We had one, big temple-filled day in Yogyakarta! After spending the morning at Candi Borobudur, we were able to escape the heat and relax a bit back at the hotel, before heading out in the late afternoon to visit the Prambanan temple. While Borobudur is a Buddhist temple, Prambanan offers a great contrast as it is a Hindu temple. It was interesting to see how the two temples were treated so differently largely due to their different heritages. Prambanan is the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia and also one of the biggest in southeast Asia. Being there in the late afternoon seemed to be a good time to go, the complex wasn’t too busy and the heat had already started to disapate.
The temple was constructed in the mid 9th century; however less than a hundred years later, because of a geographical shift of the royal court, the temple was abandoned and began to deteriorate. In the 1600s the temple collapsed due to an earthquake.
Although it was “discovered” by colonists in the early 1800s, reconstruction didn’t happen until the 1930s. By that time parts of the temple had been taken away by local and colonists alike for construction and decoration purposes. Because of this, they decided to only reconstruct each structure if at least 75% of the original stones were still available.
Regardless, what has been reconstructed of the temple complex is impressive. The main structure is 47m tall, and there is still plenty to explore. The reliefs on the temple walls tell the story of Hindu legend Ramayana; the heroic tale and struggle of Prince Rama to save his wife when she is kidnapped by the demon king Ravana.
With Prambanan in the background, you can regularly attend open-air performances of the Ramayana Ballet in the evenings. Prior to the performance there is a buffet dinner served (at an extra cost) where you can see the temple lit up. The performance itself is in a stone amphitheatre and features one of the four chapters from the Ramayana epic. You can see below we had the bad luck of attending on a rainy evening! But they distribute free umbrellas as well as seat cushions, so we were comfortable enough. I really felt for the poor dancers though who must have been getting soaked!
It was not what I would have typically called ballet from the European sense, but it was a very captivating dance performance nonetheless. It’s a bit slower paced but with amazingly intricate hand and feet movements that I found mesmerizing. It was a fun extra experience on top of exploring the temple.