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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.

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Brother Tan, leading the participants in prayer and circumambulating the Candi Mendut, before stepping up to the Candi Continue reading Temples of the Borobudur Region – Travel Diary, Day One – Candi Mendut, the Mendut Vihara, and Candi Pawon