Candi Kalasan in the Prambanan Plain

high-definition creative commons photographs from Candi Kalasan, near Prambanan, Java, showing the architecture and the carvings, together with further information on the Candi.

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Candi Kalasan

According to the Kalasan Inscription dated 778 AD (see photo below), which is written in Sanskrit using the Pranagari script, this temple was erected by Guru Sang Raja Sailendravam├žatilaka (the Jewel of the Sailendra family) who succeeded in persuading Maharaja Tejapurnapana Panangkaran to construct a holy building for the goddess (Bodhisattva Devi) Tara and also build a vihara (monastery) for Buddhist monks from Sailendra family's realm. Panangkaran awarded the Kalara village to the Sangha. According to the date of this inscription, Kalasan temple is the oldest of the temples built in the Prambanan Plain.

Despite being renovated and partially rebuilt during the Dutch colonial era, the temple currently is in poor condition. Compared to other temples nearby such as Prambanan, Sewu, and Sari the temple is not very well maintained.

The temple stands on a 14.20 meters square sub-basement. The temple plan is cross-shaped with 12 corners polygon. Each of four cardinal points have stairs and gates adorned with Kala-Makara and also have rooms measuring 3.5 square meters. No statue is found in the smaller room facing north, west, and south; but the lotus pedestals suggested that the rooms once contains statues of Bodhisattvas. The temple is richly decorated with Buddhist figures such as Bodhisattva and gana.

The Kala Face above the southern door has been photographed and used by a number of foreign academics in their books to give an idea of the artistry in stone by Central Javanese artists of a millennia ago. Niches where the statues would have been placed are found inside and outside the temple. The outer wall intricately carved with Kala, gods and divinities in scenes of Svargaloka, Vimanas, apsaras and gandharvas.

The roof of the temple is designed in three sections. The lower one is of polygonal shape, as is the body below, and contains small niches with statues of Bodhisattvas seated on lotuses. Each of this niches is crowned with stupas. The middle part of the roof is in octagonal shape. Each of this eight sides adorned with niches contain statues of a Dhyani Buddha flanked by two standing Bodhisattvas. The top part of the roof is almost circular and has 8 niches crowned with a single large dagoba. The octagonal aspect of the structure has led to speculation of non-Buddhist elements in the temple, similar to some interpretations of the early Borobudur structure.

The temple is facing East, and the eastern room also served as access to the central room. In the larger main room there is lotus pedestal and throne carved with makara, lion and elephant figures, similar to the Buddha Vairocana throne found in Candi Mendut.

According to the Kalasan inscription, the temple once housed the large (probably around 4 meters tall) statue of the Bodhisattva Devi Tara. By the design of the throne, most probably the statue of the goddess was in seated position and made from bronze. Now the statue is missing, probably suffering the same fate as the bronze Buddha statue in Sewu temple, being looted for scrap metal over the centuries.

On the outer wall of the temple traces of plaster called vajralepa (lit: diamond plaster) are found. The same substance is also found in the nearby Candi Sari. The white-yellowish plaster was applied to protect the temple wall, but now the plaster has worn off.

The temple is located on the archaeologically rich Prambanan valley. Just a few hundred meters north east from Kalasan temple is located Candi Sari, which most probably was the monastery mentioned in the Kalasan inscription. Further east lies the Prambanan complex, Candi Sewu, and Candi Plaosan.

Text adapted from Wikipedia, (retrieved, March 9th 2012)


Kalasan Inscription

The Kalasan Inscription
photo by Gunkarta Gunawan Kartapranata

Photographs by Anandajoti Bhikkhu

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