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Yogyakarta, or short Yogya is one of the two still excisting traditional royal cities of Central Jawa; the other is Solo. The city is in the centre of a wide belt of fertile ricefields, which are dominated in the north by the smouldering Gunung Merapi ('Mount Merapi'), and in the south is limited because of the rough Indian Ocean.

Candi Sewu
One of the many temples near Yogyakarta

Candi Sewu is an 8th-century Buddhist temple located 800 meters north of Prambanan in Central Java. Candi Sewu is actually the second largest Buddhist Temple in Central Java after Borobudur. Candi Sewu predates "Loro Jonggrang". Although originally only around 257 temples are present, the name in Javanese translates to 'a thousand temples,' which originated from popular local folklore; The Legend of Loro Jonggrang.


Based on the inscription in 792 AD which was found in 1960, the original name of the temple complex was probably “Manjus’ri grha” (The House of Manjusri). Manjusri is one of Boddhisatva in Buddhist teaching. Sewu Temple was probably built in the 8th century at the end of Rakai Panangkaran administration. Rakai Panangkaran (746 – 784 AD) was a popular King from the Mataram Kingdom. The temple probably expanded and completed during Rakai Pikatan's rule, a Sanjaya dynasty prince whom married to a Buddhist princess of Sailendra dynasty, Pramodhawardhani. Most of his subject retained their old religion after the return of Sanjaya dynasty.
Picture: Sewu temple
The fact that this temple was built near Prambanan Temple which is Hindu Temple indicated that the Hindus and Buddhist lived in harmony in ancient Java. The grand scale of temple complex suggested Candi Sewu as a Royal Buddhist Temple and was one of the important religious activity centers in the past. The temple is located on Prambanan valley span between southern slopes of Merapi volcano in the north and Sewu mountain range in the south, near the present border Yogyakarta province and Klaten Regency, Central Java. The valley houses many archaeological sites scattered only a few miles away, suggested that this area was an important religious, political, and urban center.

The temple was severely damaged during the earthquake in Java in 2006. The structural damage is significant and central temple suffer 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, the metal frame structures were erected on four corners and attached to support the main temple. Although some weeks later in 2006 the site were re-opened for visitors, the whole part of main temple remains off-limits for safety reasons.

The temple complex

The temple complex is the largest Buddhist compound in the Prambanan area, with rectangular grounds that measure 185 meter north-south and 165 meter east-west. The entrance is found on all four cardinal points, however judging from the layout of the temple complex, the main entrance is located on the east side. Each of the entrances were guarded by twin Dvarapala statues. This large guardian statues have been better preserved and replicas can be found at Jogja Kraton.

There are a total of 257 buildings in the complex arranged in a Mandala pattern around the central main hall as an expression of the view of the universe of Mahayana Buddhism. The smaller temples are consist of 248 temples with similar design and arranged in four rectangular concentric rows. Two outer rows are arranged closer and consists of 176 smaller temples, while two inner rows are arranged in certain interval and consist of 72 slightly larger temples than the outer ones.
The 248 temples that are located in the second precinct all were made with a square frame but varied by different statues and orientations. Many of these statues are now gone and the arrangements on the current site are not in the original orientations. The statues are comparable to the statues of Borobudur and were likely made of bronze.

Along the north-south and east-west central axis at a distance of about 200 meter, between 2nd and 3rd row of smaller temple are located the perwara (vanguard) temples, a couple on each cardinal points facing each other. The perwara temples are the second largest ones after the main temple, however only eastern twin perwara temples and one northern perwara temples still remains today. These smaller temples encompass a larger sanctuary that has been heavily looted. Behind the 4th row of smaller temples lies the stone paved courtyard where the main temple stood on the center.

The main temple

The main temple has a cross-like 20 corners polygon ground plan, with 29 meters in diameter and it soars up to 30 meters high. On each four cardinal points of main temple, projected outward structures each with its own stairs and entrances into each rooms and crowned with stupas, thus formed a cross-like layout. All of the structures made of the andesite stones. This four rooms are all connected with outer corner galleries with balustrades.
From the findings during reconstruction process, the original design of central sanctuary was only consist of single roomed temple. It was later surrounded by four additional structures. Doorways were later constructed as to join the temples together into one main building with five rooms. The central chamber can be reached from eastern room.

The central chamber is larger than other rooms with higher roof. Now all the five rooms are empty. However the lotus carved stone padestal in central chamber suggested that the temple once contains large bronze Buddhist statue, probably reaching 4 meters tall. Now the statue is missing, probably being looted for scrap metal over centuries.

Location map of Candi Sewu

All text in this article is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License
Last revised on December 19, 2009
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