Muara Jambi, Sumatra
high-definition creative commons photographs from the candis at Muara Jambi, Sumatra together with further information.
The Muara (also spelt Muaro) Jambi complex, which lies along a canal system connected to the nearby Batanghari River, is one of the largest in S E Asia, and one of the most significant also. It seems to have built up over a period from the 7th - 13th centuries, and was a part of the Srivijaya empire, though it's exact role is unknown. It covers an area of approx. 80 sq km, with almost 80 candis (historical monuments) still unexcavated, and only eight sites restored at this point.
The candis that are restored are mainly brick-built compounds, with a number of buildings inside, and are surrounded by gated walls, and have the occasional sandstone carving decorating them. Nearly all show the same ground plan: a large compound wall encloses a very green area, with one or more buildings inside, and gates (gopura) allowing ingress. Most of the candis are rebuilt at this point to only one or two levels.
They lie, for the most part, in a lush green jungle, with cultivated clearings, canals running nearby, and sometimes very old and magnificent trees. The setting these days is sometimes as impressive as the cultural remains. Many of the menapos are are on settler land, and the Government cannot develop these sites without buying out the owner first.
Besides the buildings some statues, ritual troughs and ceramics were found at the site and many of these are housed in the onsite museum. Smaller remains are also found outside the main area – even on the other side of the river, which would make the site much bigger – but we didn’t visit these.
Candi Tinggi 2
Candi Tinggi (sometimes denominated as number 2) stands at the centre of the main collection of sites, and around 500 metres north of the village. The enclosing wall and ditch must be around 90m x 70m. The main building stands at around 9m square, at present is 1.65m high, and it possibly had a stūpa on top, which is missing now. The main staircase to this candi is to the south, but the gates to the compound are on the east and west sides. In front of it is a small platform and around the grounds there is a small stūpa, and some small perwaras (ancillary buildings), not completely restored.
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Candi Tinggi 1
The enclosure of the much smaller Candi Tinggi 1 is around 40x30m, it has a wall, gates and a number of partly restored candis inside. The buildings are only restored to the first level.
This candi lies to the west of Candi Tinggi, and is a large exclosure, 150+ metres square, but with fewer remains inside the grounds at present. The main building faces the east, and the main gateway is also to the east. The main building is large and square in shape, with an entrance way which leads nowhere in the way it is restored. The staircase has some carved sandstone makara figures guarding it. Relics were found embedded inside the temple, including gold plates with the names of Vajrayāna deities inscribed on them. A very fine, but headless, Prajñāpāramitā statue was also found at this site. Between this building and the gate there is a platform again, but it is unclear what sort of building this was meant to be.
To the south of Candi Tinggi 1 lies a picturesque man-made tank or reservoir, around 30x70m square. The surroundings are now used as a picnic spot. The tank has lotuses growing in it, and to the east of the site is a forest with tree huts, for resting in the heat of the day.
Candi Kembar Batu
This complex lies to the south-east of Candi Tinggi 2, and is approached along a path running around 300 metres from that site's north east corner. Many people take a motorbike in order to reach the site then go on to Candi Astano. Candi Kembar Batu is a farily well-restored site, with seven buildings partially reconstructed and is in a lovely setting. The enclosure is around 50x65 m square, and the gateway is again on the east. There are two buildings facing each other, which are both around 12m sq. Another of the buildings is a stūpa, and there are a number of perwaras, which are little more than foundations now.
Candi Astano lies over a kilometre east of Candi Tinggi, on the way you pass a number of menapo lying in the semi-jungle. Candi Astano itself is just one building, in nice grounds, around 50m sq. The building itself seems to have been constructed in three phases. Other artefacts were also found at this site, including ceramics and a couple of padmāsanas, now in the Museum.
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Candi Gedong 1
West of the main site, by around a kilometre, lie two compounds, Candi Gedong 1 amp; 2. They are north around 80m square, and are separated from each other by another area also around the same size. The compounds have outer and inner walls, and gopuras to gain access. The main candi at Gedong 1 is fairly large (approx. 15x12m), now on two levels, though it must have been much higher originally. Gedong 2 has a large gopura, one of the tallest buildings that has been restored. Inside the compound is aplatform, around 10m square, and west of it is the remains of a dilapadated stūpa. In both compounds there are smaller buildings dotted around, and outside the compound are a number of menapo.
Candi Gedong 2
Candi Kedaton lies around one and a half kilometres west of the Gedong complex, or around 3km from the main site. This is the largest candi uncovered so far, the enclosure being around 200m square, and many smaller enclosures inside. The two largest buildings lie to the south of the compound and face each other. The way one of them has been rebuilt is also has an entrance which leads nowhere. The main entrance to the site appears to have been from the north, which is also where the canal is. There is a large gopura, partially rebuilt, which has some fine makara statue at the gate. There are many brick-piles around the site, and more restoration would be desirable.
Candi Koto Mahligai
This is the most westerly of the sites uncovered so far, lying around 800 metres north-west of Candi Kedaton, but not accessible in a direct line, so that the route to get there from Kedaton is around 4km. The site is more or less unexcavated, and is interesting in that regard as we can see what the other sites must have looked like before restoration. The site must be around 800x600m and features some massive old trees, even out sizing the trees at the other sites. On the grounds are numerous menapo, probably more than a dozen, which are just heaps of bricks at present. It makes for a very secluded spot at present, suitable also for meditation, especially on the truth of impermanence.
The small onsite Museum contains a number of material remains found at the Muara Jambi complex, including animal sculptures, ritual troughs, support stone, ceramics and inscribed brick work.
The song below talks about the importance of the historical site of Muara Jambi, and how people should come and visit: even the Javanese do not know about this place, please tell everyone to come and visit, etc.
Photographs by Anandajoti Bhikkhu
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