The province of Central Java, around the city of Jogyakarta, is the most famous part of Java and is, in fact, its cultural center. This is in part because of the presence there of a variety of religious influences-Buddhist, Hindu, and other beliefs, which resulted in the construction of the impressive temples of Borobudur, Prambanan and the Dieng temple complex.
The 300 year old city of Jogyakarta is the cultural heart of Java. Here also is Indonesia’s oldest palace ‘The Kraton,’ still the domicile of Jogya’s royalty. Even now the current Sultan of Jogyakarta retains remarkable political prestige. Jogyakarta offers an abundance of Javanese art, painting, silverwork, batik handcraft, traditional Javanese dances, as well as contemporary art. From Jogyakarta one can travel easily to the Borobudur and Prambanan temples, which are half-day trips from the city. Jogyakarta is situated between the foot of the still-active Merapi volcano and the mystical Indian Ocean, home of ‘Loro Kidul,’ Queen of the South Seas.
The most famous of Indonesia’s temples is the Borobudur. Located north west of Jogyakarta, the Borobudor was completed in the second half of the ninth century. Like the Hindu temple complexes Prambanan and the Dieng plateau, Borobudur was unknown and neglected for almost a thousand years, covered under thick layers of volcanic ash. Ironically the temple was completed as Buddhism was losing its stronghold as a religious force.
Borobudur, which dwarfs the neighboring temples of Candi Pawon and Mendut, remains one of the main cultural attractions in Indonesia. From afar Borobudur looks like a huge but ordinary stone construction. But from nearby we can see that it consists of hundreds of wonderfully detailed statues and sculptures, representing Buddhist teachings mixed with images of Javanese life of a thousand years ago.
Perhaps the finest temple complex in Indonesia, Prambanan is a ten-century old Hindu temple. This temple is dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva, locally called Candi Loro Jonggrang, which means ‘slender virgin.’ From an architectural point of view this beautifully sculptured spire, fifty meters high, indeed resembles a ‘slender virgin.’ Like the Buddhist stupa Borobudur, Prambanan was abandoned when the Buddhist and Hindu Javanese inhabitants moved to East Java.
The oldest Hindu temples in Indonesia are located two thousand meters above sea level on the cool Dieng plateau. The temple complex dates from the 8th century but was unknown to westerners until around 1850. A trip to the mysterious Dieng temple complex is most worthwhile, not only to see the temple itself but also for a breathtaking view of the fine rice terraces along the mountain road, and the final beauty that nature offers at the destination.