June 20, 2014

She gave him a condition to build a thousand temples and two wells in one night.

I would be lying if I said I was excited to see this temple.

With all due respect, the religious sites are very interesting and beautiful but after visiting so many Hindu temples in Bali, I was starting to feel like they all just looked the same. The reason why I still insisted on visiting Prambanan is because of the legend behind it.

While scanning the internet for facts about Prambanan, I came across a legend that’s been told amongst the Javanese people.

The Legend

The legend tells of Bandawasa, a strong warrior from Pengging. He was tasked by his King to conquer a nearby kingdom called Prambanan.

Armed with his Bandung (a club) and his army, they set out to attack the troops in Prambanan, killing the King in the process. After achieving victory, the King of Pengging rewarded Bandawasa with the kingdom he had conquered.

He instantly fell in love with the princess named Rara Jonggrang, the daughter of the late King of Prambanan. He asked for her hand in marriage but she secretly despised him for killing her father.

She knew he was stronger than her so she had no choice. Instead of saying yes, she gave him a condition to build a thousand temples and two wells in one night. If he succeeded, she would accept the marriage.

In the evening, Bandawasa summoned spirits to help him build the temples. The princess, secretly observing in the background, noticed that he was almost done with the last temple so she started to worry.

An idea came to her and she asked her maids to burn the hay. From a distance, the burning hay looked like the sun was starting to rise. And soon the roosters were tricked into crowing.

The spirits were afraid of sunlight so they hastily stopped their work and vanished, leaving the pile of rocks unfinished. Bandawasa tried to build the last temple on his own but failed as morning had finally come.

Jonggrang succeeded in her efforts but Bandawasa found out about what she did and felt cheated upon. He cursed the princess by turning her into a statue and placed her inside one of the temples in Prambanan.

Brave souls. These people are clearly not afraid of heights. Clearly.

I decided to observe people. I looked at how they interacted with the stone walls, the intricate design, and with other people.

It was fascinating to see their reaction after climbing the steep stairs. Likewise, the relief of reaching the top and realizing their small achievement.

I noticed how the local teenagers loved to huddle around the caucasian tourists, asking for a photo with them, or signing their little notebook. I watched as the newcomers noticed the small crowd gathering and quickly joined in.

Ratu Boko

With lots of spare time and boredom sinking in, I found a free shuttle within the park that told me they were going to a nearby temple called Ratu Boko.

“What the heck. I might as well see it since the shuttle is free.” I thought imagining since it is not so popular, the entrance fee might not be expensive.

When I got there, I realized the entrance fee was after all expensive so I thought of taking the free shuttle back to Prambanan and just take another bus back to Yogyakarta. As I was heading to the van, the driver told me to pay the entrance fee. He said that since the shuttle was free, I had to go into the temple and pay the entrance fee. I felt cheated–this was the catch!

I know that I was supposed to argue so I didn’t have to go inside the temple but under the heat of the sun, arguing seems to be my weakest skill so I paid and went inside. Plus the driver accompanied me personally to the ticket booth and insisted on waiting until I paid the lady.

It wasn’t interesting for me. It felt like a tourist trap and I was in the middle of it. Oh well, no use complaining now since I’d already paid.

I walked around and it was mostly empty except for a few ruins and farm animals. The air wasn’t fresh even though we were on top of a mountain all because they were burning plants/garbage here and there.

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