After completing our work at the temples in Prambanan, near Yogyakarta, we decided to go to see two fertility temples on Mount Lawu, which borders East Java. The trip took around three hours, going past Surakarta, and then climbing into the green hills before we reached our first destination, Candi Sukuh.
The Candi is around 1,000 metres above sea level. We had a clear sunny morning, and the temperature was fine. There were not many visitors when we were there, perhaps because we got there at opening time, and so we were able to wander around, and take photographs without any problem.
The temple inclines from west, where the entrance is, to east, where the main temple stands, and is built on several terraces which are accessed through gates and stairways which lead one to the next level.
The temple is well-known for its fertility symbols, and originally even entrance would have been over a linga and yoni carved into the floor of the gate (it is now closed off for protection). Inside there are a number of statues having prominent phalluses around the main temple.
There is also some very fine relief work, mainly in the East Javan style, which means the characters portrayed look very much like the puppets used in the traditional theatrical shows (wayang), and are similarly displayed side-on, and are very different from the realistic sculpture of Borobudur and Prambanan.
The central temple was built towards the end of the Majapahit era in the 15th century, and it is a unique pyramid-type structure 16m high, having a base 16x16m. This is not very large, but because of its unusual shape is very striking and unexpected.
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After we had finished at Sukuh we moved on to a similar temple, which by a circuitous route was around 12 km away. By the time we got to Candi Cetho the mists were coming in, and the air was not so clear, but we were protected from the heat of the day also.
Candi Cetho is higher than Sukuh at around 1,500m. It dates from roughly the same time, and is similarly orientated towards fertility. The entrance features a large linga and yoni combination laid out on the floor, probably around 20-25ft in length.
Many of the statues are weather-worn, as is some of the relief-work, which seems to tell local legends, rather than classical ones. We only visited these temples during the course of one day, but it was a very good excursion, and I think we understood more about the culture of medieval Java through making the trip.