Antiquities of Central Java – Mendut and Pawon

Two smaller, subsidiary candi lie along a straight line directly to the east of Borobudur.

The closer of the two is tiny Pawon (meaning “kitchen” or perhaps “crematorium”), situated in a shady clearing 1,750 metres (one miles) from the stupa’s main entrance. It is often referred to as Borobudur’s “porch temple” because of its proximity, and many well have constituted the last stop along a brick paved pilgrimage route. Through many theories have been advanced, we know very little about Pawon’s actual function or symblism , other than that the outer walls are covered with heavenly “money trees” and celestial musicians, and that a bearded dwarf above the entrance pours out riches from his bag, perhaps for the benefit of visiting pilgrims.

Just 1,150 metres farther to the east, across the confluence of two holy rivers (the Progo and the Elo), lies beautiful Canci Mendut. A large banyan tree shades the forecourt, and unlike most other Central Javanese monuments (which face east). Mendut opens to the northwest. The large central dagob and a series of smaller ones taht once crowned the temple’s roof are now missing, so that its broad base and high body now seem rather plain from a distance. As you approach, however, the delightful bas relief on the outer walls come to life.

The base and both side of the staicase are decorated with scenes from moralistic fables and folktales, many of which concern animals. The main body of Mendut contains superbly carved panels depicting bodhisattvas and Buddhist goddesses the largest relief found on any Indonesian temple. The walls of the antechamber are decorated with money trees and celestial beings, and contain two beautiful panels of a man and a woman amid swarms of palyful children. It is through that these represent child eating ogres who converted to Buddhism and became protectors in stead of devourers.

The Mendut panels are decorative, but they hardly prepare one for the stunning interior, which contains three of the finest Buddhist statues in the world: a magnificent three metre (10 foot) figure of the seated Sakyamuni Buddha, flanked on his left and right by Bodhisattva Vajrapani and Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, each about 2,5 metre (8 feet) high. The central or Sakyamuni statue symbolizes the first sermon of the Buddha at the Deer park near Benares, as shown by the position of his hands (dharmacakra mudra) and by a small relief of a wheel between two deer. The two bodhisattvas or buddhas to be have elected to stay behind in the world to help all of Buddha’s followers. Four niches around them probably once held meditating dhyani Buddhas.

Read Also : Antiquities of Central Java – Prambanan “Valley of The Kings”

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