Buddhist and Hindu Candis in East Java

What is now Trowulan in East Java, south of Surabaya, was once known as Wilwatikta, and was the capital of the Majapahit Empire, once it had moved to the East of the Island. All around the area there are remains of one kind or another of the ancient seat of power.

We find not only Gopura, which must have acted as gateways into the city, but also many tombs, tanks, bathing tanks and numerous archeological sites around the area. There must be many more that are still lying underground, but are now on private property.

In the morning we visited some of these places again, including a number of tombs and related meditation sites, as it seems each King had his favourite place for contemplation. Many of them – perhaps surprisingly – are still in use today.

We also visited a large collection of syncretic shrines run by descendents of local brahmin Majapahit families, which still maintain their Hindu-Buddhist roots, it is a complex which also includes the earliest Chinese temple in the district.

Later we tried again at the Museum, and this time we did gain access to the area outside the Museum, but the keys to the main building were not even on the premises. Again today there was a large and well-attended festival taking place in the grounds, celebrating the founding of the Majapahit dynasty.

After lunch we rested for a short while, and then began the journey down to Tulungagung, where, somewhat feverish after over-stretching myself I spent the night, sleeping for 10 hours straight.

The next morning we got up early and were presented with breakfast dana by members of the local Buddhist population, drawn from a small community of around 1,200 people. We then travelled in a motorbike-led convoy to visit some of the smaller candis in the area.

After visiting the small local museum we moved on to Blitar, our next stop along the way, and came to what must be the finest monument in East Java, Candi Penataran, a large Hindu complex, built from the 12th-15th centuries, with many fine reliefs on its stonework.

The sculpting is different in style to Central Java, but equally fine in execution, the reliefs mainly depict the avatars of Viṣṇu, and include the Rāma story, and the Kṛṣṇa story, as it was told in the Javanese Kṛṣṇāyana book.

Museum Majapahit

Museum Majapahit

Tomb of Putri Cempo

Tomb of Putri Cempo

Complex of Majapahit Shrines

Complex of Majapahit Shrines

Nāga Temple at Candi Penataran

Naga Temple at Candi Penataran

Relief showing sculpted model of Candi Penataran

Relief showing sculpted model of Candi Penataran



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1 comment to Buddhist and Hindu Candis in East Java

  • Venerable Nissarano

    Hello Bhante,
    Are you still in Indonesia? How are you going?
    Happy Birthday for last month!
    Are you going to do an uposatha calendar for 2018?
    I am in Melbourne at the Buddhist Society for 3 months doing some teaching, medicial check ups, catching up with friends, and visiting a few monasteries.
    I hope this finds you well and enjoying your Dhamma work.
    With my Respects and thanks for all your work,

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