Chapter 1, Part 9
In the early ninth century AD under the rule of Samaratungga, the union between Medang and Srivijaya grew stronger, the kingdom was largely in peace, allowing artistry and craftsmanship to flourish. However unlike the expansionist Dharanindra, the new king ruled his kingdom in a more pacifist way, focusing on spreading the teachings of the Buddha rather than incorporating other kingdoms in the region into its sphere of influence. He had one daughter and one son, named Pramodhawardhani and Balaputra, respectively. But that is in fact only one version of the story.
The scarcity of inscription or written document that survived over the course of centuries regarding the Sailendras – or in the case of the availability of them, the contradicting information from different inscriptions – leads to confusion among historians. Some say, for instance, Balaputra was Samaratungga’s son, hence Pramodhawardhani’s brother. But according to others, he was the son of Samaragrawira (Samaratungga’s father), making him Pramodhawardhani’s uncle. However another theory suggests that Samaragrawira and Samaratungga were in fact the same person.
Upon Samaratungga’s death, Pramodhawardhani was next in line to claim the throne. However there was one problem: she was married to a Hindu king of the Sanjaya dynasty (or according to others: Hindu Sailendras) named Mpu Manuku who was later known as Rakai Pikatan. The return of the Sanjayas to the royal court of Medang threatened the close alliance between Medang and Srivijaya. Some believe the new Hindu king fought Balaputra, resulting in the latter’s retreat to Sumatra. Others believe that there was never any war between the two, and Balaputra’s shift to Buddhist Srivijaya was on his own will.
Nevertheless the marriage of Rakai Pikatan, a Shaivite Hindu, with Pramodhawardhani, a Mahayana Buddhist, was seen as a further effort to unify the people of Medang. Rakai Pikatan’s co-reign with his wife not only promoted Hinduism but also ensured Buddhism remain an important religion in the kingdom. During their co-reign many new Hindu, as well as Buddhist, temples were constructed, often not too far from each other symbolizing harmony of the two religions at that time. However to mark the resurgence of Hinduism in the kingdom of Medang, a new, majestic Hindu temple was envisioned to match Borobudur’s splendor. The new monument, built only a few decades after the completion of the Buddhist colossal stepped pyramid, was called Shivagrha, ‘house of Shiva’, today’s Candi Siwa at Prambanan temple complex.
Taking the location near Manjusrigrha (Candi Sewu), the former royal temple of Medang, Shivagrha was built to the height of 47 meters – 12 meters taller than Borobudur. The main temple was erected during Rakai Pikatan’s reign. However his successor added more structures and enlarged the entire compound to consist of more than 200 temples.
Two other temples were later added to the south and north of Candi Siwa, dedicated to the other Trimurti gods: Brahma and Vishnu (Wisnu), respectively. In front of each of the three, vahana (vehicle) temples were built: Nandi the bull in front of Candi Siwa, Angsa the swan in front of Candi Brahma, and Garuda the bird warrior in front of Candi Wisnu. On the corners of the main temple ground once stood small temples of the Lokapalas, guardians of the directions, also called Astadikpala (guardians of eight directions).
Stories from the Hindu epic Ramayana were carved on Candi Siwa and Brahma, while on Candi Wisnu the story of Krishna, one of the avatars of Vishnu. At Candi Siwa images of the eight Lokapalas were sculpted on its eight cardinal directions, clockwise from northeast: Ishana, Indra, Agni, Yama, Nirrti, Varuna (Baruna), Vayu (Bayu), and Kubera. However at the other main temples the Lokapalas were absent, replaced with images of brahmins at Candi Brahma, and devatas (gods) flanked by apsaras (celestial nymphs) at Candi Wisnu. At the base of all the main temples panels of a singa (sinha/lion) flanked by kalpataru trees with two kinnaras under each tree adorned all sides of the temples. Not found anywhere else, such panel is also known as the Prambanan panel.
Beyond the main temple ground scattered smaller, less significant temples called Pervara, or Candi Perwara. Their reconstruction was never completed due to insufficient original stones because of past looting and the dismantling of the shrines to build other structures. However, even without the Pervara temples, one can see that Candi Prambanan did serve its purpose to signify the return of Hinduism to power in Java in an elegant and grand manner.
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