Category Archives: Travel in Southeast Asia

Temples of the Borobudur Region – Travel Diary, Day Three: Prambanan, Candi Sari, Kalasan, Lumbung, Sewu, Plaosan

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This post covers the final day from the travel diary by Joan Foo Mahony, publisher of Architecture of the Buddhist World book series. Part One can be found here. Part Two here.

On the final day of our Borobudur region trip, we were taken to the Prambanan Park area, a sacred area where Hinduism and Buddhism thrived. Here, we were treated to not only the biggest and grandest Hindu temple complex in S.E Asia, known as Prambanan, but also some of the oldest and most interesting Buddhist temples which were located in the same park.

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The Prambanan Temple complex is Hindu and was built in 850 CE to 856 CE (after Borobodur and before Angkor), and by the Sanjaya Dynasty after the Shailendras were driven out of Java and back to Palembang in Sumatra. But the Sanjayites did not destroy the Buddhist temples already built nearby (Candi Sari, Kalasan, Lumbang, Plaosan and Sewu) but kept them, out of deference perhaps to the wife of the Hindu king, who was Buddhist and a member of the previous Buddhist Shailendra dynasty. It was also interesting to note that Hinduism in Java was not exactly the same as in India. When Hinduism took hold in Java, just as in the case of Buddhism, it incorporated part of the Javanese customs and traditions.

The Prambanan complex of temples consist of the biggest one in the centre dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva, the destroyer with Vishnu (the preserver) and Brahma (the creator) on either side and their vehicles in front. These are the Hindu trinity or Makti. Just as in the case of India, the temple to Shiva dominates here. In fact, in India, there are very few temples dedicated to Brahma. Most are dedicated to Shiva and in northern India to Vishnu.

The consort of Shiva is Durga and there is a temple dedicated to Durga in the grounds and to Ganesha, Shiva’s son, half elephant, half man. The main shrine has a huge 3 meter high statue of Shiva and of Durga on the side as well as Ganesha. In all the balsutrades and walls, there are some very exquisite carvings showing a very level of Sri Vijayan art.

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The 3 vehicles or mounts of the Hindu Gods (called vahana or wahana) are located in front of each temple. Magnificent intricately carved stone statues of Shiva’s vehicle, Nandi (the bull) ; Brahma’s angsa (the swan) ; and Vishnu’s garuda (the eagle).

The Prambanan complex is huge and has outer and inner courts. The main temple called the Roro Jonggrang temple which is dedicated to Shiva rises to 47 meters in height and is higher than Borobodur. There are about 240 structures in Prambanan and of these, most are in ruins with about only 8 temples standing.

The balustrades of the temples all contain beautiful bas reliefs depicting the entire epic of the Ramayana. Prambanan being a Hindu temple is architecturally very different from the Buddhist temples and is NOT symmetrical nor is it in the shape of a mandala. The Hindu temples are all slender and tall, reaching upwards like the representations of Mt. Meru.

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Candi Sari is a Buddhist temple, built in a straight line to the Candi Kalasan, built at the same time and about 1 km apart. However, where Candi Kalasan was used purely as a temple, Candi Sari was built purely as a vihara or monastery, for the monks as a place to stay. In fact , the word “Sari” means to sleep or a place to sleep.

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The monks’ rooms ( the size is 3m x 5.8m per room or 220 sq ft per room ) are all in the upper floors with no decoration in the walls and no niche for statues, plain and simple as is the case for the abodes of monks. As a vihara, the Candi Sari has many chambers; one central and 2 side chambers; the upper chambers as mentioned are the bedrooms for monks. How did the monks get up to the bedrooms? Perhaps via wooden staircases which are now obviously destroyed. In fact, almost 70% of the Candi Sari structures are lost and could not be re-built.

There is a beautiful central chamber for praying, with stone niches – all built in proportion where once bronze statues would have been placed. The main gate faces east, with the Mahakala at the entrance – to represent how on entering, it swallows up our defilements – for pilgrims it means leave your defilements outside when you enter.

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Note: Mahakala, a wrathful deity, is considered to be the fierce and powerful emanation of Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion. This deity is one of the Dharmapalas in Vajrayana Buddhism who defend the Dharma from corruption and degeneration and from forces hostile to it; to keep the site of the ritual free from impure thoughts and actions; to guide and protect the individual practitioner from all kinds of deception and delusion; bestow the power to overcome life struggles; and to eliminate one’s obstacles and impediment that hinder.

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Both Candi Sari and Candi Kalasan predate Borobodur; maybe 5 to 6 years before Borobodur and various elements – such as finely carved windows with stupikas – later used at Borobodur were first used here.

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As mentioned, Candi Kalasan is perhaps the earliest of all the monuments, built in 778 CE, and was conceived with Candi Sari as a pair of buildings, Candi Kalasan, the shrine and Candi Sari, the Vihara. The monks lived in Sari but they prayed at Kalasan.

Although now in a rather ruined state, we could still see the very unique carvings at the big main arch reaching up to the top of the shrine and over the eastern entrance to the temple. Most of the shrine is in ruins and not too accessible.


This temple is dedicated to Manjushri and carved from the outside and probably was the prototype for Candi Sewu and Prambanan.


This is the second largest Buddhist monument in Java after Borobodur. The word “Sewu” means a thousand or a multitude of a thousand. Candi Sewu, like Borobodur was built as a monumental Buddhist temple with multiple structures. Candi Sewu was built just after or perhaps even during Borobodur. However, unlike Borobodur where everything is open and there are no enclosed structures, Candi Sewu also devised and built as a monumental structure is multi-chambered and fully enclosed.

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Like Borobudur, it is perfect, beautiful and symmetrical. Its height is 30 meters at the central tower and the diameter is 29 meters at the base. The width of the Candi Sewu complex is 185 meters and the length 165 metres – the size of 2 football fields ! Here, there are 249 structures and is laid out in the shape of a mandala. There is a central building surrounded by four corners ( Penjuru ). Surrounding the main building and the 4 corners is a rectangular with many layers or Perwara augmenting each one.

Candi Sewu was built to honour Manjushri. It is a beautiiful Sri Viyayan style temple. The stupas are built in the Central Java style ie bulbous and stocky and not like the stupas of Candi Mendut which is East Java style and very slender.

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In front of temple are the guardians or Dwarapala which are stone figures of animal chimera or mythical protectors which guard the temples . There is a pair of Dwarapala in each cardinal direction.


Built around the middle of the 9th century , around the time the Hindu temples of Prambanan was built, Candi Plaosan was sponsored by the wife of the Hindu king as she was Buddhist . So, Plaosan was built just 1 km away from Prambanan and dedicated to Manjushri. Originally Plaosan had 174 stuctures, not as big as Sewu but still quite amazing. Now, not many temples are left.

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Countryside surrounding Candi Plaosan
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Candi Plaosan showing some renovation/reconstruction work under way
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Statue inside Candi Plaosan
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Parangtritis beach

We ended our trip with sunset at Parangtritis beach, on the southern Java coast facing the Indian Ocean. Our trip had begun with the full moon high above our heads amidst the soft strains of Indonesian gamelan music and the backdrop of Ramayana dances ; followed by the most spiritual sunrise over the sacred ruins of Borobodur; and ended so fittingly with the red glows of sunset and the roaring ocean waves bearing down on Javanese rocks over the limitless horizon of the Indian ocean.

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Writing by Joan Foo Mahony; in New York on 30th September 2013; Photos many thanks to Alex Toong

>> Read part 1 of this travel diary here

>>Read part 2 of this travel diary here

>> Pinterest gallery of further Central Java trip photos here

Duc La Pagoda, Bac Giang Province, Vietnam

Buddha statue at Duc La Pagoda, Vietnam

The mere mention of Duc La Pagoda is enough to excite awe and honour in the minds of the people of Vietnam – the temple has been in existence for nearly 700 years and holds a collection of 3,000 carved woodblocks recognised by UNESCO as World Documentary Heritage.

Monk with scriptures at Duc La Pagoda, Vietnam
Decorative panels at Duc La Pagoda, Vietnam

Roof architecture at Duc La Pagoda, Vietnam
exterior of  Duc La Pagoda, Vietnam
Courtyard at Duc La Pagoda, Vietnam

Duc La Pagoda follows rules of feng shui for its location. Traditional feng shui highlights that sanctuary structures should be located in a site with a river to the front and a mountain at the back. Duc La Pagoda leans on the Co Tien Mountain and looks over to the Luc River. This location is believed to bring harmony, calm and balance into the structure.

Surrounding the pagoda are vast paddy fields, picturesque villages and the Nham Bien Mountain range, which create a very poetic and mystical feel.

Ancient documents reveal that Duc La pagoda was built in the 11th century during the Ly Dynasty. It was later turned into a training centre for talented monks by three head Vietnamese monks: Tran Nhan Tong, Phap Hoa, and Huyen Quang during the Tran dynasty in the 13th century. The remaining ruins date back to the Le Dynasty and Nguyen Dynasty in the 15th and 19th centuries respectively.

The main architecture of Bo Da Pagoda is composed of four structures lying on a south west axis. The main hall still preserves the architectural style of the Ly Dynasty, especially the decorative symbol of wooden planks and cloud on its arms, while the two-roofed bell tower and the monk’s house clearly display the architectural style of the Nguyen Dynasty (19th century).

Beautiful carving at Duc La Pagoda, Vietnam

Nowadays Duc La Pagoda remains a major centre of Buddhism in Vietnam as it currently keeps a collection of 3,000 carved woodblocks, including some featuring two Buddhist Sutras. Those woodblocks provide valuable information on the formation, development and ideology of Truc Lam Zen Buddhism, founded by King Tran Nhan Tong in the 11th century.

interior at Duc La Pagoda, Vietnam
Buddhist drum at Duc La Pagoda, Vietnam
Hanging decorations at Duc La Pagoda, Vietnam

>> To view more wonderful photos from the Duc La Pagoda in a full-size gallery please click this link.

Text and photos by writer Sophia Doan.

Temples of the Borobudur Region – Travel Diary, Day Two (Borobudur Temple Visit)

This post covers Day 2 of 3 from the travel diary by Joan Foo Mahony, publisher of Architecture of the Buddhist World book series. Part One can be found here.

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3 am! It would be an early start, but I was too excited to sleep anyway. I jumped out of bed even before the alarm went at 2 am. Off we went in the dark towards one of the wonders of the world – for me it IS the wonder of the Buddhist world.

That day was also the day of the full moon so it was such an auspicious day to view Borobodur.

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This was the highlight of the trip and we would be spending half a day at Borobodur itself. After a longish drive at 3 am in the morning, we arrived at the Borobodur Park and the Manohara Hotel on the ground to begin the morning hike to the temples to be there for the sunrise at 5:45 am. With flashlights, hiking shoes and stick in tow, we headed off in pitch black of the early morning climbing over the precarious stones. In spite of the darkness, I could see the magnificent silhouettes of the Buddhas and stupas looming in the distance and I had to hold my breath in anticipation. Then, after climbing over all the 10 terraces to the very top, we sat quietly, facing east – the mountains ( and the volcanoes of Merapi and Merbabu ) and the sunrise in the distance. We began our morning puja with Brother Tan and meditated, the ancient stones resonating with our Pali prayers. Borobodur – seeing the monuments at sunrise – sings and thrills the heart.

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Built in 800 CE by the Shailendra dynasty, Borobodur is a Mahayana Buddhist complex of stupas – a gigantic Buddhist monument – at 42 meters or 100 feet tall and a total of 504 stupas in its 123 square meter grounds, it is the largest Buddhist monument in the world. The hundreds of stupas are not just a mass of stones ( laval andesite rocks ) but carved and built ( and all laid without mortar ) on top of a natural hillock, where using the terraces of the natural hills, the builders stacked stones to make these monumental stupas in perfect symmetry and total harmony.

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The Borobodur complex is an open monument; there are no chambers ; it has no roof and no vaults, (like Candi Sewu). The complex is built in the form of a giant pyramid shaped mandala with 10 ascending layers: the 10 Buddhist worlds represented by the 10 layers. Ascending from the base, there are six square terraces and a courtyard and then, at the top 3 round terraces and at the top, a central main stupa measuring 35 meters from the base or 42 meters tall.

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The mandala is a diagram representing a spiritual practice of attainment in the Tibetan school of Vajrayana and also in the Sri Vijayan school as well. What type of mandala is Borobodur ? This is difficult to say. There are as many as 3,500 types of mandalas and we cannot precisely fix Borobodur as a particular type of mandala.

Each side of the Borobodur complex is 120 feet long and decreases as it goes up. If we were to circumambulate each level, it would encompass a total of 5 km.

The entrance to Borobodur is at the east and the Buddhas face east.

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Borobodur took about 70 years to be built by the architect Gunadharma .There is a small hill directly facing Borobodur and folklore says that this hill is said to represent the sleeping body profile of Gunadvara.

There are a total of 504 stupas in the entire complex, each stupa enclosing a life size stone Buddha. However, many are now empty due to pillage. Remarkably, no Buddha image is the same, each Buddha image faces all various directions and with various hand mudras with all the 6 types of mudras all represented. The 3 upper terraces have 72 Buddhas; the lower terraces have 432 with total of 504. All the numbers add up to the number 9 ( the largest single digit indiger ).

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All the stupas have the stocky bulbous Central Java shape. Each stupa consists of the top or harmuca which holds holy relics relic holding top and the main body or anda sitting on a lotus base. But, not all stupas in Borobodur look the same. The stupas in the upper and lower terraces are differentiated by the harmuca and the anda. The stupas of the lower terraces have octogonal shaped harmuca and the anda enclosing the Buddha have many tiny square shaped openings or holes. However, the stupas of the upper terraces have a square shaped harmuca and diamond shaped openings in the anda.

The base of each stupa equals the height of the stupa. Absolutely perfect symmetry! In fact, all measurements from every corner and the height of all stupas of Borobodur are governed by this perfect symmetry.

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The main central stupa at the top which measures 42 meters is still in the process of restoration – the top has not yet been restored – and is missing the 3 layers of the parasol or ‘chatra’ as can be seen at the Sarnath temple in India.

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After the sunrise, we climbed back to the Manohara hotel for breakfast and a rest then proceeded after that to go back up to climb Borobodur again ! This time, we were treated to an amazing lecture by Brother Tan on some of the many Mahayana bas relief panels covering each of the 10 layers of terraced carvings. Each gallery being absolute masterpieces of Sri Vijayan or Gandaran art. No one panel is the same, each gallery in each layer representing different Jataka stories and as one goes further up the galleries, the Jataka stories brought to life by the panels get from the ordinary to the more conceptual and spiritual.

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Borobodur was built in 830 CE and was abandoned in 938 CE. No one quite knows why except that it could have been a massive volcanic eruption when 1.3 meters of ash covered everything and Borobodur (like Angkor) was hidden by this ash and the all-pervading silent jungle. Theodore Van Erp rediscovered Borobudur in 1907 and began the long restoration process, which has led to the site now being UNESCO protected and maintained. In any event, the champions of Buddhism, the Shailendra dynasty was chased out of Java in 825 CE and this meant that for the next 30 to 40 years thereafter, the royal patronage for Buddhist temples in java was lost. After the Shailendras were removed, the Sanjayan family which was a Hindu princely family still continued to support Buddhism but it began to wane.

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As the Borobodur complex was being built from 830 CE to 938CE, archaeologists discovered that it could have been revised by as much as three times from the original plan. In any event, there were no blueprints then and restorers can only surmise by taking apart the stones and putting them back again. The restoration of Borobodur which began in 1907 ( to 1911 ) by T van Erp was quite thorough and each stone was removed, cleaned, numbered and replaced. This was again redone by UNESCO . But this time, they put in place a proper drainage system and this has helped to hopefully permanently preserve the Borobodur temples from further water damage – perhaps for the next thousand years ???

In the restoration process they had to build a false footing all around the base because when the restoration began, they discovered that the stacks were so unstable the entire complex may cave in. As a result, the base was broadened with the false stone footing. This has meant that sadly, many beautifully carved panels on the base had to be sacrificed and covered over with the reinforced new stone base.

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Writing by Joan Foo Mahony; Photos many thanks to Alex Toong

>> Read Part 1 of this travel diary here

>> Read Part 3 here

>> Pinterest gallery of further Central Java trip photos here

Bo Da Pagoda, Bac Giang Province, Vietnam

Courtyard and gateway Bo Da Pagoda, Vietnam

The distinct brown colour of soil walls, the yin and yang tiles, its wooden fences and big water jars give Bo Da Pagoda an old-world feel. The pagoda houses a remarkable collection of the oldest Buddhist texts in Vietnam, which are engraved on a type of ebony [Diospyros decandra] wooden blocks and have lasted for hundreds of years without any preservatives.

Traditional mud brick walls at Bo Da Pagoda, Vietnam

Bo Da Pagoda was built in the 11th century during the Ly Dynasty, the golden age of Buddhism in Vietnam. The pagoda, which has survived several wars and been renovated many times throughout the centuries, now demonstrates the architectural style of the Nguyen Dynasty (the last dynasty of feudal Vietnam).

Entrance way at Bo Da Pagoda, Vietnam

Its architectural complex consists of nearly 100 ancient compartments, which all open into one another, and features a distinct layout that resembles the word “quốc” (國-“state”) in Chinese. Therefore, although the complex appears to be closed from the outside, once getting to the inner area of the pagoda, visitors probably get lost within a maze of corridors and shrine rooms.

Wooden monastery buildings at Bo Da Pagoda, Vietnam

Tourists may wish to pray in the sanctuary hall or absorb themselves in a sacred atmosphere in the 2-arch Tower Garden along the hill outside the pagoda.

Worshippers at Bo Da Pagoda, Vietnam
Buddhist altar Bo Da Pagoda, Vietnam

The pagoda is famous for its record as the largest tower garden in Vietnam with 97 towers, inside which are the cremated ash remains of 1,214 monks and nuns of Lam Te Buddhism. All of these towers are made of stone and solid brick, coated with lime, molasses and wood-pulp and inscribed with the days of birth and death of the monks and nuns.

Bo Da pagoda is also home of over 2,000 Sutra woodblocks dated from the 18th century. Carved on “thi” wood (Diospyros decandra) that is light, pliable yet durable, the woodblocks have survived time and weather without any preservative. Those priceless woodblocks are now carefully preserved and protected in the pagoda’s library but can be shown to visitors if they ask for permission of the monks.

Crane decorations on the walls at Bo Da Pagoda, Vietnam
Many small stupas at Bo Da Pagoda, Vietnam

Nowadays, there are only two monks living in Bo Da Pagoda. However, the pagoda is still regarded as one of the major Buddhism centres in Vietnam due to its significant historical and cultural values.

From February 16 to 17 of the lunar calendar, Bo Da pagoda and the local government host an annual festival in Tien Son commune, Viet Yen district, Bac Giang, which attracts thousands of monks, believers and tourists. The festival includes prayer, folk music performance and sightseeing.

Cloister at Bo Da Pagoda, Vietnam

To view more photos from this Bo Da Pagoda article in a full-size gallery please click this link.

Article and photos by writer Sophia Doan.

Temples of the Borobudur Region – Travel Diary, Day One – Candi Mendut, the Mendut Vihara, and Candi Pawon

This post covers Day 1 of 3 from the travel diary by Joan Foo Mahony, publisher of Architecture of the Buddhist World book series. Part 2 here.


18th to 22nd September 2013

Through the kindness of Brother Dr. H.S Tan, the founder of the Nalanda Institute in Kuala Lumpur, I was one of his fortunate forty-five students who were invited on this trip to Borobodur to see one of the wonders of the Buddhist world.

These are my notes of a remarkable dharmic journey.


Candi Mendut, located 3 km from the Borobodur temple complex was built in 760 CE, at the height of the Shailendra dynasty during the Sri Vijaya period, about 10 years before the huge temple complex of Borobodur itself was actually built. However, it is believed that when Candi Mendut was built, this was done specifically with Borobodur in mind. It was part of the builders’ grand design.

Candi Mendut faces west towards Borobodur and is located 3 km eastwards from it The smaller Candi Pawon lies in between in a straight line. Candi Pawon is about 1 km away from Borobodur. A pilgrim in those days who travelled to see the wonders of Borobodur would thus be travelling along this straight line in this area now called the Kedu Plains, arriving first at Candi Mendut; then to the next temple, Candi Pawon; and then finally reaching Borobodur.

As they journey, the pilgrims would cross the two rivers of Elo and Progo, the waters of the rivers symbolically purifying them.

Candi’ refers to ancient structures based on the Indian type of single-celled shrine, with a pyramidal tower above it, and a portico. The term Candi is given as a prefix to the many Hindu and Buddhist temples which are pre-Islamic in origin in Indonesia, built as a representation of the Cosmic Mount Meru.

Candi Mendut is a small but absolutely exquisite temple ; a stand-alone single structure set in a small peaceful garden by a great big tree.

Tree-shaded approach to Candi Mendut
Tree-shaded approach to Candi Mendut

As a single structure, Candi Mendut differs from the other temples of Borobodur and the Jogjakarta region as they are all a complex of temples. It is as a single structure that accounts for its beauty; its stunning simplicity and form built more than 1,000 years ago. It is perfectly balanced and symmetrical and although the top of the Candi is no longer visible, one can imagine how beautiful it once must have been. Even without the topmost part, Candi Mendut reflects a quiet dignity. To be able to be there up close and seeing this exquisite jewel of a temple is such a pleasure and a privilege.

Temples of the Borobudur Region

Brother Tan, leading the participants in prayer and circumambulating the Candi Mendut, before stepping up to the Candi

Temples of the Borobudur Region
Temples of the Borobudur Region

The walls of the exterior have various stone panels or bas reliefs all finely carved with carvings that have borrowed Indian elements of nagas, demi gods, deities and Boddhisatvas. The amazing thing is that no two carved panels look the same.

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In those days, they were first carved, then plastered over and then finally painted with all kinds of fabulous coloured pigments. I imagined how the temple must have looked then and I bowed my head in gratitude as I imagined the temple glistening in the afternoon sunlight against the bright blue sky.

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And, if just seeing the exterior of the temple was not enough, words failed me when we entered the interior cella of the temple and saw inside, the amazing 10 foot tall Buddha. Against a leaf shaped halo behind him, the stone Buddha is seated on a simple throne with his feet resting on lotus petals. The Buddha wears no special garments or vestments and is sculptured in the northern Indian style. The hand mudra is the preaching mudra.

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Seated Buddha Statue inside Candi Mendut

The Buddha is not the historical Shakyamuni Buddha but is actually the supreme Buddha, the Agung Buddha; the Adi Buddha or the Vairocana – the Buddha at the centre ; facing west and looking at the Buddha in the east, following the Buddhas of the four directions in Vajrayana Buddhist practice. This Buddha stuns in its simplicity; its serenity reflected in the pure smooth stone it is made of. This Buddha contained and resting unmolested inside the Candi Mendut for more than 1,000 years is also the reason why there are NO Buddhas higher than 10 foot tall in Indonesia. No other Buddha could be better than this. Indeed !

On both sides of the Vairocana Buddha sit 2 Boddhisattavas. To the left is the Vajrapani on a lotus shaped cushion seated with one leg up.To the Buddha’s right sits Avolektishivara with a crown or brahma at his head and on the top of this crown sits the Buddha Amitabha. Unlike the Avolektishvara in China where it is called the Kuan Yin Buddha (a female manisfestation of the Buddha ), this Avolektishvara is male. In fact, all 3 Buddhas here are depicted in their male forms.

At the side are many niches where bronze Buddhas must have been placed. Sadly, now, all have been stolen.


Just across the street from Candi Mendut is a modern vihara or monastery built by the monk, Rev Panyawara to train young monks. The vihara emulates the Candi Mendut in its simple style and as we walked through its charming grounds, we were struck by its architecture which blends in so nicely with the surrounding and its quietly imposing neighbour, the Candi Mendut itself.

Water lily pond at entrance to Vihara Mendut
Water lily pond at entrance to Vihara Mendut

The architecture of the Vihara is East Javanese style (unlike that of the temples of Borobodur which is Central Javanese style). Here, at this modern vihara, the many stupas in the garden are slender and thin as is the custom in East Java and very different from the rest of the stupas we would see later throughout our trip as the stupas of Central Java (where we were ) are stocky, bulbous and chunky.

Buddha and Stupa in the compound of Vihara Mendut
Buddha and Stupa in the compound of Vihara Mendut
At the entrance of the vihara is a perfect copy of a Gandharan Buddha – depicting to the finest detail, a very emaciated ascetic Buddha as he went through his trials
At the entrance of the vihara is a perfect copy of a Gandharan Buddha – depicting to the finest detail, a very emaciated ascetic Buddha as he went through his trials
Meditation Hall of Vihara Mendut
Meditation Hall of Vihara Mendut
Abbot of Vihara Mendut – Ven. Paññavaro
Abbot of Vihara Mendut – Ven. Paññavaro


Between Candi Mendut and Borobodur, in a straight line facing west and towards Borobodur in the east, Candi Pawon is only 1.25 km from Candi Mendut and 1.75 km from Borobodur. As mentioned above, the pilgrim travelling eastwards to Borobodur from the Kedu Plain would pass by Candi Mendut first and then Candi Pawon at the centre. Just as in the case of Candi Mendut, Candi Pawon was built before Borobodur. However, Candi Pawon was badly destroyed during the earthquakes and when it was finally restored in 1904, only half of its original structures remained.

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The temple has some interesting bas reliefs with mythical forest creatures (the heavenly forest or hemawanta), the wish fulfilling tree, Indra the God and Inari the half bird, half human.

Brother Tan, explaining the history and features of Candi Pawon
Brother Tan, explaining the history and features of Candi Pawon
The author and a friend admiring Candi Pawon
The author and a friend admiring Candi Pawon

Text by Joan Foo Mahony.

Thanks Alex for the great photography to accompany the travel diary.

>> Read Day 2 here

>> Read Day 3 here

>> Pinterest gallery of further Central Java trip photos here

About the photographer

Alex is a Civil Engineer who builds bridges and water related structures. He is a very keen photographer and has used his love of photography not only to document the progress of his building projects but to record his travels through photo-essays. Of special interest to Alex are gardens, heritage buildings and Buddhist temples . Contact: zhangxinfu [at]