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|Prambanan Temples: Why Lovers are Discouraged to Visit|
(25-Feb-2003) | Readers Say
When I was in my final year of sekolah menengah (secondary school) in Malaysia, we were all required to take up history classes in which the textbook used was entitled Sejarah Malaysia (Malaysian History). The very first chapter in the book was called Tamadun Awal Asia Tenggara (The Early Civilizations of Southeast Asia) and although my memory served me poorly during exams when it came to regurgitating the facts out onto paper, the section on the great candi or temples left behind by our forefathers (and foremothers!) was one I remembered most.
The two famous temples mentioned in the chapter were (Buddhist) Candi Borobudur in Java and (Hindu) Candi Angkor Wat in Cambodia. I suppose in an attempt to show us students that Malaysia was also once host to thriving ancient temples, Hindu ones in Lembah Bujang located in northern state Kedah were presented to us as part of this historical study in Chapter 1.
Because no pictures of Lembah Bujang was printed in the book, it never left an impression on me and till this very day I know not if this place is as magnificent as the Borobudur or Angkor Wat; there is even no mention of which kerajaan or government built this series of temples, and as far as Malaysian tourism goes, Lembah Bujang rarely comes to mind.
This article was not written to complement our shortage of knowledge on Lembah Bujang, however; I am here to speak of another grand ancient temple and historical site that failed to make it into our Malaysian history textbooks: the magnificent temple complex of Prambanan located in Jogjakarta, central Java, Indonesia. (Perhaps Malaysia was envious of Indonesia for having all the cool old temples that it decided to omit this particular one from our history learning. After all, Borobudur Temple was already in the book...!)
It was only until I entered university and started reading more on Indonesia's tourist attractions that the name Prambanan became familiar to me. During a recent trip to the region where the Prambanan temples stand proud and tall, I discovered fascinating myths and legends as well as hardcore facts about these temples which make the place seem more than just a group of old holy stone buildings standing together.
Although given the choice, I would have wanted to go visit Borobudur (again) as well. Perhaps another time.
Sure enough, the drive to Candi Prambanan, which is also sometimes refered to as Candi Loro Jonggrang, took about fifteen minutes from our hotel near Jalan Malioboro. We took the highway out of Jogja that heads east out to neighboring city Solo and there is definitely no way you can get lost trying to find the place; you'll see the shrines on your left from at least a kilometre away!
After paying for parking fee and swiftfully parking the car in the allocated lot, we streamed out of the vehicle only to be greeted by a preteen boy who came up and waved at us what looked like pieces of paper stapled together to form a sort of booklet. Apparently he was selling brochures containing stories and facts on the Prambanan temple. There were three different booklets to choose from:
The booklets, which are written in Bahasa Indonesia, only cost Rp.1000 a piece, so Evi bought all three for my bedtime-reading, much to the boy's delight. I take it we were the first people to buy the booklets from him that day.
To get into the temples, one must purchase karcis masuk (entrance ticket) which costs Rp.6000 (RM2.60) a piece. We bought seven and into the temple area we went...!
There is just something about visiting ancient sites, especially large, intricately-designed ones such as the Prambanan temples, that will make you gape silently in awe. From about 300 metres away from the entrance to the temples, I was already star-struck.
While the main temples have been rebuilt through vigorous and expensive restoration efforts by the Dutch and later on continued by the Indonesia government in the last century, the smaller ones are yet to be reconstructed. So all you'll see of these smaller temples are piles of big rubbles and stones around Prambanan.
What is astounding is that when the big Prambanan temples were being restored, the engineers and architects had no plans or diagrams of the temple design to work with, so each block of stone was painstakingly put together through a trial and error process...! Each block of stone is like a puzzle piece, which when assembled properly will interlock with one another to form the base for the next layer of blocks. The stones are undoubtedly reinforced with cement and steel to maximize its duration of perfect existance until the next restoration efforts.
The reconstruction of Prambanan went on well into the 1990s when the last of the large temple, Candi Wisnu, was completed; it was then officially launched by President Soehartoe on 27 April 1991.
Dark brown sand floors the temple grounds with a few trees scarcely planted in the compound to provide cool shades for visitors. The area is very clean for Indonesian standards, as it should be for a holy place and tourist attraction.
Afixed to the pointy peaks of each Prambanan temple was a long thin rod of metal about 1-2 meters in length. Attached to this rod and running down the sides of the temple walls was a long metal wire whose end was firmly lodged into the ground and out of public access. Being a tropical country, Indonesia gets it fair share of thunderstorm weathers, therefore the metal rods on the temples acted as lightning grounders for everyone's safety.
We decided to enter the first and largest temple we saw, Candi Shiwa (or Shiva Mahadeva). After walking around I realized that beautifully sculptured on the stone walls were figures and characters of Hindu influence.
Because each scene on these stone walls presented a storyline, we decided to hire a tour guide to take us around and tell us the gist of the carvings' stories in each temple. Having a tour guide made the visit to Prambanan more meaningful and educational. It's not very expensive if everyone in your group chips in a few thousand rupiahs.
Women, men, slim Hindu towers, and the Ramayana epic
Mas Tourist Guide informs us that the characters and scenes in these temple walls were taken from the famous Hindu epic, Ramayana. As we ooh-ed and aah-ed at each temple and story, we also enjoyed the windy breeze that blew playfully between the buildings, especially when we got to the top of the stairs in each temple. Enak deh.
One way you can distinguish Hindu temples from Buddhist ones is by its width and height. While Buddhist temple Candi Borobudur (located about an hour away from Prambanan) is wide and short, Candi Prambanan stands narrow and tall.
As I admired the statues engraved in the Prambanan walls, our Mas Tourist Guide tells us that it's very hard to differentiate the male from the female characters since they were all designed to look similar. He also made a cheeky gesture by cupping his hands on the breasts of one of the stone women and indicated that the women were always portrayed topless back in the day! We girls blushed and cleared our throats awkwardly while the guys chuckled with possibly private visions in their minds. Ampun deh...
We were also spared this one belief that the Hindus had in regards to women (which I believe many world cultures hold as well). Women are considered both poison and medicine; when they break a man's heart, they are "poison" but women are also "medicine" to the heart and once you have their love, life's a heaven. Talk about double standards, the madu (honey) and racun (poison) analogy of female existance!
In each large temple there are statues of various Hindu gods and goddesses known for posessing unique special powers to maintain the peace and life-cycles of the universe. For example in the Shiwa Temple, the elephant-headed god of Ganesha sits silently in the dark, musky chamber of the temple. There Ganesha is depicted with his trunk placed in a bowl in his left hand. According to Hindu beliefs, Ganesha is the god of knowledge and the trunk in the bowl represents his never-ending thirst for knowledge.
Just a day before visiting Prambanan, I was having this conversation with my friend Iin. She started it off by saying:
"Kalau elo mau jalan-jalan di Prambanan jangan bawa pacar donk, katanya nanti bakal putus!"
Iin grinned broadly after finishing her sentence, showing off her pearly whites which glistened faintly in the afternoon sun. A giggle escaped from her mouth as she saw my bewildered expression.
Apparently, according to Iin and many other Indonesians who believe this, the temple complex of Prambanan carries an infamous curse which supposedly is casted upon its lovebird-visitors. Legend has it that if you visit the temple with your boyfriend or girlfriend, you and your lover will breakup shortly after.
Intrigued by Iin's statement, I then asked:
"Masa sih? Kok bisa?" (Really? How come?)
Iin replies: "Tauk deh, memang gitu ceritanya, nggak ngerti juga kenapa" (I don't know, that's just the way the story goes, I don't quite understand why)
Ironically, she, along with my other friends, were planning to visit Prambanan with their loved ones! Dasar.
Luckily the answer to my question surfaced after I bought one of those cheap booklets from the boy in the parking lot when we first arrived at the temple site (and of course after our Prambanan tourist guide gave us the explaination). This is where the legend of Putri Loro Jonggrang and Bandung Bondowoso comes into the picture...
So legend has it that there were two Hindu kingdoms in Java who were not at peace with each other: Pengging and Boko. The prosperous Pengging government is led by a wise king named Prabu Damar Moyo who has a son named Bandung Bondowoso. Let's just call this father-son couple Damar and Bandung.
Meanwhile Pengging's rival kingdom, keraton Boko, is governed by Prabo Boko who has a beautiful young daughter named Loro Jonggrang (whose name translates to "Slender Virgin"). King Boko here is basically interested in beating the crap, if you will, out of Pengging state and wants to take over the entire land. Boko then declares war on Pengging in which Boko wins.
Humiliated and seeking revenge for his kingdom's defeat, Damar sends his son Bandung over to Boko and instructs him to kill Boko, which Bandung successfully does.
And of course, what's a war story without some love elements, ey? Bandung then lays his eyes on the daughter of his father's enemy, Loro Jonggrang and immediately falls in love with her delicate beauty. Most peculiarly, Bandung decides to propose Loro Jonggrang to be his wife.
Loro Jonggrang did what every woman would have done if father's killer just proposed marriage to her: REJECT, of course! Duh, whatever was Bandung thinking? Hehe.
Seeing that Bandung was desperate for her love and would do anything for her, Loro Jonggrang, the smart and cunning woman she was, decides to play Bandung up and struck two deals with the lovesick man.
First, she told Bandung to enter a sumur (water well), which he willingly did. Loro Jonggrang then immediately instructed the royal raksasa (monster) named Patih Gupolo to fill the well with big stones to block Bandung's entry out.
Leaving Bandung for dead, Loro Jonggrang went on her merry way, only to be disappointed when he manages to escape his well prison via some meditating (thank goodness the criminals in our city jails have not mastered this escape technique yet). Because he was too in love with the princess, he forgives her for her murder attempt and decides to grant Loro Jonggrang her second wish.
"Build me 1000 temples in 1 night!"
Loro Jonggrang demanded that Bandung build her a thousand temples in one night before dawn breaks. If the task is completed within the time frame given, only then will she agree to marry the dude. So through magical powers, Bandung summons a bunch of jins or genies and to work on building these temples they did.
Not wanting to lose out on a bet with some crazy guy who just killed her daddy, Loro Jonggrang then sought the help of the women of her land and told them to start pounding rice and burning the jerami or dried paddy stalks to simulate the rising of the morning sun. And indeed the plan worked, the crows were fooled and started crowing, announcing the arrival of morning.
Seeing the artificially lit-up horizon, the jins stopped their construction of the 1000 temples, and as luck might have it, they were short of building just one temple.
Of course. How convenient.
Only 999 temples...
"Hai Loro Jonggrang, candi kurang satu dan genapnya seribu engkaulah orangnya!"
(Hey Loro Jonggrang, the temples are all here but one, and you shall be the one thousandth!)
Before Loro Jonggrang knew what hit her, she has been turned into a stone statue. If stones had thoughts, I bet Loro Jonggrang was thinking: "Great, I was just made an orphan when Dad got killed, and now here I am, a piece of freakin' cold stone...curses indeed!"
Not only did Loro Jonggrang suffer from this wretched curse, but the women who helped her pull the wool over Bandung's eyes were cursed to live the lives of old maids (perawan tua) till kingdom come.
(Moral of the story: Don't mess with a guy who knows a thing or two about magic and curses!)
The statue of Loro Jonggrang still stands in the Candi Shiwa of Prambanan. To the Javanese Hindus, Loro Jonggrang is also Durga, the Hindu 8-armed goddess of kematian or death.
It is because of this Loro Jonggrang-Bandung Bondowosono legend that people believe that whomever visits the Prambanan Temple with their lovers will sacrifice the relationship.
Believe it or not...?
After hearing this Loro Jonggrang story and wrapping up our exploration of Prambanan, we left the premises feeling very pleased and satisfied with the day's activities. In true spirit of superstitution, we washed our feet upon arriving back at our hotel from Prambanan. This was suppose to rid us of any spirits that might have 'followed' us out of the temple area. Spooky...!
So, do you believe this Loro Jonggrang myth? More relevantly, do I believe it? Well...
During our touring session in the temple ground, I witnessed two of our friends, who were a couple, getting into a heated argument over something quite petty. Emotions were running alarmingly high that day with those two but all was well after that.
On another incident, however, which took place one week after our visit to Prambanan, Iin (who had first warned me about this love-breakup myth) and her boyfriend (who also accompanied us to visit Prambanan) broke up! Truth or coincidence? You decide...!
Photos: Fairy, Epigo & Iin
1. Our tourist guide at the Prambanan Temple (1-Jan-2003)
2. The pink booklet I bought for Rp.1000 from a boy at the Prambanan entrance. View Cover
3. Insight Guide Indonesia Apa Publications GmbH & Co. (2001)
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|WHAT READERS SAY ABOUT Prambanan Temples: Why Lovers are Discouraged to Visit:|
#21. salam kenal
Posted by ahaes on 16-Dec-2006, 19:36 MYT
#20. Hoooo, it was a spooky temple, sereeem, patungnya serem kayak jin, hiii, jangan kesana tau...
#19. NINTA: Terima kasih; kamu baik deh.
#18. Fairy...saya suka banget sama bahasa indonesia kamu. U used it promptly.
#17. asyik,but bahasanya asing sih....
#16. hai farah,
#15. Wah asik banget cerita fai kali ini. Aku juga udah ke Borobudur tapi tak kesempatan tuk ke Prambanan.
#14. Im: Buddha tu ada dlm the dome shaped candi. One have to stretch their hands through d small holes in order to touch the shoulder. For me, masukkan tangan aja dah tersentuh, manakala my friends cuba punya cuba pun tak kesampaian juga.
#13. uiks.. ye ke kurt.. sentuh that patung leh dpt jodoh?
#12. i like the travel stories. as if fairy brought me to the place. also, your new pic looks so cool (the one sitting at dragon's back- is that a dragon?)
#11. nurull: Jodoh as in pacar, sweetheart, yayang.. not necessarily jodoh utk perkahwinan...kalo ia pun, apa salahnya kan? kan? kan? Hehehehehehehe...
#10. kurt dah dapat jodoh?? alhamdulillah..tapi siapa yach?? he he he
#9. Interesting juga psl Prambanan.. tak kesampaian pula kesana but I did went to Brobudur.. tapi menurut my friend, sesiapa yng manage to touch d budhha's shoulder akan dpt jodoh.. which I did try n somehow was true...coincidence? Mebbe perhaps or mmg dah tertulis..
#8. Bandung and Loro legend is kinda similar to our own Puteri Gunung Ledang dont u think? Cept for that Bandung dude, what was he thinking ?? asking for the girl's hand after he killed her father.. sadis betul..
#7. CIA, wow that article that woman wrote (the 2nd link) is so true..! I wanted to write something similar but never got around to it but she summed it up very nicely! All of it deh. "Serupa tapi tak sama."
#6. CIA kan I've been to Borobudur tapi doeloeeee banget hehe. Ya daripada I miss out on seeing something I haven't seen before, I believe my decision to visit Prambanan was the right one. Don't worry, I'm just purposely making excuses to go back to Jogja..!
#5. as a moslem, we should take lin's case as a coincidence tat has been fated by Allah. so lutfi, no worries..just go ahead with ur plan..he he!~
#4. hmm somehow my message didn't turn out as how I expected. ada 2 Link yang berurutan disitu.
#3. waaaaaa fairy !.. still can't believe you didn't go to borobudur!! the official landmark of Indonesia, second to none. Many people believe that it's one of the seven wonders of the world. But I guess you've considered that already yah?. hehe next time lah fai .. jangan sampe kelewatan lagi.
#2. lutfi the prambanan curse doesnt work for married couples kot, becoz ppl always say jangan "pacaran" kat situ, not "jangan bawak bini" hehe.
#1. aiseh.. tringin nak gi prambanan.. ingatkan bole la honeymoon kat situ.. he he.. tapi tak leh la gamaknye.. hmm..
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