Prambanan Temple – Largest Hindu Temple Complex in Indonesia

Prambanan Temple Yogyakarta

The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Prambanan Temple is the largest Hindu temple site in Indonesia. Also called Loro Jonggrang, it is the second-largest temple in South East Asia with the remains of other 240 temples within its premises. This temple name is derived from its location name i.e. Prambanam Village. It is one of the most beautiful, astoundingly large, and well-decorated temples, situated in the island of Java, Indonesia.

What makes this temple beautiful is its central complex, where there the sanctuaries dedicated to the Trimurtis (Supreme Gods of Hindus i.e. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva). This temple has such a tremendous beauty and a large compound that, one needs a day to visit this temple properly.

Temple History

Prambanan temple was built by Rakai Pikatan, king of the Sanjay Dynasty in the 9th century, as a symbol of his dynasty being in power. This claim is based on the content from Shivagrha Inscription found in the compound of Prambanan, which was written around 856 CE. The inscription is currently stored in the National Museum in Jakarta.

The temple was constructed as a sign of a return of the Hindu dynasty after defeating over the Shailendra dynasty. It was built around 50 years after the largest Buddhist Monument ‘Borobudur’. Since Borobudur was the most beautiful monument with a large complex resembling the Buddhist religion and the Shailendra dynasty, it is said that the Sanjaya dynasty’s king built the Prambanan temple near Borobudur to show the beautiful architecture and culture resembling Hindu religion. It can be somehow taken as a competition.

Borobudur – Photo by Jan Alonzo on

Nevertheless, the temple was left abandoned after the center of the Sanjaya Dynasty moved to East Java with the end of the 10th century. Hundreds of years later the remains of the temple were discovered, which was collapsed due to earthquakes and a volcanic eruption. While no one knew the history of the temple, the legend of Lara Jonggrang got born and was passed down from one generation to another.

The temple was rediscovered in the 17th century, which was deteriorated and was covered by a dense forest. The restoration and maintenance of the temple started in 1918 using both traditional and modern methods. Like Borobudur, Prambanan Temple was listed in UNESCO World Heritage in 1991, after its restoration to some extent.

Roro Jonggrang

Prambanan Temple is often referred to as Roro Jonggrang because of the legendry tale related to Lara Joggrang and Bandung Bondowoso. Roro Jonggrang is the princess of Boku Kingdom as per the Javanese folk tales. Her father was killed by a prince of Pengging named Bandung Bondosowo, during the war between these two states. After defeating the Boku Kingdom, the prince offered the marriage proposal to the princess because of her mesmerizing beauty.

Roro Jonggrang vowed not to marry the prince, who was the murderer of her father. However, after realizing that she could not turn down the prince’s proposal, she gave him an impossible task to build no less than 1000 temples in one night for her. Bondowoso accepted the challenge and summoned the spiritual spirit to help him build a temple.

When the 999th temple was initiated, Roro played a fake sunrise with the help of villagers to fail the Bondosowo attempt in building the 1000th temple. Bondosowo couldn’t succeed in fulfilling his promise and thus, didn’t get to marry the princess. But when Bondosowo found about the princess strategy, he cursed her to become the part of the temple she had asked for and turned her into a stone. The statue of Durga standing in the main temple is said to be the statue of Roro Jonggrang.  

Statue of Durga at Prambanan Temple
The statue of Durga – Mahisasuramardini, thought to be Princess Rara Jonggrang (source)

Locals also believe that unmarried couples visiting the temple will have a bad relationship or their relationship will eventually end up.

Prambanan Temple Complex

The Prambanan Temple complex lies between the provinces of Yogyakarta and Central Java on Java Island. The temple was dedicated to Trimurtis. The tall and pointed structured temples inside the complex were designed in a way to represent Mount Meru, the holy mountain and the adobe of Lord Shiva.

Shiva Temple at Prambanan
Shiva Temple at Prambanan – Photo by Patrick GG on

Similar to Borobudur, this temple has a huge complex incorporating Mandala Temple Plan with the towering temples. The Prambanan Temple architecture follows typical Hindu Architecture based on Vastu Shastra.

The temple complex is divided into three zones. The outer zone is an open space which used to be surrounded by walls and serves as a lawn for priest and worshippers. The middle zone consists of 224 small shrines remains which are further known as Garden Temples. And the central zone consists of the Temples for the Trimurties and their Bahana (Vehicles).

Trimurti Temples
Temple of Shiva in the middle, with the temples of Vishnu and Brahma on each side. Photo by Jorge Císcar on

In the central zone, the three main temples are the Trimurties Temple (i.e. Bramha, Vishnu, and Shiva), among them, the tallest one with 47 meters high is the Shiva Temple. The three temples right in front of the main temples are the Vahana temples dedicated to the Vahana of each god named; Hamsa for Bramha Vahana, Garuda for Vishnu, and Nandi for Shiva. There are two other temples located between the rows of Trimurtis and Bahana Temples known as Apit Temples. Also, there are 4 small shrines known as Kelir Temples right beyond the main gates of the central zone, and other 4 small shrines known as Patok Temples located on 4 corners of the central zone. Thus, altogether 240 shrines are there in the temple complex.

Prambanan Temple is decorated by the bas-reliefs telling the story from Ramayana and Krishnayana. The reliefs are carved on the inner part of the walls and can be read from the east gate in a clockwise manner.


The nearest cities to the temple are Yogyakarta, 17 kilometers southwest from the temple, and Solo about 40 kilometers to the southeast from the temple.