The Hindu rival to Borobudur, Prambanan temple is a magnificent ancient monument built by the Mataram Kingdom and dedicated to the Hindu concept of creation, maintenance and destruction (called Trimurti) represented by the Hindu gods Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the transformer.
Construction of the temple began around 850AD and it was expanded by successive Mataram kings into a huge complex comprising of 240 temples of varying sizes. At the height of the Mataram Kingdom, Prambanan was the focus of all important state ceremonies and sacrifices, and archaeologists believe hundreds of Brahman priests, teachers, mystics and their disciples lived within the walls of the compound.
Yet ironically, the complex was abandoned when the Mataram dynasty moved its court base to East Java, possibly following the eruption of nearby Mt Merapi. Suffering the same fate as its contemporary Borobudur, Prambanan was left to the jungle and suffered extensive damage during an earthquake in the 16th century. By the time a surveyor working for Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles stumbled across it in 1811 most of the complex was in a state of ruin.
Restoration works on this UNESCO World Heritage listed site began in 1930 and have continued ever since. Unfortunately, a lot of good work was undone by the devastating May 2006 Yogyakarta earthquake when the complex sustained significant damage.
Although Prambanan is the biggest Hindu temple in Java, it tends to be overshadowed by its contemporary Borobudur. Rather unfairly in this writers opinion as the elegant, sculpted towers and intricate reliefs of Prambanan are equally impressive and it is impossible not to be awed by the skill and ingenuity of the ancient artisans and stonemasons who built the temple.
Prambanan is located on the outskirts of Yogyakarta just 17km’s northeast of the city centre. The city of Solo is just 40km’s to the northeast and the main road connecting these two cities runs right by Prambanan. Simply jump on any intercity bus and ask to be let off at Prambanan. Yogyakarta also has regular public bus services to and from Prambanan or private companies running minibus shuttle services from backpackers and other guesthouse. Otherwise grab a taxi.