Java is an island of rich natural beauty and cultural heritage. Though technically Muslim, the island’s religious beliefs are influenced greatly by a mix of Hinduism, Buddhism, and indigenous animism. This spiritual melting pot is evidenced by the temples and holy sites that dot the landscape of the island. From the famed Borobudur temple to the majestic Mount Bromo, exploring the temples of Java is a must for any visit to Indonesia.
The island of Java has many sites and attractions worth visiting. Leafcanoer, Nina, shared some of her recent experiences in Java in her leaf, Java’s Temples and Natural Wonders. Below are highlights of the major attractions on the island of Java.
The Borobudur temple is a Buddhist temple on the outskirts of Yogyakarta. Labeled as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and considered the world’s largest Buddhist temple, the Borobudur temple was built in the 9th century during the Sailendra Dynasty. The structure of the temple consists of six square platforms, with three circular platforms at the top. Over 500 Buddha statues adorn the temple, as well as over 2,000 relief panels depicting the life of Buddha and everyday scenes of life in Indonesia at the time.
The temple was once a widely used place of worship, but declined in use by the late 14th century, when Islam came to the island of Java. The Borobudur temple disappeared into the forest until the early 1800’s when it was rediscovered by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. Since then, the Borobudur temple has undergone several restorations, and was eventually listed as a World Heritage Site in the 1980’s.
The Prambanan temple complex is a Hindu temple compound located near Yogyakarta. Like the Borobudur temple, Prambanan was built in the 9th century and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built to honor the Hindu god, Shiva, Prambanan was used by the ancient Javanese Mataram dynasty as a place of worship. During the 10th century, the center of power in Java shifted to East Java, and Prambanan’s spiritual prominence began to decline. After suffering through an earthquake in the 16th century, the temples fell into disrepair. The true history of the temples became forgotten by the Javanese people, and was replaced by myths involving giants and cursed princesses.
During Dutch colonial rule of Indonesia, Dutch residents would take sculptures from the temple ruins to use as decoration for their home. Although the temples were rediscovered at the same time as the Borobudur temple, restoration of Prambanan did not happen until decades after its rediscovery. These days, although Prambanan may not be as popular a tourist destination as the Borobudur temple, it is definitely worth a visit.
Java is an island steeped in myths and folklore, and the stories surrounding Mount Bromo, are abundant. Mount Bromo is an active volcano located in East Java. Known for its spectacular views, Mount Bromo is a popular tourist attraction for those who enjoy hiking and the outdoors. Legends surrounding Mount Bromo tell the tale of a childless princess and her husband, who were given 24 children by the gods. In payment of this gift, the gods stipulated that the couple must sacrifice their 25th child, which the couple did. In present day Java, this sacrifice is commemorated by the offering of fruit, rice, and vegetables into the volcano.
From its animist origins, to the Hindu and Buddhist influences, and finally to Islam’s entrance into Javanese culture, the island of Java is certainly a melting pot of spirituality. For any visitor to Indonesia, exploring the temples of Java, both natural and man-made, are what makes the island worth visiting. For more inspiration about Java’s temples and natural wonders on LeafCanoe, as well as other travel ideas, download the LeafCanoe app.