The Best Temples on Java Island

The overcrowded island of Java, the center of the country’s economic and political power, offers some of the best examples of Hindu and Buddhist architecture all over Indonesia. From among the hundreds of temples that show the power and architectural quality reached by the kingdoms that ruled Java from the 7th to the 16th century, I have drawn up a list with the main points of interest.

The map presents all the temples and by clicking on the markers you can have a brief description. Each temple has a bunch of resources that give you the chance to analyze it better and to arrive there well prepared.

You can use the comments to suggest any links that you may have come across that might be useful to add the the existing list.

West Java

Cangkuang Temple

The only temple left in West Java. The main peculiarity of this temple is that it has been built on an island. The Cangkuang temple faces east. There are no reliefs and no niches containing statues. The only statues, not well preserved, represents Shiva sitting on Nandi.

Central Java

Complex of Dieng Temples

Sits at 2000 meters above the sea level, often covered with fog the Dieng plateau is a stunning location perched with old Hindu temples scattered on a vast area. The Dieng temples complex consists of the Arjuna temple in which you can find the Arjuna, Srikandi, Sunbadra, Semar and Puntodewa temples. One km apart there is the Bima temple. In between Bima and Arjuna complex, is the Gatotkaca temple.  Two km north of Arjuna complex there are two temples named Dwarawati and Parikesit.

Borobudur Temple

Borobudur is the star of the temples in Java and so the most visited. It has a reputation of being Indonesia’s largest and most beautiful temple. This temple is actually a stupa – a sacred building of Buddha. Built during the Sailendra dynasty between 750 and 842 AD, Borobudur is constructed in such a way that it reveals various levels of terraces, showing intricate architecture that goes from being heavily ornamented with bas-reliefs to being plain in arupadhatu circular terraces. The bas-reliefs are considered the most elegant in the ancient Buddhist world.

Mendut Temple

Located just 3 km apart from Borobudur temple, Mendut temple is a Bhuddist temple facing west with three big and impressive statues inside: Cakyamuni, Awalokiteswara and Wajrapani.

Pawon Temple

This temple which stands just one km apart from Borobudur is considered a gate and the historian assumed that the function of Pawon temple has some relationship with the purification of the mind prior to entering Borobudur.

Pringapus Temple

Situated at the foot of Mount Sindoro, this Hindu temple used to be a complex of temples. Only one has survived and apparently it is not the main one.

Gedong Songo Temple

Gedong Songo means ‘the nine buildings’. It consists of nine temples and each temple forms its own small group.

Sari Temple

It has the form of a long Buddhist monastery with rooms on the upper floor. The upper floor no longer exists but from the remains you can see there was once space for wooden bars that used to support the floor.

Kalasan Temple

This beautiful temple was built by King Panangkaran of the ancient Mataran kingdom. It is a a holy building for the goddess (boddhisattvadevi) Tara. According to the Sanskrit inscription, the temple was built in 778 as an offering to the goddess Tara and as a monastery for Buddhist priests. 

Prambanan Temple

Prambanan temple is, with Borobudur, the most visited temple in the island of Java. It has the peculiarity to be both Hindu as well as a Buddhist temple. There are as many as 237 temples in this complex, arranged according to their position and function.

Sukuh Temple

Sukuh Temple stands at nearly 1000 meters above the sea level on the slopes of Mount Lawu. It is dedicated to Shiva. Not very popular but definitely worth a visit.

East Java

Penataran Temple

Penataran Temple is the largest and most important temple in east Java. It is a Shiva temple. It is divided into three parts: the front and back yard and a pond. In the front yard there is a gate guarded by two Dwarapala statues and six buildings, with only the foundations left. The most important building in the front yard is Angka Tahun (Number of Years) temple. It is named so because above the gate of the cella, the year 1291 is carved.

Tegowangi Temple

Tegowangi temple is in the form of a square (11.2 x 11.2 meters). Particularly interesting are the bas-reliefs that depict the story of Sudamala. The story is about the liberalization of Batari Durga from the curse her husband, Shiva, put on her for a mistake she had committed; she became a giant.

Surawana Temple

What remains of this Shiva temple is just the base and the walls. Its roof collapsed and its foundation is red. Historians think that Surawana temple could have been a gift from King Wengker. The architecture is slightly different from the other temples in East Java.

Brahu Temple

Built with red bricks during the Majapahit times, it faces west and is the cremation place of the Majapahit kings.

Rimbi Temple

Built with stone during the reign of Majapahit, it is said that Arimbi is ‘petilasan’ (rest room) of the Majapahit soldier.

Bajang Ratu Temple

It has a shape of an archway. The archway has wings on each side, and it is still possible to see bas-reliefs depicting giants fighting. It is made with red bricks except for the stairs at its entrance which are made with river stone.

Jawi Temple

One of the best temples in East Java, with its tall and slender structure it looks exquisite from a distance. Too bad that the bas-reliefs at the bottom are quite faded.

Kidal Temple

The Kidal temple has a square shape  (8.36 x 8.36 meters) and used to be a tall 17 meters (only 12.5 after the restoration). It is divided into three parts like the other temples of east Java: base, body and roof. The temple is an offering of King Anusapati from Singasari and was built around 1248.

Jago Temple

Jago temple is a crematory for the ashes of King Wisnuwardhan. Even though this temple is Buddhist the bas-reliefs and statues have Shiva design. The most noticeable distinctive trait are the reliefs that gave us an insight about the original culture on East Java.

Singosari Temple

The temple is definitely not in a good condition. It is a large Shiva monastery, measuring 13.8×13.8 meters. The west gate is flanked by small niches, and on each of its feet are niches with statues and a roof over it, separated from the temple’s body. A Kala’s head decorates the entrance of each niche.

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