Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sukuh Temple A mystery yet to be unraveled

Compared to Borobudur or Prambanan, Java's famous Buddhism and Hindu icons, Candi Sukuh (Sukuh temple), discovered by Sir Thomas Raffles in 1815, is not that legendary, yet it deserves a visit due because of its antiquated and unique characteristics.

Located in Sukuh village, around 35 kilometers east of Surakarta, Central Java, the Javanese-Hindu temple is perched at around 910 meters above sea level on the western slopes of Mount Lawu.

Some archeologists have assumed the temple was constructed in the 15th century, probably at the end of the Majapahit Empire era (between 1293 and 1500 CE), as shown by one relief depicting a giant eating a human.

The relief, carved into the wall of the northern entrance, can be read as Gapura Buta Mangan Wong. It is an inscription representing the 1359 Saka year (on the Javanese calendar) or 1437 CE, which is believed to be the year of the temple's construction.

To get to the temple, one can simply head to Tawangmangu, a famous tourist destination on the slopes of Mt. Lawu. This is not hard to find thanks to bold road signs. Just be cautious of the precipitous ascent to the temple. You should make sure your vehicle is in good shape, because the road climbs a 45 degree incline!

Sukuh temple has three concentric terraces, connected by ascending alleys. The main temple is situated at the last terrace. Unlike Hindu or Buddhist temples which have square shrines, Candi Sukuh's main structure has trapezium shape, resembling those made by the Mayan civilization in Central America.

The uniqueness of Sukuh temple lies in its landscaping, oddly carved statues and reliefs. One assumption about its "unrefined" carvings suggested the temple was erected during the time of civil war between the Islam and Hindu communities.

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