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Notes on the Geography of Indonesia: Prambanan et al

The countryside around Yogyakarta has been producing mountains of rice for a long time, and Borobudur is not the only proof of it. There are other structures nearby, and, over on the other side of Yogyakarta, a great many Hindu temples, a reminder of the rivalry on Java between these two religions before both were marginalized by Islam.

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Indonesia: Prambanan et al picture 1

Within a mile of Borobudur is Candi (pronounced "chandi" and meaning temple) Pawon, empty inside.

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On the outside, handsome and well-preserved kinnaras. They're minor deities, usually shown as half-bird, half-human, and musicians by trade.

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Also close by, the Candi Mendut. Inside, there are three large statues.

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The Buddha, shown in a Western-style sitting position, which is unusual.

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Next to him, Lokesvara, the Compassionate Buddha.

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On the other side, Vairapana, or Vairocana, the teaching Buddha.

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The interior of the temple shows a corbelling technique reminiscent of Angkor (Cambodia).

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East of Yogyakarta, and on the main road to Surakarta, there are many Hindu temples at Prambanan. The biggest is the Candi Shiva Mahadeva, which rises 150 feet. Destroyed by a 16th century earthquake, the temple and its neighbors were rebuilt about 1940, but plenty of spare blocks lie about.

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Shiva Mahadeva is flanked by smaller temples to Brahma and Vishnu. Unlike Borobudur, which invites climbers, these temples keep pilgrims at a distance.

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Kala looms over the entrances. Kala was a jawless monster who had tasted the elixir of immortality: he was beheaded--losing his jaw in the process--but did not die. Instead, garlands spew from his mouth, representing the elixir he had tasted. Passing under him signifies entering the domain of immortality. For comparison with other representations, see Cambodia: Roluos 8 or Indonesia: Borobudur 8.

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Makaras border the stairs and disgorge a lion that disgorges garlands.

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Inside the Shiva temple, Shiva is shown in human form and standing on a lotus, an unusual combination but a reminder of the co-existence here of Hinduism and Buddhism.

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In the north entrance of the temple, Shiva's wife Parvati, here in the incarnation of Durga, is shown killing the buffalo demon.

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On the western side, their son Ganesh.

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Facing his master but in his own temple, the bull Nandi.

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Next to Shiva, Vishnu stands in his own temple.

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On Shiva's other side, Brahma stands in his own temple.

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Half a mile away, the Candi Sewu.

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The temple is bordered by makaras with especially fine trunks.

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Inside, there are now-empty sculpture niches reminiscent of European and Middle Eastern arches.

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Two miles west of Prambanan, this is Candi Sanbisari, another Hindu temple. It was only discovered in 1966, when a bit of it was accidentally unearthed. Notice the surrounding paddy fields, which lie about 20 feet higher than the temple: in the 1,200 years since its construction, volcanic debris has literally buried the land that was worked to support the temple.

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The entrance to the shrine: makaras form balustrades.

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Close-up.

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A kala grins over a Ganesh.

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Inside, a burnished lingam rises from the encircling yoni.


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