Candi Sukuh, Central Java
high-definition creative commons photographs from the fertility temple Candi Sukuh in Central Java together with further information.
Introduction to Candi Sukuh
Candi Sukuh is a 15th-century Javanese-Hindu temple that is located on the western slope of Mount Lawu, at an elevation of 910 metres (2,990 ft) on the border between Central Java and East Java provinces. It has distinctive thematic reliefs. Its main monument is a simple pyramid structure with reliefs and statues in front of it, including three tortoises with flattened shells and a male figure grasping his penis.
Sukuh is one of several temples built on the northwest slopes of Mount Lawu in the 15th century. By this time, Javanese religion and art had diverged from Indian precepts that had been so influential on the temple styles of the 8th–10th centuries. This was the last significant area of temple building in Java before the island’s courts were converted to Islam in the 16th century. It is difficult for historians to interpret the significance of these antiquities due to the temple’s distinctiveness and the lack of records of Javanese ceremonies and beliefs of the era.
The unknown founder of Candi Sukuh must have thought that the slope of Mount Lawu was a sacred place for worshiping the ancestors and nature spirits and for observance of the fertility cults. The monument was built around 1437, as written as a chronogram date on the western gate, meaning that the area was still under the rule of the Majapahit Kingdom (1293–1500).
In 1815, Sir Thomas Raffles, who ruled Java during 1811–1816, visited the temple and found it in bad condition. In his account he said many statues had been thrown down on the ground and most of the figures had been decapitated. Raffles also found the giant linga statue broken into two pieces, which was then restored.
The central pyramid of the complex sits at the rear of the highest of three terraces. Originally, worshippers would have accessed the complex through a gateway at the western or lowest terrace. To the left of the gate is a carving of a monster eating a man, birds in a tree, and a dog, which is thought to be a chronogram representing 1437 CE, the likely date of the temple’s consecration. There is a relief on the floor at the entrance which shows a lingam (phallus) and yoni (vagina). Genitalia are portrayed on several statues from the site, making it unique among Javanese classical monuments.
The main structure of Sukuh temple is like no other ancient edifice in Java; it is a truncated pyramid reminiscent of a Maya monument and surrounded by monoliths and meticulously carved life-sized figures. The Sukuh temple does not follow the normal Hindu architecture because it was built after Indian influence had weakened. Temples usually have a rectangular or square shape, but Sukuh temple is a trapezium with three terraces, with one terrace higher than the others. A stone stairway rises through the front side of the pyramid to its summit.
It is not known what the monument’s unique shape was intended to symbolize. One suggestion is that it represents a mountain. The wall of the main monument has a relief portraying two men forging a weapon in a smithy with a dancing figure of Ganesha, the most important Tantric deity, having a human body and the head of an elephant. In Hindu-Java mythology, the smith is thought to possess not only the skill to alter metals, but also the key to spiritual transcendence. Smiths drew their powers to forge a kris from the god of fire; and a smithy is considered as a shrine. Hindu-Javanese kingship was sometimes legitimated and empowered by the possession of a kris.
Text adapted from Wikipedia (retrieved, Sept 27th 2019)
Photographs by Anandajoti Bhikkhu
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