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Candi of Indonesia

File:Candi Indonesia id.svg
Map showing the location of the main sites of the so-called "Indonesian classical period" or Hindu-Buddhist period. Black dots represent Hindu sites and red dots Buddhist sites.
File:Stupa Borobudur.jpg
Buddha in an open stupa and the main stupa of Borobudur in the background.

Candi (pronounced [tʃandi]) are the Hindu and Buddhist temples and sanctuaries of Indonesia, mostly built during the 8th to 15th centuries. However, ancient non-religious structures such as gates, urban ruins, and pool and bathing places are often also called "candi".


Candi refers to a structure based on the Indian type of single-celled shrine, with a pyramidal tower above it, and a portico.[1] The term Candi is given as a prefix to the many temple-mountains in Indonesia, built as a representation of the Cosmic Mount Meru, an epitome of the universe. However, the term also applied to many non-religious structures dated from the same period, such as gopura (gates), petirtaan (pools) and some of habitation complexes. Examples of non-temple candis are the Bajang Ratu and Wringin Lawang gates of Majapahit. The Candi Tikus bathing pool in Trowulan and Jalatunda in Penanggungan slopes, as well as the remnants of non-religious habitation and urban structures such as Ratu Boko and some of Trowulan city ruins, are also considered candi.

"Between the 7th and 15th centuries, hundred of religious structures were constructed of brick and stone in Java, Sumatra and Bali. These are called candi. The term refers to other pre-Islamic structures including gateways and even bathing places, but its principal manifestation is the religious shrine."

— Soekmono, R. "Candi:Symbol of the Universe". [2]

The term "candi" itself derived from Candika one of the manifestations of the goddess Durga as the goddess of death.[3] This suggested in ancient Indonesia the "candi" has mortuary function as well as attributed with the afterlife. The association of the name "candi", candika or durga with Hindu-Buddhist temples is unknown in India and other Indonesia's Southeast Asian neighbours such as Cambodia, Thailand, or Burma. The historians suggested that temples of ancient Java also used to store the ashes of cremated deceased kings or royalties. This is also in-line with Buddhist concept of stupa as the structure to store Buddhist relicts including the ashes and remnants of holy Buddhist priest or the Buddhist king, the patron of Buddhism. The statue of god stored inside the garbhagriha (main chamber) of the temple often modelled after the deceased king and considered as deified self of the king portrayed as Vishnu or Shiva according to the concept of devaraja. The example is the statue of king Airlangga from Belahan temple portrayed as Vishnu riding Garuda.


File:Prambanan Cross Section Shiva.svg
The Shiva temple Candi Prambanan consist of three ascending realms, temple's base (Bhurloka), body (Bhurvaloka) and roof (Svarloka).

The candi architecture follows the typical Hindu architecture traditions based on Vastu Shastra. The temple layout, especially in central Java period, incorporated mandala temple plan arrangements and also the typical high towering spires of Hindu temples. The candi was designed to mimic Meru, the holy mountain the abode of gods. The whole temple is a model of Hindu universe according to Hindu cosmology and the layers of Loka.

The candi structure and layout recognize the hierarchy of the zones, spanned from the less holy to the holiest realms. Each Hindu and Buddhist concepts has their own terms, but the concept's essentials is identical. Either the compound site plan (horizontally) or the temple structure (vertically) are consists of three zones:[4]

  • Bhurloka (in Buddhism: Kāmadhātu), the lowest realm of common mortals; humans, animals also demons. Where humans still bound by their lust, desire and unholly way of life. The outer courtyard and the foot (base) part of each temples is symbolized the realm of bhurloka.
  • Bhuvarloka (in Buddhism: Rupadhatu), the middle realm of holy people, rishis, ascetics, and lesser gods. People here began to see the light of truth. The middle courtyard and the body of each temples is symbolized the realm of bhuvarloka.
  • Svarloka (in Buddhism: Arupadhatu), the highest and holiest realm of gods, also known as svargaloka. The inner cortyard and the roof of each temples is symbolized the realm of svarloka. The roof of Hindu structure usually crowned with ratna (sanskrit: jewel) or vajra, or in eastern Java period, crowned by cube structure. While stupa or dagoba cylindrical structure served as the pinnacle of Buddhist ones.



File:COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM Poort op de Borobudur TMnr 10015959.jpg
Kala-makara on the portal of Borobudur gates, Kala's head on top of the portal and makaras flanking either sides.

The candis of ancient Java is notable with the application of kala-makara as both decorative and symbolic elements of temple architecture. Kala is the giant symbolize time, by making kala's head as temple portals element, it symbolize that time consumes everything. Kala is also a protective figure, with fierce giant face it scare away malevolent spirits. Makara is a mythical sea monster the vahana of sea god Varuna. It has been depicted typically as half mammal and half fish. In many temples, the depiction is in the form of half fish or seal with head of an elephant. It is also shown with head and jaws of a crocodile, an elephant trunk, the tusks and ears of a wild boar, the darting eyes of a monkey, the scales and the flexible body of a fish, and the swirling tailing feathers of a peacock. Both kala and makara is applied as the protective figures of the temple's entrance.

Kala is the giant head, often took place on the top of the entrance with makaras projected on either sides of kala's head flanking the portal or projecting on top corner as antefixes. Kala-makara theme also can be found on stairs railings on either sides. On upper part of stairs, the mouth of kala's head projecting makara downward. The intricate stone carving of twin makaras flanking the lower level of stairs with its bodies forming the stair's railings. Other than makaras, kala's head might also projecting its tongue as stair's railings. These types if stairs decorations can be observed in Borobudur and Prambanan. Makara's trunks are often describes as handling gold ornaments or spouting jewels, while in its mouth often projected Gana dwarf figures or animals such as lions or parrots.

Stupa and ratna pinnacles

The religions dedicated in the temples of ancient Java can be easily distinguished mainly from its pinnacles on top of the roof. Bell-shaped stupa can be found on the Buddhist temples' roof, while ratna, the pinnacle ornaments symbolize gem, mostly founds in Hindu temples. In Prambanan, the stylized vajra replaced ratna as the temple's pinnacles. In later periods, the false lingga-yoni, or cube can be found in Hindu temple's roof, while cylindrical dagoba on top of Buddhist counterparts.


Pawon temple near Borobudur, example of central Javanese style.
File:Bajang Ratu Gate Trowulan.jpg
Bajang Ratu gate in Trowulan, example of eastern Javanese style.

Soekmono, an Indonesian archaeologist, has classified the candi styles into two main groups: a central Java style, which predominantly date from before 1,000 CE, and an eastern Java style, which date from after 1,000 CE. He groups the temples of Sumatra and Bali into the eastern Java style.[5]

Parts of the temple Central Java Style Eastern Java Style
Shape of the structure Tends to be bulky Tends to be slender and tall
Roof Clearly shows stepped roof sections, usually consist of 3 parts The multiple parts of stepped sections formed a combined roof structure smoothly
Pinacle Stupa (Buddhist temples), Ratna or Vajra (Hindu temples) Cube (mostly Hindu temples), sometimes Dagoba cylindrical structures (Buddhist temples)
Portal and niches adornment Kala-Makara style; Kala head without lower jaw opening its mouth located on top of the portal, connected with double Makara on each side of the portal Only Kala head sneering with the mouth complete with lower jaw located on top of the portal, Makara is absent
Relief Projected rather high from the background, the images was done in naturalistic style Projected rather flat from the background, the images was done in stylized style similar to Balinese wayang image
Layout and location of the main temple Concentric mandala, symmetric, formal; with main temple located in the center of the complex surrounded by smaller perwara temples in regular rows Linear, asymmetric, followed topography of the site; with main temple located in the back or furthermost from the entrance, often located in the highest ground of the complex, perwara temples is located in front of the main temple
Direction Mostly faced east Mostly faced west
Materials Mostly andesite stone Mostly red brick

There are material, form, and location exceptions to these general design traits. While the Penataran, Jawi, Jago, Kidal and Singhasari temples, for example, belong to the eastern Java group, they use andesite stone similar to the central Java temple material. Temple ruins in Trowulan, such as Brahu, Jabung and Pari temples use red brick. Also the Prambanan temple is tall and slender similar to the east Java style, yet the roof design is central Javan in style. The location also do not always correlate with the temple styles, for example Candi Badut is located in Malang, East Java, yet the period and style belongs to older 8th century central Javanese style.

The earlier northern central Java complexes, such as the Dieng temples, are smaller and contain only several temples which exhibit simpler carving, whereas the later southern complexes, such as Sewu temple, are grander, with a richer elaboration of carving, and concentric layout of the temple complex.

The Majapahit period saw the revival of Austronesian megalithic design elements, such stepped pyramids (punden berundak). These design cues are seen in the Sukuh and Cetho temples in Mount Lawu in eastern Central Java, and in stepped sanctuary structures on the Mount Penanggungan slopes that are similar to meso-American stepped pyramids.

Candi of Central Java

Borobudur & Kedu Plain

The Kedu Plain lies to the north west of Yogyakarta and west of Gunung Merapi and south west of Magelang, in Central Java

  • Borobudur. 9th-century Buddhist monument, reportedly the world's largest. Seven terraces to the top represent the steps from the earthly realm to Nirvana. Reliefs of the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha. A UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Pawon. 8th-century Buddhist temple.
  • Mendut. 8th-century Mahayana Buddhist temple.
  • Ngawen. Five aligned sanctuaries, one decorated with finely sculpted lions. 8th-century Buddhist temple located east from Mendut temple. The name linked to Venuvana, "the temple of bamboo forest".
  • Banon. 8th-century Hindu temple located north from Pawon temple. The few remains make it impossible to reconstruct the temple. The Hindu god statue from this temple is now located at the National Museum in Jakarta.
  • Umbul, a 9th-century bathing complex in Grabag, Magelang

East of Borobudur

  • Gunung Sari. Ruins of three secondary temples and the foot of the main temple remain.
  • Gunung Wukir. One of the oldest inscriptions on Java, written in 732 CE, found here. Only the bases remain of the main sanctuary and three secondary temples.

Slopes of Gunung Merapi

Western Slopes

Southern Slopes

Eastern Slopes

Near Yogyakarta


  • Candi Sambisari. 10th century underground Hindu temple buried by eruptions from Mount Merapi for a century. Discovered in 1966 by a farmer plowing his field.
  • Candi Kadisoka, uncompleted 8th-century temple buried by eruptions from Merapi. Thought to have been Hindu temple, discovered in 2000.

Dieng Plateau

Main article: Dieng temples

The Hindu temple compound located in Dieng Plateau, near Wonosobo, Central Java. Eight small Hindu temples from the 7th and 8th centuries, the oldest in Central Java. Surrounded by craters of boiling mud, colored lakes, caves, sulphur outlets, hot water sources and underground channels. The temples are:

  • Arjuna temple
  • Semar temple
  • Srikandi temple
  • Puntadewa temple
  • Sembadra temple
  • Dwarawati temple
  • Gatotkaca temple
  • Bima temple

Gedong Songo

South-west of Semarang, Central Java

Five temples constructed in 8th and 9th centuries. The site highlights how, in Hinduism, location of temples was as important as the structures themselves. The site has panoramas of three volcanoes and Dieng Plateau.

Klaten Regency

East of Yogyakarta, Central Java

  • Candi Merak. Two 10th century Hindu temples, rich in reliefs and decorations, in the middle of a village.
  • Candi Karangnongko. Difficult to date because remains are few.

Mount Lawu

Near Surakarta, Central Java

Prambanan Plain

East of Yogyakarta

  • Roro Jonggrang, the main Prambanan complex. 9th century Hindu temple called the "Slender Maiden". Main temple dedicated to Shiva flanked by temples to Visnu and Brahma. Reliefs depict Ramayana stories.

North of main Prambanan complex

  • Sewu. Buddhist temple complex, older than Roro Jonggrang. A main sanctuary surrounded by many smaller temples. Well preserved guardian statues, replicas of which stand in the central courtyard at the Jogja Kraton.
  • Candi Lumbung. Buddhist temple ruin located south from Sewu temple, consisting of one main temple surrounded by 16 smaller ones.
  • Candi Gana. Buddhist temple ruin rich in statues, bas-reliefs and sculpted stones. Frequent representations of children or dwarfs with raised hands. Located east from Sewu complex in the middle of housing complex. Under restoration since 1997.
  • Plaosan. Buddhist temple compound located few kilometers east from Sewu temple, probably 9th century. Thought to have been built by a Hindu king for his Buddhist queen. Two main temples with reliefs of a man and a woman. Slender stupa.

South of main Prambanan complex

  • Arca Bugisan. Seven Buddha and bodhisattva statues, some collapsed, representing different poses and expressions.
  • Sajiwan. Buddhist temple decorated with reliefs concerning education. The base and staircase are decorated with animal fables.

West of main Prambanan complex

  • Candi Sari. Once a sanctuary for Buddhist priests. 8th century. Nine stupas at the top with two rooms beneath, each believed to be places for priests to meditate.
  • Candi Kalasan. 8th-century Buddhist temple built in commemoration of the marriage of a king and his princess bride, ornamented with finely carved reliefs.
  • Candi Kedulan. Discovered in 1994 by sand diggers, 4m deep. Square base of main temple visible. Secondary temples not yet fully excavated.

Ratu Boko & surrounds

File:Ratuboko Gate.jpg
The gate of Ratu Boko Palace compound.
File:Candi Barong.JPG
Candi Barong.

East of Yogyakarta and south of Prambanan

  • Ratu Boko Built between 8th and 9th centuries. Mixed Buddhist and Hindu style. Partially restored palace auditorium. Ruins of the royal garden with a bathing pool inside.

South of Ratu Boko

  • Arca Gopolo. A group of seven statues in a circle, as if in assembly. Flower decoration on the clothes of the largest are still visible.
  • Banyunibo. A small 9th-century Buddhist complex. A main temple surrounded by six smaller ones forming a stupa. Restoration completed in 1978.
  • Candi Barong. Two almost identical temples on terraces. Believed to be 9th century Hindu and part of a sacred complex, of which they were the crown.
  • Dawangsari. Perhaps the site of a destroyed Buddhist stupa, now reduced to an array of andesite stones.
  • Candi Ijo. A complex of three-tiered temples, but only one has been renovated. A main sanctuary and three secondary shrines with statues. Still under reconstruction.
  • Watugudig. A group of pole sittings in the shape of a Javanese gong. About 40 have been discovered, but others may remain buried. Locals believe this to be the resting place of King Boko.

South-west of Ratu Boko

  • Candi Abang. Actually a well that looks like a pyramid with very tall walls. In some aspects looks like Borobudur. Unique atmosphere.
  • Candi Gampingan. Ruins 1.5m underground of a temple and stairs. Reliefs of animals at the foot of the temple are believed to be a fable.
  • Sentono. At the base of Abang temple. Perhaps younger than other regional temples. Complex of caves with two mouths. Statue and bas-relief in left chamber.
  • Situs Payak. The best preserved bathing place in Central Java. 5m below ground. Thought to be Hindu.

Candi of West Java

File:Candi cangkuang.jpg
Cangkuang, Garut West Java
  • Candi Cangkuang, the only one of the few surviving West Java's Hindu temple at Leles, Garut, West Java. Located on an island in the middle of a lake covered by water lilies. Unlike other Javanese temple characteristics by grand architecture, Cangkuang temple is more modest with only one structure still standing.[6] Shiva statue faces east toward the sunrise. Date uncertain.
  • Batujaya, a compound of Buddhist Stupa made from red brick and mortar located at Batu Jaya, Karawang, West Java. Probably dated back to Tarumanagara kingdom in the 6th century AD.
  • Bojongmenje, ruins of Hindu temple in Bandung Regency.

Candi of East Java

Malang area

Malang, East Java

Blitar area

Kediri area

  • Candi Surowono is a small temple, of the Majapahit Kingdom, located in the Canggu Village of the Kediri (near Pare) district in Java, Indonesia. It was believed to have been built in 1390 AD as a memorial to Wijayarajasa, the Prince of Wengker.

Sidoarjo, Tretes & Probolinggo areas

  • Candi Pari, in Sidoarjo. Dated from 1293 Saka (1371 CE), this Majapahit red brick temple bear similarity with Champa architecture.
  • Candi Sumur, in Sidoarjo. Located just a hundred meters from Candi Pari, probably built in the same era.
  • Candi Jawi, Tretes. A 13th-century funerary temple. Slender Shiva-Buddhist shrine completed around 1300.
  • Penanggungan sites, Mount Penanggungan, which has terraced sanctuaries, meditation grottoes and sacred pools, about 80 sites in all including Candi Belahan believed to be the burial site of King Airlangga, who died in 1049.
  • Candi Jabung, east of Probolinggo, near Kraksaan. According to the inscription on the top of the temple portal, Jabung dates from 1276 saka (1354 CE).


File:Brahu Temple Trowulan.jpg
Candi Brahu, Trowulan
  • Candi Tikus, Trowulan. Trowulan was once the capital of the Majapahit kingdom, the controller of most of the important ports of the day. Survived thanks to a sophisticated irrigation system. Tikus held run-off water from Mount Penanggungan for sanctification rites. Site also contains parts of the palace gate, entryway and water system.
  • Candi Brahu, Trowulan. Location the temple front of Bubat Area in Majapahit Palace environment (7°32'33.85"S, 112°22'28.01"E). Brahu Temple is a budhis temple, built at 15 a.c and restored during 1990 and was finished during 1995. There was no accurate note the function of the temple.
  • Candi Gentong, Trowulan. Location the temple 350m east of Brahu temple(7°32'38.05"S, 112°22'40.65"E). Many Ceramic from Ming and Yuan Dynasty founded in this temple area. There was no accurate note the function of the temple.
  • Candi Muteran, Trowulan. Location the temple north of Brahu temple ( 7°32'27.72"S, 112°22'29.41"E). There was no accurate note the function of the temple.
  • Kolam Segaran, Trowulan. Segaran pond is Majapahit Heritage (7°33'29.55"S,112°22'57.54"E) The Pond was found during 1926 by Ir.Maclain Pont. First restoration was 1966, finished at 1984. The function of this pond was as the place of recreation and to greet the foreign guest. This was the biggest ancient pond founded in Indonesia.
  • Gapura Bajang Ratu, Trowulan.
  • Gerbang Wringin Lawang, Trowulan.

Candi of Bali

File:Gunung Kawi temple.jpg
Gunung Kawi, Bali
  • Candi Gunung Kawi. Located in Sebatu village, Tampak Siring area, Gianyar regency. It is one of the oldest temple in Bali dated from 989 CE, the five temples is carved on the stone slopes forming grottoes.
  • Candi Kalibukbuk. Located in Kalibukbuk village, Buleleng regency. It is one of the few Buddhist temple in Hindu dominated Bali. The temple is thought to be dated from the 8th century.

Candi of Sumatra

File:Candi Bahal 1.JPG
Biaro Bahal, North Sumatra

Candi of Kalimantan


See also

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  1. ^ Philip Rawson: The Art of Southeast Asia
  2. ^ Soekmono, R. "Candi:Symbol of the Universe", pp.58-59 in Miksic, John, ed. Ancient History Volume 1 of Indonesian Heritage Series Archipelago Press, Singapore (1996) ISBN 978-981-3018-26-6
  3. ^ Soekmono, Dr R. (1973). Pengantar Sejarah Kebudayaan Indonesia 2. Yogyakarta, Indonesia: Penerbit Kanisius. p. 81. ISBN 979-413-290-X. 
  4. ^ Konservasi Borobudur (in Indonesian)
  5. ^ Soekmono, Dr R. (1973). Pengantar Sejarah Kebudayaan Indonesia 2. Yogyakarta, Indonesia: Penerbit Kanisius. p. 86. ISBN 979-413-290-X. 
  6. ^ Garut: The Hidden Beauty of West Java

Further reading

  • Dumarcay, J. 1986 Temples of Java Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press
  • Holt, C. 1967 Art in Indonesia Ithaca: Cornell University
  • Patt, J.A. 1979 The Uses and Symbolism of Water in Ancient Indonesian Temple Architecture University of California, Berkeley (unublished PhD thesis)
  • Prijotomo, J. (1984) Ideas and Forms of Javanese Architecture Yogyakarta: Gadjah Mada University Press

External links