Antiquities of Central Java – Prambanan “Valley of the Kings”

the main Yogya – Solo highway slices through a plain that is literally littered with ancinet ruins
To the east of Yogyakarta. past the airport, the main Yogya – Solo highway slices through a plain that is literally littered with ancinet ruins. Because these candis are considered by the Javanese to be royal mausoleums, this region is known by them as the “Valley of the kings” or the “Balley of the Dead.” In the centre of the plain, 17 kms (10,5 miles) from Yogya, lies the small toen of Prambanan, and a sign at one intersection points north along a rutted road towards a major temple complex of the same name. For many, this is the finest monument in Java. Prambanan was completed sometimes around 856, to commemorate the victory of Sanjaya’s Sivaitic descendant, Rakai Pikatan, over the last Sailendran ruler of Central Java, Balaputra (who fled to Sumatera and became the ruler od Sriwijaya). It was deserted wiyhin a few years of its completion, however, and eventually collapsed. Preparations for the restoration of the central tem[le began in 1918, work started in 1937, and it was completed only in 1953.
The central courtyard of the complex contains eight buildings. The three largest are arrayed north to south, the magnificent 47 metre (155 foot) central os Siva temple, flanked on either side by slightly smalller shrines dedicated to Vishnu (to the north_ and Brahma (to the south). Opposite these, to the east, are three smaller temples which contained the “vehicles” of each god, Siva’s bull (nandi), Brahma’s gander (hamsa) and Vishnu’s sun bird (garuda). Only nandi remains. by the northern and southern gates of the central compound are two identical court temples, standing 16 metres (52,5 feet) high.
The larges temple, the masterpiece dedicated to Siva, is also known as Loro Jonggrang (Slender Maiden), a folk name so,etimes given to the temple complex as a whole. Local legend has it that Loro Jonggrang was a princess wooed by an unwanted suitor. She commanded the man to build a temple in one night, and then frustated his nearly successful effort by pounding the rice mortar, prematurely announcing the dwan. Enraged, he turned the maiden to stone, and according to the tale, she remains here in the northern chamber of the temple – as a statue of  Siva’s consort, Durga. In the other three chambers are statue of : Agastya, the “Divine Teacher” (facing south); Ganesa, Siva’s elephant – headed son (facing west); and a 3 metre (10 foot) figure of Siva (in the central chamber, facing east).
One aspect of Loro Jonggrang’s appeal is her glorious symmetry and graceful proportions, Another is her wealth of sculptural detail. On the base of the main terrace are the so called ‘Prambanan Motifs’ – little lions in niches, franked by trees of life bearing a lively menagerie of endearing animals.
Above these, on the outer balustrade, are panels of celestial beings and 62 scenes from the classical Indian dance manuel, the Natyasastra. Finallt on the inner walls of the balustrade, beginning from the eastern gate and proceeding aorund clockwise, the wonderfully vital and utterly engrossing tale of the Ramayana is told in bas – relief (and completed on the balustrade of the Brahma temple). The movement within each panel is free flowing, filled with fascinating detail. Even the most tumultuous scenes contain lovingly rendered touches – monkeys in a fruit tree, birds raiding a granary, a kitchen scenes. Prambanan’s beauty and variety demand more than a single visit.
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