Candi of Indonesia

Last updated
Buddha in an open stupa and the main stupa of Borobudur in the background. Stupa Borobudur.jpg
Buddha in an open stupa and the main stupa of Borobudur in the background.

A candi (pronounced  [tʃandi] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen )) is a Hindu or Buddhist temple in Indonesia, mostly built during the Zaman Hindu-Buddha or "Hindu-Buddhist period" between circa the 4th and 15th centuries. [1]


The Great Dictionary of the Indonesian Language of the Language Center defines a candi as an ancient stone building used for worship, or for storing the ashes of cremated Hindu or Buddhist kings and priests. [2] Indonesian archaeologists describe candis as sacred structures of Hindu and Buddhist heritage, used for religious rituals and ceremonies in Indonesia. [3] However, ancient secular structures such as gates, urban ruins, pools and bathing places are often called candi too, while a shrine that specifically serves as a tomb is called a cungkup. [1]

In Hindu Balinese architecture, the term candi refers to a stone or brick structure of single-celled shrine with portico, entrance and stairs, topped with pyramidal roof and located within a pura . It is often modeled after East Javanese temples, and functions as a shrine to a certain deity. To the Balinese, a candi is not necessarily ancient, since candis continue to be (re-)built within these puras, such as the reconstructed temple in Alas Purwo, Banyuwangi. [4]

In contemporary Indonesian Buddhist perspective, candi also refers to a shrine, either ancient or new. Several contemporary viharas in Indonesia for example, contain the actual-size replica or reconstruction of famous Buddhist temples, such as the replica of Pawon [5] and Plaosan's perwara (small) temples. In Buddhism, the role of a candi as a shrine is sometimes interchangeable with a stupa, a domed structure to store Buddhist relics or the ashes of cremated Buddhist priests, patrons or benefactors. Borobudur, Muara Takus and Batujaya for example are actually elaborate stupas.

In modern Indonesian language, the term candi can be translated as "temple" or similar structure, especially of Hindu and Buddhist faiths. Thus temples of Cambodia (such as the Angkor Wat), Champa (Central and Southern Vietnam), Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and India are also called candi in Indonesian.


Prambanan temple compound. The towering candi prasada (temple towers) are believed to represent the cosmic Mount Meru, the abode of gods. Prambanan Complex 1.jpg
Prambanan temple compound. The towering candiprasada (temple towers) are believed to represent the cosmic Mount Meru, the abode of gods.

Candi refers to a structure based on the Indian type of single-celled shrine, with a pyramidal tower above it, and a portico. [7] The term Candi is given as a prefix to the many temple-mountains in Indonesia, built as a representation of the Cosmic Mount Meru, an epitome of the universe. However, the term also applied to many non-religious structures dated from the same period, such as gapura (gates), petirtaan (pools) and some of habitation complexes. Examples of non-temple candis are the Bajang Ratu and Wringin Lawang gates of Majapahit. The "Candi Tikus bathing pool" in Trowulan and Jalatunda in Mount Penanggungan slopes, as well as the remnants of non-religious habitation and urban structures such as Ratu Boko and some of Trowulan city ruins, are also considered candi.

In ancient Java, a temple was probably originally called prāsāda (Sanskrit: प्रासाद), as evidence in the Manjusrigrha inscription (dated from 792 CE), that mentioned "Prasada Vajrasana Manjusrigrha" to refer to the Sewu temple. [8] :89 This term is in par with Cambodian and Thai term prasat which refer to the towering structure of a temple.


"Between circa the 7th and 15th centuries, hundred of religious structures were constructed of brick and stone in Java, Sumatra and Bali. These are called candi. The term refers to other pre-Islamic structures including gateways and even bathing places, but its principal manifestation is the religious shrine."

Soekmono, R. "Candi:Symbol of the Universe". [9]

From Hindu perspective, the term candi itself is believed was derived from Candika , one of the manifestations of the goddess Durga as the goddess of death. [10] This suggests that in ancient Indonesia the candi had mortuary functions as well as connections with the afterlife. The association of the name candi, candika or durga with Hindu-Buddhist temples is unknown in India and other parts of Southeast Asia outside of Indonesia, such as Cambodia, Thailand, or Burma.

Another theory from Buddhist perspective, suggested that the term candi might be a localized form of the Pali word cedi (Sanskrit: caitya) — which related to Thai word chedi which refer to a stupa, or it might be related to the Bodhisattva Candī (also known as Cundī or Candā). [11]

Historians suggest that the temples of ancient Java were also used to store the ashes of cremated deceased kings or royalty. This is in line with Buddhist concept of stupas as structures to store Buddhist relics, including the ashes and remains of holy Buddhist priests or the Buddhist king, patrons of Buddhism. The statue of god stored inside the garbhagriha (main chamber) of the temple is often modeled after the deceased king and considered to be the deified person of the king portrayed as Vishnu or Shiva according to the concept of devaraja. The example is the statue of king Airlangga from Belahan temple in Pasuruan portrayed as Vishnu riding Garuda.


Borobudur ground plan taking the form of a Mandala Borobudur Mandala.svg
Borobudur ground plan taking the form of a Mandala

The candi architecture follows the typical Hindu architecture traditions based on Vastu Shastra. The temple layout, especially in Central Java period, incorporated mandala temple plan arrangements and also the typical high towering spires of Hindu temples. The candi was designed to mimic Meru, the holy mountain the abode of gods. The whole temple is a model of Hindu universe according to Hindu cosmology and the layers of Loka. [12]

Structure elements

The Shiva temple Candi Prambanan consist of three ascending realms, temple's base (Bhurloka), body (Bhurvaloka) and roof (Svarloka). Prambanan Cross Section Shiva.svg
The Shiva temple Candi Prambanan consist of three ascending realms, temple's base (Bhurloka), body (Bhurvaloka) and roof (Svarloka).

The candi structure and layout recognize the hierarchy of the zones, spanned from the less holy to the holiest realms. The Indic tradition of Hindu-Buddhist architecture recognize the concept of arranging elements in three parts or three elements. Subsequently, the design, plan and layout of the temple follows the rule of space allocation within three elements; commonly identified as foot (base), body (center), and head (roof). The three zones is arranged according to a sacred hierarchy. Each Hindu and Buddhist concepts has their own terms, but the concept's essentials is identical. Either the compound site plan (horizontally) or the temple structure (vertically) consists of three zones: [13]


Soekmono, an Indonesian archaeologist, has classified the candi styles into two main groups: a central Java style, which predominantly date from before 1,000 CE, and an eastern Java style, which date from after 1,000 CE. He groups the temples of Sumatra and Bali into the eastern Java style. [14]

Candi Bubrah 2019 front crop.jpg
Central Java style
Bubrah temple
Bajang Ratu Gate Trowulan.jpg
Eastern Java style
Bajang Ratu gate
Bubrah temple near Prambanan, an example of Central Javanese style, while Bajang Ratu gate in Trowulan is an example of Eastern Javanese style.
Parts of the templeCentral Java StyleEastern Java Style
Shape of the structureTends to be bulkyTends to be slender and tall
RoofClearly shows stepped roof sections, usually consist of 3 partsThe multiple parts of stepped sections formed a combined roof structure smoothly
PinnacleStupa (Buddhist temples), Ratna or Vajra (Hindu temples)Cube (mostly Hindu temples), sometimes Dagoba cylindrical structures (Buddhist temples)
Portal and niches adornmentKala-Makara style; Kala head without lower jaw opening its mouth located on top of the portal, connected with double Makara on each side of the portalOnly Kala head sneering with the mouth complete with lower jaw located on top of the portal, Makara is absent
ReliefProjected rather high from the background, the images was done in naturalistic styleProjected rather flat from the background, the images was done in stylized style similar to Balinese wayang image
Layout and location of the main templeConcentric mandala, symmetric, formal; with main temple located in the center of the complex surrounded by smaller perwara temples in regular rowsLinear, asymmetric, followed topography of the site; with main temple located in the back or furthermost from the entrance, often located in the highest ground of the complex, perwara temples is located in front of the main temple
DirectionMostly faced eastMostly faced west
MaterialsMostly andesite stoneMostly red brick
Bima temple, one of Dieng temples. It was one of the earliest temples in Java. Candi Bima, Dieng 1179.jpg
Bima temple, one of Dieng temples. It was one of the earliest temples in Java.

There are material, form, and location exceptions to these general design traits. While the Penataran, Jawi, Jago, Kidal and Singhasari temples, for example, belong to the eastern Java group, they use andesite stone similar to the Central Java temple material. Temple ruins in Trowulan, such as Brahu, Jabung and Pari temples use red brick. Also the Prambanan temple is tall and slender similar to the east Java style, yet the roof design is Central Javan in style. The location also do not always correlate with the temple styles, for example Candi Badut is located in Malang, East Java, yet the period and style belongs to older 8th century central Javanese style.

The earlier northern central Java complexes, such as the Dieng temples, are smaller and contain only several temples which exhibit simpler carving, whereas the later southern complexes, such as Sewu temple, are grander, with a richer elaboration of carving, and concentric layout of the temple complex.

The Majapahit period saw the revival of Austronesian megalithic design elements, such stepped pyramids (punden berundak). These design cues are seen in the Sukuh and Cetho temples in Mount Lawu in eastern Central Java, and in stepped sanctuary structures on the Mount Penanggungan slopes that are similar to meso-American stepped pyramids.


Interlocking andesite stone blocks forming a corbeling arch in Borobudur. Billbeee-borob.jpg
Interlocking andesite stone blocks forming a corbeling arch in Borobudur.

Most of well-preserved candi in Indonesia are made from andesite stone. This is mainly owed to the stone's durability, compared to bricks, against tropical weathers and torrential rains. Nevertheless, certain periods, especially the Majapahit era, saw the extensive use of red brick as temple and building materials. The materials commonly used in temple construction in Indonesia are:

Red brick Jabung temple, dated from Majapahit period. Candi Jabung B.JPG
Red brick Jabung temple, dated from Majapahit period.
Traces of worn off vajralepa plaster on Sari's relief. Relief on Sari Temple wall, 2014-04-10 03.jpg
Traces of worn off vajralepa plaster on Sari's relief.

Motif and decoration


Kala-makara on the portal of Borobudur gates, Kala's head on top of the portal and makaras flanking either sides. COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM Poort op de Borobudur TMnr 10015959.jpg
Kala-makara on the portal of Borobudur gates, Kala's head on top of the portal and makaras flanking either sides.

The candis of ancient Java are notable with the application of kala-makara as both decorative and symbolic elements of the temple architecture. Kala is the giant symbolizing time, by making kala's head as temple portals element, it symbolizes that time consumes everything. Kala is also a protective figure, with fierce giant face it scares away malevolent spirits. Makara is a mythical sea monster, the vahana of sea-god Varuna. It has been depicted typically as half mammal and half fish. In many temples the depiction is in the form of half fish or seal with the head of an elephant. It is also shown with head and jaws of a crocodile, an elephant trunk, the tusks and ears of a wild boar, the darting eyes of a monkey, the scales and the flexible body of a fish, and the swirling tailing feathers of a peacock. Both kala and makara are applied as the protective figures of the temple's entrance.

Kala is the giant head, often takes place on top of the entrance with makaras projected on either sides of kala's head, flanking the portal or projecting on the top corner as antefixes. The kala-makara theme also can be found on stair railings on either sides. On the upper part of stairs, the mouth of kala's head projecting makara downward. The intricate stone carving of twin makaras flanking the lower level of stairs, with its curved bodies forming the stair's railings. Other than makaras, kala's head might also project its tongue as stair's railings. These types of stair-decorations can be observed in Borobudur and Prambanan. Makara's trunks are often describes as handling gold ornaments or spouting jewels, while in its mouth often projected Gana dwarf figures or animals such as lions or parrots.


Central Javanese linga-yoni with spout decorated and supported by naga serpent, Yogyakarta 9th century. KITLV 87800 - Isidore van Kinsbergen - Sculpture of a yoni with lingga at Yogyakarta - Before 1900.tif
Central Javanese linga-yoni with spout decorated and supported by nāga serpent, Yogyakarta 9th century.

In ancient Javanese candi, the linga-yoni symbolism was only found in Hindu temples, more precisely those of Shivaist faith. Therefore, they are absent in Buddhist temples. The linga is a phallic post or cylinder symbolic of the god Shiva and of creative power. Some lingas are segmented into three parts: a square base symbolic of Brahma, an octagonal middle section symbolic of Vishnu, and a round tip symbolic of Shiva. The lingas that survive from the Javanese classical period are generally made of polished stone of this shape.

Lingas are implanted in a flat square base with a hole in it, called a yoni, symbolic of the womb and also represents Parvati, Shiva's consort. A yoni usually has a kind of spout, usually decorated with nāga , to help channeled and collects the liquids poured upon linga-yoni during Hindu ritual. As a religious symbol, the function of the linga is primarily that of worship and ritual. Oldest remains of linga-yoni can be found in Dieng temples from earlier period circa 7th century. Originally each temples might have a complete pair of linga-yoni unity. However, most of the times, the linga is missing.

In the tradition of Javanese kingship, certain lingas were erected as symbols of the king himself or his dynasty, and were housed in royal temples in order to express the king's consubstantiality with Shiva. The example is the linga-yoni of Gunung Wukir temple, according to Canggal inscription is connected to King Sanjaya from the Mataram Kingdom, in 654 Saka (732 CE). [17] Other temples that contains complete linga-yoni include Sambisari and Ijo temples. Eastern Javanese temples that contains linga-yoni are Panataran and Jawi temple, although the linga is missing.


Rama killing evil giant, bas-relief of Ramayana on Prambanan temple, Central Java style. COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM Relief op de aan Shiva gewijde tempel op de Candi Lara Jonggrang oftewel het Prambanan tempelcomplex TMnr 10016185.jpg
Rama killing evil giant, bas-relief of Ramayana on Prambanan temple, Central Java style.

The walls of candi often displayed bas-reliefs, either serves as decorative elements as well as to convey religious symbolic meanings; through describing narrative bas-reliefs. The most exquisite of the temple bas-reliefs can be found in Borobudur and Prambanan temples. The first four terrace of Borobudur walls are showcases for bas-relief sculptures. These are exquisite, considered to be the most elegant and graceful in the ancient Buddhist world. [18] The Buddhist scriptures describes as bas-reliefs in Borobudur such as Karmavibhangga (the law of karma), Lalitavistara (the birth of Buddha), Jataka , Avadana and Gandavyuha . While in Prambanan the Hindu scriptures is describes in its bas-relief panels; the Ramayana and Bhagavata Purana (popularly known as Krishnayana).

The bas-reliefs in Borobudur depicted many scenes of daily life in 8th-century ancient Java, from the courtly palace life, hermit in the forest, to those of commoners in the village. It also depicted temple, marketplace, various flora and fauna, and also native vernacular architecture. People depicted here are the images of king, queen, princes, noblemen, courtier, soldier, servant, commoners, priest and hermit. The reliefs also depicted mythical spiritual beings in Buddhist beliefs such as asuras, gods, boddhisattvas, kinnaras, gandharvas and apsaras. The images depicted on bas-relief often served as reference for historians to research for certain subjects, such as the study of architecture, weaponry, economy, fashion, and also mode of transportation of 8th-century Maritime Southeast Asia. One of the famous renderings of an 8th-century Southeast Asian double outrigger ship is Borobudur Ship.

Hanuman battling enemy, bas-relief of Ramayana on Penataran temple, East Java style. Candi Panataran Ramayana Relief, Java 1302.jpg
Hanuman battling enemy, bas-relief of Ramayana on Penataran temple, East Java style.

There are significant distinction of bas-reliefs' style and aesthetics between the Central Javanese period (prior of 1000 CE) and East Javanese period (after 1000 CE). The earlier Central Javanese style, as observable in Borobudur and Prambanan, are more exquisite and naturalistic in style. The reliefs is projected rather high from the background, the images was done in naturalistic style with proper ideal body proportion. On the other hand, the bas-reliefs of Eastern Javanese style is projected rather flat from the background, the images was done in stiffer pose and stylized style, similar to currently Balinese wayang images. The East Javanese style is currently preserved in Balinese art, style and aesthetics in temple bas-reliefs, also wayang shadow puppet imagery, as well as the Kamasan painting.


Kalpataru and Kinnaras

Kinnara (male), Kinnari (female), Apsara, and Devata guarding Kalpataru, the divine tree of life. 8th century Pawon temple, Java, Indonesia. Kalpataru, Kinnara-Kinnari, Apsara-Devata, Pawon Temple.jpg
Kinnara (male), Kinnari (female), Apsara , and Devata guarding Kalpataru , the divine tree of life. 8th century Pawon temple, Java, Indonesia.

The images of coupled Kinnara and Kinnari can be found in Borobudur, Mendut, Pawon, Sewu, Sari, and Prambanan temples. Usually, they are depicted as birds with human heads, or humans with lower limbs of birds. The pair of Kinnara and Kinnari usually is depicted guarding Kalpataru (Kalpavriksha), the tree of life, and sometimes guarding a jar of treasure. There are bas-relief in Borobudur depicting the story of the famous kinnari, Manohara.

The lower outer wall of Prambanan temples were adorned with row of small niche containing image of simha (lion) flanked by two panels depicting bountiful kalpataru (kalpavriksha) tree. These wish-fulfilling sacred trees according to Hindu-Buddhist beliefs, is flanked on either side by kinnaras or animals, such as pairs of birds, deer, sheep, monkeys, horses, elephants etc. The pattern of lion in niche flanked by kalpataru trees is typical in Prambanan temple compound, thus it is called as "Prambanan panel".

Boddhisattva and Tara

A Bodhisattva flanked by two Taras in Sewu temple. 032 Bodhisattva (28838460175).jpg
A Bodhisattva flanked by two Taras in Sewu temple.

In Buddhist temples, the panels of bas-reliefs usually adorned with exquisite images of male figure of Bodhisattvas and female figure of Taras , along with Gandarvas heavenly musicians, and sometimes the flock of Gana dwarfs. These are the deities and divinities in Buddhist beliefs, which resides in the Tushita heaven in Buddhism cosmology.

Bodhisattvas are usually depicted as handsome man with peaceful and serene facial expression, adorned with luxurious jewelry akin to a king or a deity. While the Taras are his female counterparts, figures of beautiful celestial maidens. Both figures are depicted gracefully, usually holding various kinds of lotus (red padma , blue utpala , or white kumuda ), monk staff ( khakkhara ) or fly whisk ( chamara ), and standing in tribhanga pose. The notable images of boddhisattvas could be found adorning the outer walls of Plaosan, Sari, Kalasan, Sewu, Pawon and of course Borobudur temple.

Devata and Apsara

A Devata flanked by two apsaras in Prambanan temple. Devata and Apsaras Prambanan 05.jpg
A Devata flanked by two apsaras in Prambanan temple.

In Hindu temples, the celestial couple; male Devatas and female Apsaras are usually found adorns the panels of temple's walls. They are the Hindu counterpart of Buddhist Bodhisattva-Tara celestial beings. On the other side of narrative panels in Prambanan, the temple wall along the gallery were adorned with the statues and reliefs of devatas and brahmin sages. The figure of lokapalas , the celestial guardians of directions can be found in Shiva temple. The Brahmin sage editors of veda were carved on Brahma temple wall, while in Vishnu temple the figures of a male deities devatas flanked by two apsaras . The depiction of celestial beings of lesser gods and goddesses — devatas and apsaras, describes the Hindu concept of sacred realm of Svargaloka . This is corresponds to the concept of the towering Hindu temple as the epitome of Mount Meru in Hindu cosmology.



One of dvarapala statues guarding Sewu temple. Java - Candi Sewu - 003 (8697399678).jpg
One of dvarapala statues guarding Sewu temple.

Most of larger temple compound in ancient Java were guarded by a pair of dvarapala statues, as gate guardians. The twin giants usually placed flanked the entrance in front of the temple, or in four cardinal points. Dvarapala took form of two fierce giants or demons that ward off evil and malevolent spirits from entering the sacred temple compounds. In Central Javanese art, dvarapala is mostly portrayed as a stout and rather chubby giant, with fierce face of glaring round goggle eyes, protruding fangs, curly hairs and moustaches, with fat and round belly. The giant usually depicted as holding gada and sometimes knives as weapon.

In East Javanese art and Balinese version however, the dvarapala usually depicted rather well-built and muscular, with a fine example taken from Adan-adan site near Kediri. [19] The exception is a gigantic dvarapala of Singhasari near Malang, East Java that measures 3.7 metres tall. The most notable dvarapala statues are those of candi Sewu, each pair guarding four cardinal points of the grand temple complex, making them a total eight large dvarapala statues in perfect condition. The dvarapalas of Sewu temple has become the prototype of Gupolo guardian in later Javanese art, copied as guardians in Javanese keratons of Yogyakarta and Surakarta. Another fine example is two pairs of dvarapala guarding the twin temples of Plaosan.


Lion guardian of Borobudur. Borobudur Lion Guardian.jpg
Lion guardian of Borobudur.

The statues of a pair of lions (Sanskrit: Siṁha, Indonesian and Javanese: Singa) flanking the portal, are often placed as the guardians of candi entrance. Lions were never native to Southeast Asia in recorded history. As the result, the depiction of lions in ancient Southeast Asian art, especially in ancient Java and Cambodia, is far from the naturalistic style as depicted in Greek or Persian art counterparts, since the depictions were all based on perception and imagination. The cultural depictions and the reverence of lions as the noble and powerful beasts in Southeast Asia was influenced by Indian culture especially through Buddhist symbolism.

Statues of a pair of lions often founds in temples in Southeast Asia as the gate guardians. In Borobudur Buddhist monument Central Java, Indonesia, andesite stone statues of lions guard four main entrances of Borobudur. The thrones of Buddha and Boddhisattva found in Kalasan and Mendut Buddhist temples of ancient Java depicted elephants, lions, and makara. The statue of winged lion also found in Penataran temple East Java.

Stupa, Ratna and Vajra pinnacles

Bell-shaped perforated stupas of Borobudur. Borobudur (Central Java, Indonesia) (51112274346).jpg
Bell-shaped perforated stupas of Borobudur.

The religions dedicated in the temples of ancient Java can be easily distinguished mainly from its pinnacles on top of the roof. Bell-shaped stupa can be found on the Buddhist temples' roof, while ratna, the pinnacle ornaments symbolize gem, mostly founds in Hindu temples.

The typical stupas in Javanese classical temple architecture is best described as those of Borobudur style; the bell-shaped stupa. The stupa in Borobudur upper round terrace of Arupadhatu consist of round lotus pedestal ( padmasana or "lotus pad"), gently sloped bell-shaped dome (anda), a rectangular or octagonal shape (harmika) [20] sits on top of the dome serves as the base of hexagonal rod-like pinnacle (yasti). [21]

Each stupa is pierced by numerous decorative openings, either in the shape of rectangular or rhombus. Statues of the Buddha sit inside the pierced stupa enclosures. Borobudur was first thought more likely to have served as a stupa, instead of a temple. A stupa is intended as a shrine for the Buddha. Sometimes stupas were built only as devotional symbols of Buddhism. A temple, on the other hand, is used as a house of worship.

Prambanan vajra pinnacle. Prambanan Java275.jpg
Prambanan vajra pinnacle.

Ratna pinnacle took form of a curved obtuse pyramidal shape or sometimes cylindrical, completed with several base structure or pedestals took form as some ornamental seams (Javanese:pelipit). This form is known as keben pinnacle or the form of Barringtonia asiatica fruit. [22] It can be found as the pinnacle of both Hindu and Buddhist temples. Nevertheless, it is most prevalent in Hindu temples. The example of temple with ratna pinnacle is Sambisari and Ijo temple.

In Prambanan, the stylized vajra replaced ratna as the temple's pinnacles. In ancient Javanese temple architecture, the vajra pinnacle is probably served as the Hindu counterparts of Buddhist stupa pinnacle. This practice is preserved in Balinese Hindu temples of later period where the multi-tiered meru towers are crowned with vajra pinnacles. Nevertheless, vajra is actually a familiar symbols in both dharmic faiths. In later periods of Eastern Java temple architecture, the false lingga-yoni, or cube can be found in Hindu temple's roof, while cylindrical dagoba on top of Buddhist counterparts.


Map showing the location of the main sites of the so-called "Indonesian classical period" or Hindu-Buddhist period. Black dots represent Hindu sites and red dots Buddhist sites. Candi Indonesia id.svg
Map showing the location of the main sites of the so-called "Indonesian classical period" or Hindu-Buddhist period. Black dots represent Hindu sites and red dots Buddhist sites.

The high concentration of candi can be found especially dense in Sleman Regency in Yogyakarta, also Magelang and Klaten in Central Java; which corresponds to the historical region of Kedu Plain (Progo River valley, Temanggung-Magelang-Muntilan area) and Kewu Plain (Opak River valley, around Prambanan), the cradle of Javanese civilization. Other important sites with notable temple compounds includes Malang, Blitar and Trowulan areas in East Java. West Java also contains a small number of temples such as Batujaya and Cangkuang. Outside of Java, the candi type of temple can be found in Bali, Sumatra, and Southern Kalimantan, although they are quite scarce. In Sumatra, two exceptional sites are notable for its temple density; the Muaro Jambi Temple Compounds in Jambi and Padang Lawas or Bahal complex in North Sumatra.

The candis might be built on plain or uneven terrain. Prambanan and Sewu temples for example, are built on even flat low-lying terrain, while the temples of Gedong Songo and Ijo are built on hill terraces on higher grounds or mountain slopes. Borobudur on the other hand is built upon a bedrock hill. The position, orientation and spatial organization of the temples within the landscape, and also their architectural designs, were determined by socio-cultural, religious and economic factors of the people, polity or the civilization that built and support them. [23]


West Java

Cangkuang, Garut West Java Cangkuang 1.jpg
Cangkuang, Garut West Java
  • Batujaya, a compound of Buddhist Stupa made from red brick and mortar located at Batu Jaya, Karawang, West Java. Probably dated back to Tarumanagara kingdom in the 6th century AD. [24]
  • Cibuaya, a compound of Vishnuite Hindu temples made from red brick and mortar also located at Batu Jaya, Karawang, West Java. [25] Probably linked to Tarumanagara kingdom in the 6th century AD.
  • Bojongmenje, ruins of Hindu temple in Rancaekek, Bandung Regency.
  • Candi Cangkuang, the only one of the few surviving West Java's Hindu temple estimated dated from the 8th century, located at Leles, Garut, West Java. Located on an island in the middle of a lake covered by water lilies. Unlike other Javanese temple characteristics by grand architecture, Cangkuang temple is more modest with only one structure still standing. [26] Shiva statue faces east toward the sunrise. Date uncertain.

Central Java

Dieng Plateau
Arjuna group of Dieng temples Arjuna Temple Group, Java 1151.jpg
Arjuna group of Dieng temples

The Hindu temple compound located in Dieng Plateau, near Wonosobo, Central Java. Eight small Hindu temples from the 7th and 8th centuries, the oldest in Central Java. Surrounded by craters of boiling mud, colored lakes, caves, sulphur outlets, hot water sources and underground channels. The temples are:

  • Arjuna temple
  • Semar temple
  • Srikandi temple
  • Puntadewa temple
  • Sembadra temple
  • Dwarawati temple
  • Gatotkaca temple
  • Bima temple
Gedong Songo
Gedong Songo III Gedong Songo III, 1211.jpg
Gedong Songo III

South-west of Semarang, Central Java. Five temples constructed in 8th and 9th centuries. The site highlights how, in Hinduism, location of temples was as important as the structures themselves. The site has panoramas of three volcanoes and Dieng Plateau.

Borobudur and Kedu Plain
Borobudur 001 View of Borobudur.jpg

The Kedu Plain lies to the north west of Yogyakarta and west of Gunung Merapi and south west of Magelang, in Central Java.

  • Borobudur. 9th-century Buddhist monument, reportedly the world's largest. Seven terraces to the top represent the steps from the earthly realm to Nirvana. Reliefs of the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha. A UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Pawon. 8th-century Buddhist temple.
  • Mendut. 8th-century Mahayana Buddhist temple.
  • Ngawen. Five aligned sanctuaries, one decorated with finely sculpted lions. 8th-century Buddhist temple located east from Mendut temple. The name linked to Venuvana, "the temple of bamboo forest".
  • Banon. 8th-century Hindu temple located north from Pawon temple. The few remains make it impossible to reconstruct the temple. The Hindu god statue from this temple is now located at the National Museum in Jakarta.
  • Umbul, a 9th-century bathing complex in Grabag, Magelang
  • Gunung Sari. Ruins of three secondary temples and the foot of the main temple remain.
  • Gunung Wukir. One of the oldest inscriptions on Java, written in 732 CE, found here. Only the bases remain of the main sanctuary and three secondary temples.
Slopes of Merapi
Near Yogyakarta
Sambisari Candi Sambisari main temple 2013-11-28 03.jpg
  • Candi Sambisari. 10th century underground Hindu temple buried by eruptions from Mount Merapi for a century. Discovered in 1966 by a farmer plowing his field.
  • Candi Kadisoka, uncompleted 8th-century temple buried by eruptions from Merapi. Thought to have been Hindu temple, discovered in 2000.
Prambanan Plain
The Prambanan temple complex Prambanan Temple, around sunrise, 23 November 2013.jpg
The Prambanan temple complex
  • Roro Jonggrang, the main Prambanan complex. 9th century Hindu temple called the "Slender Maiden". Main temple dedicated to Shiva flanked by temples to Visnu and Brahma. Reliefs depict Ramayana stories.
  • Sewu. Buddhist temple complex, older than Roro Jonggrang. A main sanctuary surrounded by many smaller temples. Well preserved guardian statues, replicas of which stand in the central courtyard at the Jogja Kraton.
  • Candi Lumbung. Buddhist temple ruin located south from Sewu temple, consisting of one main temple surrounded by 16 smaller ones.
  • Bubrah. Buddhist temple located between Candi Lumbung and Candi Sewu.
  • Candi Gana. Buddhist temple ruin rich in statues, bas-reliefs and sculpted stones. Frequent representations of children or dwarfs with raised hands. Located east from Sewu complex in the middle of housing complex. Under restoration since 1997.
  • Plaosan. Buddhist temple compound located few kilometers east from Sewu temple, probably 9th century. Thought to have been built by a Hindu king for his Buddhist queen. Two main temples with reliefs of a man and a woman. Slender stupa.
  • Arca Bugisan. Seven Buddha and bodhisattva statues, some collapsed, representing different poses and expressions.
  • Sajiwan. Buddhist temple decorated with reliefs concerning education. The base and staircase are decorated with animal fables.
  • Candi Sari. Once a sanctuary for Buddhist priests. 8th century. Nine stupas at the top with two rooms beneath, each believed to be places for priests to meditate.
  • Candi Kalasan. 8th-century Buddhist temple built in commemoration of the marriage of a king and his princess bride, ornamented with finely carved reliefs.
  • Candi Kedulan. Discovered in 1994 by sand diggers, 4m deep. Square base of main temple visible. Secondary temples not yet fully excavated.
Ratu Boko and surrounds
The gate of Ratu Boko Palace compound. Ratuboko Gate.jpg
The gate of Ratu Boko Palace compound.
Candi Barong. Candi Barong.JPG
Candi Barong.
  • Ratu Boko Built between 8th and 9th centuries. Mixed Buddhist and Hindu style. Partially restored palace auditorium. Ruins of the royal garden with a bathing pool inside.
  • Arca Gopolo. A group of seven statues in a circle, as if in assembly. Flower decoration on the clothes of the largest are still visible.
  • Banyunibo. A small 9th-century Buddhist complex. A main temple surrounded by six smaller ones forming a stupa. Restoration completed in 1978.
  • Barong. Two almost identical temples on terraces. Believed to be 9th-century Hindu and part of a sacred complex, of which they were the crown.
  • Dawangsari. Perhaps the site of a destroyed Buddhist stupa, now reduced to an array of andesite stones.
  • Candi Ijo. A complex of three-tiered temples, but only one has been renovated. A main sanctuary and three secondary shrines with statues. Still under reconstruction.
  • Watugudig. A group of pole sittings in the shape of a Javanese gong. About 40 have been discovered, but others may remain buried. Locals believe this to be the resting place of King Boko.
  • Candi Abang. Actually a well that looks like a pyramid with very tall walls. In some aspects looks like Borobudur. Unique atmosphere.
  • Candi Gampingan. Ruins 1.5m underground of a temple and stairs. Reliefs of animals at the foot of the temple are believed to be a fable.
  • Sentono. At the base of Abang temple. Perhaps younger than other regional temples. Complex of caves with two mouths. Statue and bas-relief in left chamber.
  • Situs Payak. The best preserved bathing place in Central Java. 5m below ground. Thought to be Hindu.
Klaten Regency

East of Yogyakarta, Central Java.

  • Candi Merak. Two 10th century Hindu temples, rich in reliefs and decorations, in the middle of a village.
  • Candi Karangnongko. Difficult to date because remains are few.
Mount Lawu

Near Surakarta, Central Java.

East Java

Malang area
Singosari Candi Singosari B.JPG

Malang, East Java.

Blitar area
Penataran RA 3420014.JPG
Kediri area
Surowono Candi Surowono 2.jpg
Sidoarjo, Tretes, and Probolinggo areas
Jawi Candi Jawi A.JPG
  • Pari, in Sidoarjo. Dated from 1293 Saka (1371 CE), this Majapahit red brick temple bear similarity with Champa architecture.
  • Candi Sumur, in Sidoarjo. Located just a hundred meters from Candi Pari, probably built in the same era.
  • Gunung Gangsir, in Gunung Gangsir hamlet, Beji village, Pasuruan Regency, located about 18 kilometres east from Pasuruan city. [29]
  • Candi Jawi, Tretes. A 13th-century funerary temple. Slender Shiva-Buddhist shrine completed around 1300.
  • Penanggungan sites, Mount Penanggungan, which has terraced sanctuaries, meditation grottoes and sacred pools, about 80 sites in all including Candi Belahan believed to be the burial site of King Airlangga, who died in 1049.
  • Candi Jabung, east of Probolinggo, near Kraksaan. According to the inscription on the top of the temple portal, Jabung dates from 1276 saka (1354 CE).
Candi Brahu, Trowulan Brahu Temple Trowulan.jpg
Candi Brahu, Trowulan
  • Candi Tikus, Trowulan. Trowulan was once the capital of the Majapahit kingdom, the controller of most of the important ports of the day. Survived thanks to a sophisticated irrigation system. Tikus held run-off water from Mount Penanggungan for sanctification rites. Site also contains parts of the palace gate, entryway and water system.
  • Candi Brahu, Trowulan. Location the temple front of Bubat Area in Majapahit Palace environment (7°32'33.85"S, 112°22'28.01"E). Brahu Temple is a budhis temple, built at 15 a.c and restored during 1990 and was finished during 1995. There was no accurate note the function of the temple.
  • Candi Gentong, Trowulan. Location the temple 350m east of Brahu temple(7°32'38.05"S, 112°22'40.65"E). Many Ceramic from Ming and Yuan Dynasty founded in this temple area. There was no accurate note the function of the temple.
  • Candi Muteran, Trowulan. Location the temple north of Brahu temple ( 7°32'27.72"S, 112°22'29.41"E). There was no accurate note the function of the temple.
  • Kolam Segaran, Trowulan. Segaran pond is Majapahit Heritage (7°33'29.55"S,112°22'57.54"E) The Pond was found during 1926 by Ir.Maclain Pont. First restoration was 1966, finished at 1984. The function of this pond was as the place of recreation and to greet the foreign guest. This was the biggest ancient pond founded in Indonesia.
  • Gapura Bajang Ratu, Trowulan.
  • Gerbang Wringin Lawang, Trowulan.


Gunung Kawi, Bali Gunung Kawi temple.jpg
Gunung Kawi, Bali


Biaro Bahal, North Sumatra Candi Bahal 1.JPG
Biaro Bahal, North Sumatra


Indonesian candi, Hindu-Buddhist temples, dated from the oldest circa 2nd century, to latest, circa 15th century.

See also

Related Research Articles

Borobudur 9th-century Buddhist temple in Java, Indonesia

Borobudur, also transcribed Barabudur is a 7th-century Mahayana Buddhist temple in Magelang Regency, not far from the town of Muntilan, in Central Java, Indonesia. It is the world's largest Buddhist temple. The temple consists of nine stacked platforms, six square and three circular, topped by a central dome. It is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. The central dome is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues, each seated inside a perforated stupa.

Prambanan 9th-century Hindu temple compound in Special Region of Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Prambanan or Rara Jonggrang is an 8th-century Hindu temple compound in Special Region of Yogyakarta, Indonesia, dedicated to the Trimūrti, the expression of God as the Creator (Brahma), the Preserver (Vishnu) and the Destroyer (Shiva). The temple compound is located approximately 17 kilometres (11 mi) northeast of the city of Yogyakarta on the boundary between Central Java and Yogyakarta provinces.

Hinduism in Java

Hinduism has historically been a major religious and cultural influence in Java. In recent years, it has also been enjoying something of a resurgence, particularly in the eastern part of the island.

Medang Kingdom Former Javanese country

The Medang Kingdom or Mataram Kingdom was a Javanese Hindu–Buddhist kingdom that flourished between the 8th and 11th centuries. It was based in Central Java, and later in East Java. Established by King Sanjaya, the kingdom was ruled by the Sailendra dynasty.

Kalasan Buddhist temple in Indonesia

Kalasan, also known as Candi Kalibening, is an 8th-century Buddhist temple in Java, Indonesia. It is located 13 kilometers (8.1 mi) east of Yogyakarta on the way to Prambanan temple, on the south side of the main road Jalan Solo between Yogyakarta and Surakarta. Administratively, it is located in the Kalasan District of Sleman Regency.

Ratu Boko Archaeological in Indonesia

Ratu Boko or Ratu Boko Palace is an archaeological site in Java. Ratu Boko is located on a plateau, about three kilometres south of Prambanan temple complex in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The original name of this site is still unclear, however the local inhabitants named this site after King Boko, the legendary king mentioned in Roro Jonggrang folklore. In Javanese, Ratu Boko means "Stork King".

Indonesian Esoteric Buddhism or Esoteric Buddhism in Maritime Southeast Asia refers to the traditions of Esoteric Buddhism found in Maritime Southeast Asia which emerged in the 7th century along the maritime trade routes and port cities of the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra as well as in Malaysia. These esoteric forms were spread by pilgrims and Tantric masters who received royal patronage from royal dynasties like the Sailendras and the Srivijaya. This tradition was also linked by the maritime trade routes with Indian Vajrayana, Tantric Buddhism in Sinhala, Cham and Khmer lands and in China and Japan, to the extent that it is hard to separate them completely and it is better to speak of a complex of "Esoteric Buddhism of Mediaeval Maritime Asia." In many of the key South Asian port cities that saw the growth of Esoteric Buddhism, the tradition coexisted alongside Shaivism.

Gedong Songo Hindu temple in Indonesia

Gedong Songo is a group of Hindu temples located near Bandungan, Semarang Regency, in north Central Java, Indonesia. It is variously dated between the 8th and 9th-century. Built around a 1,270 metres (4,170 ft) hill near Mount Ungaran, it consist of five Gedong – two on the east side of the hill, two towards the north and one to the west. These total nine temples, all dedicated to Shiva and Parvati. The Gedong Songo complex is one of 110 sites in central Java with Hindu temple structures or remains, and one of 21 in Semarang area, states Veronique Degroot.


Sewu is an eighth century Mahayana Buddhist temple located 800 metres north of Prambanan in Central Java, Indonesia. The word for a Hindu or Buddhist temple in Indonesian is "candi," hence the common name is "Candi Sewu." Candi Sewu is the second largest Buddhist temple complex in Indonesia; Borobudur is the largest. Sewu predates nearby "Loro Jonggrang" temple at Prambanan. Although the complex consists of 249 temples, this Javanese name translates to 'a thousand temples,' which originated from popular local folklore. Archaeologists believe the original name for the temple compound to be Manjusrigrha.

Prambanan Temple Compounds Group of temples in Indonesia

Prambanan Temple Compounds is the World Heritage designation of a group of Hindu and Buddhist temple compounds that lie on the border between Yogyakarta and Central Java, Indonesia. It comprises Prambanan, Lumbung, Bubrah and Sewu temple compounds, all are located within Prambanan Archaeological Park.

Borobudur Temple Compounds

Borobudur Temple Compounds is the World Heritage designation of the area of three Buddhist temples in Central Java, Indonesia. It comprises Borobudur, Mendut, and Pawon. The temples were built during the Shailendra dynasty around the 8th and 9th centuries CE, and fall on a straight line.

Kewu Plain Historical area in Yogyakarta and Central Java that contains numbers of 8th to 10th century Hindu-Buddhist temples

Kewu Plain, also known as Prambanan Plain or Opak River valley, is a fertile volcanic plain that lies between Merapi-Merbabu complex in the north, Bantul lowlands and Sewu karst limestone range in the south, Bengawan Solo river valley in east, and the Progo River in the west, and Kedu Plain on northwest. It is located within the Yogyakarta Special Region, Sleman Regency, Klaten Regency and Solo City.

Ancient monuments of Java

Hundreds of ancient stone religious monuments lie on the island of Java. Known as candi in Indonesian, they date from the early classical period of Javanese civilisation, beginning in the first part of the 8th century CE and ending after 900 CE. The majority were built between 780 CE and 860 CE, even though the civilisation that created them existed for many centuries.

Banyunibo Buddhist temple in Indonesia

Banyunibo is a 9th-century Buddhist temple located in Cepit hamlet, Bokoharjo village, Prambanan, Sleman Regency, Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The temple, dating from the era of Medang Kingdom, sits in a narrow valley surrounded by paddy fields about two kilometers southeast of the Ratu Boko archaeological park on the east side of modern Yogyakarta. Further north is the Prambanan temple, and to the south are the Gunung Sewu hills, extension of Gunung Kidul hills.

Sojiwan Buddhist temple in Indonesia

Sojiwan is a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist temple located in Kebon Dalem Kidul village, Prambanan, Klaten Regency, Central Java. The temple is located nearly two kilometres southeast of Prambanan temple. This temple is among numbers of temples scattered in Prambanan Plain.

Jabung Buddhist temple in Indonesia

Jabung is a 14th-century Buddhist temple dated from Majapahit era, located in the Jabung Sisir village (desa), Paiton area, Probolinggo district, East Java, Indonesia. The temple is made from red brick measuring 16.20 metres. The temple was mentioned in Nagarakretagama as Bajrajinaparamitapura, being visited by king Hayam Wuruk during his royal tour across East Java in 1359 CE. The temple is mentioned in Pararaton as Sajabung, a mortuary temple of Bhre Gundal, a member of Majapahit royalties.


Paduraksa, also known as kori is a type of gateway covered with towering roof that can be found in the island of Java and Bali, Indonesia. This architectural feature is commonly found in buildings from the classical Hindu-Buddhist period of Indonesia. Paduraksa marks the threshold into the most sacred space within a religious compound, a cemetery, or a palace. In Balinese architecture, an elaborately decorated towering paduraksa is often built as the temple's most imposing structure.

Archaeology of Indonesia

The archaeology of Indonesia is the study of the archaeology of the archipelagic realm that today forms the nation of Indonesia, stretching from prehistory through almost two millennia of documented history. The ancient Indonesian archipelago was a geographical maritime bridge between the political and cultural centers of Ancient India and Imperial China, and is notable as a part of ancient Maritime Silk Road.

Bubrah 9th century Buddhist temple in Central Java, Indonesia

Bubrah is a 9th-century Buddhist temple located within the complex of the Prambanan Temple Archaeological Park, in Central Java, Indonesia. Experts believe that the temple was designed as a part of the greater Sewu temple compound.

Sumberawan Buddhist stupa near Malang, East Java, Indonesia

Sumberawan is a Buddhist stupa located in Toyomarto village, Sumberawan subdistrict, Malang Regency, East Java, Indonesia. The stupa is located in the highlands, on the southern slope of Mount Arjuno, surrounded by numerous Springs.


  1. 1 2 Soekmono (1995) , p. 1
  2. "Candi". KBBI (in Indonesian).
  3. Sedyawati (2013) , p. 1
  4. Tomi Sujatmiko (9 June 2013). "Peninggalan Majapahit Yang Tersembunyi di Alas Purwo". Kedaulatan Rakyat (in Indonesian).
  5. "Replika Candi Pawon". Vihāra Jakarta Dhammacakka Jaya.
  6. "Prasada". Sanskrit dictionary.
  7. Philip Rawson: The Art of Southeast Asia
  8. Coedès, George (1968). Walter F. Vella (ed.). The Indianized States of Southeast Asia. trans.Susan Brown Cowing. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN   978-0-8248-0368-1.
  9. Soekmono, R. "Candi:Symbol of the Universe", pp.58-59 in Miksic, John, ed. Ancient History Volume 1 of Indonesian Heritage Series Archipelago Press, Singapore (1996) ISBN   978-981-3018-26-6
  10. Soekmono, Dr R. (1973). Pengantar Sejarah Kebudayaan Indonesia 2. Yogyakarta, Indonesia: Penerbit Kanisius. p. 81. ISBN   979-413-290-X.
  11. "History of Women in Buddhism - Indonesia: Part 10". Shakyadita: Awakening Buddhist Women.
  12. Sedyawati (2013) , p. 4
  13. Konservasi Borobudur Archived 2011-07-26 at the Wayback Machine (in Indonesian)
  14. Soekmono, Dr R. (1973). Pengantar Sejarah Kebudayaan Indonesia 2. Yogyakarta, Indonesia: Penerbit Kanisius. p. 86. ISBN   979-413-290-X.
  15. Schoppert, P.; Damais, S. (1997). Didier Millet (ed.). Java Style. Paris: Periplus Editions. pp. 33–34. ISBN   962-593-232-1.
  16. "The Greatest Sacred Buildings". Museum of World Religions, Taipei. Archived from the original on 2017-02-07. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  17. "Candi Gunung Wukir". Southeast Asian Kingdoms. Retrieved 22 October 2015.
  18. Cockrem, Tom (May 18, 2008). "Temple of enlightenment". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 11 November 2011 via The Buddhist
  19. "Pusat Arkeologi Nasional Menyingkap Misteri Candi yang Hilang - Semua Halaman - National Geographic". (in Indonesian). Retrieved 2021-07-21.
  20. "Stupa adalah lambang dari agama Buddha yang berbentuk mangkuk terbalik, dengan bentuk persegi empat dan atau segi delapan (harmika)". Balai Konservasi Borobudur (in Indonesian). 2018-02-22. Retrieved 2021-07-21.
  21. "Stupa Candi Buddha". Balai Arkeologi Provinsi D.I Yogyakarta (in Indonesian). Retrieved 2021-07-21.
  22. adminpedia. "KEBEN – BorobudurPedia" (in Indonesian). Retrieved 2021-07-18.
  23. Degroot (2009) , p. 2
  24. Sedyawati (2013) , p. 36
  25. Sedyawati (2013) , p. 38
  26. "Garut: The Hidden Beauty of West Java". The jakarta post.
  27. "Situs Adan-adan di Kediri Dipastikan sebagai Candi Buddha". (in Indonesian). 2019-07-18. Retrieved 2021-07-21.
  28. Firman, Tony. "Arca Dwarapala Langka dari Kerajaan Kediri Ditemukan Arkenas". (in Indonesian). Retrieved 2021-07-21.
  29. "Candi Gununggangsir". Perpusnas.
  30. "Pura Mangening". (in Indonesian). Retrieved 2019-01-21.


Further reading