, the rishi Agastya, and Ganesha, his son. Statue of Agastya occupy the south chamber, the west chamber houses the statue of Ganesha, while the north chamber contains the statue of Durga Mahisasuramardini depicting Durga as the slayer of Bull demon. The shrine of Durga is also called the temple of Lara Jonggrang (Javanese: slender virgin), after a Javanese legend of princess Lara Jonggrang.

The two other main shrines are that of Vishnu on the north side of Shiva shrine, and the one of Brahma on the south. Both temple facing east and each contain only one large chamber, each dedicated to respected gods; Brahma temple contains the statue of Brahma and Vishnu temple houses the statue of Vishnu. In front of each main temple is a smaller temples on the east side, dedicated to the mounts (vahana)of the respective gods - the bull Nandi for Shiva, the gander Angsa for Brahma, and Vishnu's Eagle Garuda. Garuda holds important role for Indonesia, which serves as the national symbol of Indonesia, also to the airline Garuda Indonesia. The bas-reliefs along the balustrades on the gallery around Shiva and Brahma temple depict the Ramayana legend. They illustrate how Sita, the wife of Rama, is abducted by Ravana. The monkey king Hanuman brings his army to help Rama and rescue Sita. This story is also shown by the Ramayana Ballet, regularly performed at full moon at Trimurti open air theatre in west side of the illuminated Prambanan complex. On the balsutrades in Vishnu temple there is series of bas-relief depict the story of lord Krishna.

The legend

The popular legend of Lara Jonggrang is what connects the site of the Ratu Boko Palace, the origin of the Durga statue in northern cell/chamber of the main shrine, and the origin of the Sewu temple complex nearby. The legend tells of the story about Prince Bandung Bondowoso who fell in love with Princess Lara Jonggrang, the daughter of King Boko. But the princess rejected his proposal of marriage because Bandung Bondowoso had killed King Boko and ruled her kingdom. Bandung Bondowoso insisted on the union, and finally Lara Jonggrang was forced to agree for a union in marriage, but she posed one impossible condition: Bandung must build her a thousand temples in only one night. The Prince entered into meditation and conjured up a multitude of spirits (demons) from the earth. Helped by supernatural beings, he succeeded in building 999 temples. When the prince was about to complete the condition, the princess woke her palace maids and ordered the women of the village to begin pounding rice and set a fire in the east of the temple, attempting to make the prince and the spirits believe that the sun was about to rise. As the cocks began to crow, fooled by the light and the sounds of morning time, the supernatural helpers fled back into the ground. The prince was furious about the trick and in revenge he cursed Lara Jonggrang to stone. She became the last and the most beautiful of the thousand statues. According to the traditions, the unfinished thousandth temple created by the demons become the Sewu temple compounds nearby (Sewu means "thousands" in Javanese), and the Princess is the image of Durga in the north cell of the Shiva temple at Prambanan, which is still known as Lara Jonggrang or Slender Virgin.

Other temples around Prambanan

Apart from the Lara Jongrang complex, Prambanan is the location of some of the earliest Buddhist temples in Indonesia. Not far to the north are found the ruins of Bubrah temple, Lumbung temple, and Sewu temple. Further east are found Plaosan temple. To the west are found Kalasan temple and Sari temple, further to the west are Sambisari temple. While to the south the Ratu Boko compounds on higher ground.

North of the Lara Jongrang complex

  • Candi Lumbung. Buddhist-style, consisting of one main temple surrounded by 16 smaller ones.
  • Candi Bubrah. Buddhist temple still in ruins.
  • Candi Sewu. Buddhist temple complex, older than Roro Jonggrang. A main sanctuary surrounded by many smaller temples. Well preserved guardian statues, replicas of which stand in the central courtyard at the Jogja Kraton.
  • Candi Plaosan. Buddhist, probably 9th century. Thought to have been built by a Hindu king for his Buddhist queen. Two main temples with reliefs of a man and a woman. Slender stupa.

South of the Lara Jongrang complex

  • Ratu Boko. Complex of fortified gates, bathing pools, and elevated walled stone enclosure, all located on top of the hill.
  • Candi Sajiwan. Buddhist temple decorated with reliefs concerning education. The base and staircase are decorated with animal fables.
  • Candi Banyunibo. A Buddhist temple with unique design of roof.
  • Candi Barong. A Hindu temple complex with large stepped stone courtyard. Located on the slope of the hill.
  • Candi Ijo. A cluster of Hindu temple located near the top of Ijo hill. The main temple houses a large lingam and yoni.
  • Arca Bugisan. Seven Buddha and bodhisattva statues, some collapsed, representing different poses and expressions.

West of the Lara Jongrang complex

  • Candi Kalasan. 8th century Buddhist temple built in commemoration of the marriage of a king and his princess bride, ornamented with finely carved reliefs.
  • Candi Sari. Once a sanctuary for Buddhist priests. 8th century. Nine stupas at the top with two rooms beneath, each believed to be places for priests to meditate.
  • Candi Sambisari. 9th century Hindu temple discovered in 1966, once buried 6,5 metres under volcanic ash. The main temple houses a linga and yoni, and the wall surround it displayed the images of Agastya, Durga, and Ganesha.
  • Candi Gebang. A small Hindu temple discovered in 1937 located near the Yogyakarta northern ring-road. The temple display the statue of Ganesha and interesting carving of faces on the roof section.
  • Candi Gana. Rich in statues, bas-reliefs and sculpted stones. Frequent representations of children or dwarfs with raised hands. Located in the middle of housing complex. Under restoration since 1997.
  • Candi Kedulan. Discovered in 1994 by sand diggers, 4m deep. Square base of main temple visible. Secondary temples not yet fully excavated.


Ratu Boko

Ratu Boko is an archaeological site known to modern Javanese as Kraton Ratu Boko or Ratu Boko's Palace. Ratu Boko is located on a plateau, about three kilometres south of Lara Jonggrang Prambanan temple complex in Yogyakarta Indonesia. The original name of this site is still unclear, however the local inhabitants named this site after King Boko, the legendary king mentioned in Lara Jonggrang folklore.

The site covers 16 hectares in two hamlets (Dawung and Sambireja) of the village of Bokoharjo and Prambanan. In striking contrast to other Classic-period sites in Central Java and Yogyakarta, which are remains of temples, Ratu Boko displays attributes of an occupation or settlement site, although its precise functions is unknown. This site is located 196 m above the sea level, on the highest point in the site, there is a small pavilion from which one will be able to see a panoramic view of Prambanan temple with Mount Merapi as the background.

Archaeological Remains

At Ratu Boko traces of probable secular structures were erected on a plateau divided into terraces separated from each other by stone walls and stone-faced ramparts (talud). The site was reached by a steep path up the northwest slope of the plateau, in the direction of Prambanan. The structural remains in the terrace at Ratu Boko site consist of places with folk names connected with palaces such as paseban (reception pavilion), pendopo (audience hall) and kaputren (women's quarter). A pool complex lies on a terrace adjoining the east side of the pendopo. A group of artificial caves, probably for meditation, lies to the north, isolated from the rest of the site. These archaeological sites are:

Main Gate

The first of three terraces is reached through a massive gateway built on two levels. On the western edge of this terrace is a high talud of soft white limestone. The second terrace, separated from the first by andesite wall, is reached through a gateway in paduraksa form consisting of three doors, a larger central one flanked by two of lesser dimensions. The third terrace, the largest, contains the richest concentrations of archaeological remains. Another talud and andesite wall separate the third terrace from the second terrace, with another connecting gateway of paduraksa form, this time consisting of five doors, again the central one having larger dimensions than the two which flank it.
It is read on the main gate Panabwara that was written by Rakai Panabwara, descendant of Rakai Panangkaran. He carved his name there in order to legitimate his authority of this palace.

Candi Batu Putih

Literally, Batu Putih means white stone. It is a structure made from white limestone on the north side of the first row of the gate on second terrace.

Candi Pembakaran

Beyond the second row of gates on third terrace, on the north side of the plateau there's a structure similar to the base part of the temple with two terraces about 26x26 m in size. On the center of upper terrace is just an empty descending square hole. The function of that building probably as the crematorium to burn the corpses.


On the plateau on third terrace, beside the Candi Pembakaran, there's also several square stone structure. On the structure there's some umpak or stone serve as the base of wooden column with hole to erect the pillars. This structures is highly suggested as the base of building, since the pillars, wall, and roof is made from organic material, only the stone floor and base is still remains.


On the second terrace on the southeast side of the plateau, lies the pendopo (audience hall). The pendopo is a square stone enclosure surrounded with andesite stone wall with the small paduraksa entrance gates in north, west, and south side of the walled enclosure. In the center of this walled enclosure there's a stone base formed by two separated terraces, the terrace in the southern side is smaller than the north side one. This terrace served as the base and floor of the wooden structure since there's some umpak or stone serve as the base of wooden column with hole to erect the pillars. Of course only the stone base still remains while organic wooden material of the building is gone.

Miniature Temples

On the south side on the pendopo, there's three miniature temples with square stone basin in front of it. This small temple probably serve the religious purpose, as some kind of HIndu or Budhist shrine in the Ratu Boko complex.

Kaputren and Bathing Place

On eastern side of pendopo on lower terrace, there is several andesite stone walled enclosure with paduraksa gate and gallery lead to the several pool within the walled enclosure. This structure is associated by local folks as kaputren (women's quarter), since the pool believed to be the pleasure garden for king and his concubines. One particular pool (or well) within the bath place is considered sacred by Hindu people called 'Amerta Mantana'. It is believed that the water of Amerta brings luck for anyone who uses it. Hindu people use it in Tawur Agung ceremony, one day before the Nyepi day, to support the achievement of self purify and to return the earth into her initial harmony. To the east of the pool there's two stone base structure, yet again probably the remains of wooden structure which only the stone base still remains. This structure overlooking a valley on the east side of Ratu Boko compounds, visitor can see Candi Barong, a Hindu temple complex across the valley on the slope of the hill in the east.

Ascetic Cave

At the northern part from pendopo, isolated from the rest of the site, lies two caves that were formed of sediment stones. The upper cave is called Gua Lanang (Male Cave) and the lower cave is called Gua Wadon (Female Cave). In front of Gua Lanang, there is a pond and three effigies. Based on the research, the effigy is known as Aksobya, one of Buddha Pantheons. The cave probably functioned as a meditation place.

Buddhism and Hinduism

Ratu Boko site has yielded many smaller artefact including statues, both Hindu (Durga, Ganesha, Garuda, a Lingga and a Yoni) and Buddhist (three unfinished Dhyani Buddhas). Other finds include ceramics and inscriptions; a golden plate with the writing "Om Rudra ya namah swaha" on it as form of worship to Rudra as the other name of Shiva. This proved that the Hindus and Buddhist live together with tolerance.


Despite the large quantity and variety of remains found there, the exact functions of Ratu Boko site is still unknown. Some believe it was the former palace of ancient Mataram Kingdom; other scholars interpret this site as monastery. While third group holds that it was a place for rest and recreation. Inscriptions shows that the site was occupied at least during the 8th and 9th centuries. Five inscriptions in pre-Nagari script and Sanskirt describe the construction of a shrine for Avalokitesvara. One inscriptions refers to the constructions of a Buddhist monastery modelled after Abhayagiri Vihara (means a monastery on a peaceful hill) in Sri Lanka, where a group of ascetic forest dwelling monks resided. Three dated inscriptions in Old Javanese and poetic Sanskirt recount the erection of two lingga, and bear the date of 778 Saka or 856 AD. Another undated inscription mentions the erection of lingga named Hara at the order of King Kalasobhawa.

The Legend of King Boko

King Boko is a legendary character known from popular folklore of Lara Jonggrang. This folklore connects the Ratu Boko Palace, the Durga statue in Prambanan temple (which is identified by local folklore as Lara Jonggrang), and the origin of the Sewu temple complex nearby. Prince Bandung Bondowoso loved Princess Lara Jonggrang, the daughter of King Boko, but she rejected his proposal of marriage because Bandung Bondowoso had killed King Boko and ruled her kingdom. Bandung Bondowoso insisted on the union, and finally Lara Jonggrang was forced to agree for a union in marriage, but she posed one condition: Bandung must build her a thousand temples in one night. He entered into meditation and conjured up a multitude of spirits (genies or demons) from the earth. They succeeded in building 999 temples. Lara Jonggrang then woke her palace maids and ordered them to begin pounding rice. This awoke the roosters, which began to crow. The genies, hearing the sound of morning, believed the sun was about to rise and so disappeared back into the ground. Thus the prince was fooled, in revenge he cursed the princess and turned her into a stone statue. According to the traditions, she is the image of Durga in the north cell of the Shiva temple at Prambanan, which is still known as Lara Jonggrang or 'Slender Virgin'.



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update February 2009