Everyone knows about the effects of Hinduism in Bali, but what will surprise most is that the Prambanan temple is the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia and it is located not in Bali, but in Central Java. It is also one of the biggest temples in South East Asia after Angkor Wat. Built in the 9th century, the Prambanan temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is located just outside Yogyakarta in Indonesia’s Central Java.
This temple dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma (the Trimurti) resembles most South Indian temples with a typical gopuram like architecture. It is part of an original set of 240 temples that include 3 Trimurti temples, 3 Vahana temples dedicated to Nandi, Garuda and Hamsa, 2 Apit temples, 4 Kelir temples, 4 patok temples and 224 Pervara temples.
Today, 8 of the main temples, 8 smaller shrines and 2 out of the original 224 Pervara temples exist. And to see these temples, one needs to walk in between sunrise to sunset and the entry fee for a foreign national is 171,000 rupiah or USD 17. It is a quite a steep entry fee, but if you have time at hand, you will be able to explore this temple properly, including some of the smaller and untouched shrines, but I doubt if you will make full use of the entry fee. If you are wearing short clothes, the temple will provide you with a sarong to uphold the temple’s modesty rules.
The best way to reach this temple is to hire your own motorbike or car and explore the temple complex at your own leisure. There are regular bus services too from Yogyakarta. The best time to visit this temple is around sunset time, when the sun casts a golden glow across the entire complex. I was here during sunset too, but unfortunately for me it was a cloudy evening.
One of the main things to see while visiting this temple on a full moon night is the Ramayana ballet, a traditional Javanese dance performed on the west side of the temple and across the Opak river. Personally, I haven’t seen this Ramayana show, but have heard good reviews about it.
Most of the Shiva temple is still off limits for the visitors due to safety reasons and the parts that are allowed to visit are under strict supervision. In whatever part of the Shiva temple that you can explore you will see stories of Ramayana carved on the inner walls, which you will understand properly if you see it in a clock wise sequence.
While the Shiva temple is the largest, the other temples are equally beautiful. The Vahanas of the 3 main Hindu gods also have large temples dedicated to them. These temples are quite unique to Prambanan as even Hindu temples in India do not have such large temples for the Vahanas.