Candi Kālasan in the Prambanan Plain

high-definition creative commons photographs from Candi Kālasan, near Prambanan, Java, showing the architecture and the carvings, together with further information on the Candi.


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Candi Kalasan

According to the Kālasan Inscription dated 778 AD (see photo below), which is written in Sanskrit using the Pranagari script (proto-Devanāgarī), this temple was erected by Guru Sang Rāja Śailendravaṁśatilaka (the Jewel of the Sailendra family) who succeeded in persuading Mahārāja Tejapurṇapana Panangkaran to construct a holy building for the goddess (Bodhisattva Devī) Tārā and also build a vihāra (monastery) for Buddhist monks from the Śailendra family's realm. Panangkaran awarded the Kālasa village to the Sangha. According to the date of this inscription, Kālasan temple is the oldest of the temples built in the Prambanan Plain.

Despite being renovated and partially rebuilt during the Dutch colonial era, the temple currently is in poor condition. Compared to other temples nearby such as Prambanan, Sewu, and Sari the temple is not very well maintained.

The temple stands on a 14.20 meters square sub-basement. The temple plan is cross-shaped with 12 corners polygon. Each of four cardinal points have stairs and gates adorned with Kāla-Makara and also have rooms measuring 3.5 square meters. No statue is found in the smaller room facing north, west, and south; but the lotus pedestals suggested that the rooms once contains statues of Bodhisattvas. The temple is richly decorated with Buddhist figures such as Bodhisattva and gaṇa.

The Kāla Face above the southern door has been photographed and used by a number of foreign academics in their books to give an idea of the artistry in stone by Central Javanese artists of a millennia ago. Niches where the statues would have been placed are found inside and outside the temple. The outer wall intricately carved with Kāla, gods and divinities in scenes of Svargaloka, Vimānas, apsaras and gandharvas.

The roof of the temple is designed in three sections. The lower one is of polygonal shape, as is the body below, and contains small niches with statues of Bodhisattvas seated on lotuses. Each of this niches is crowned with stupas. The middle part of the roof is in octagonal shape. Each of this eight sides adorned with niches contain statues of a Dhyani Buddha flanked by two standing Bodhisattvas. The top part of the roof is almost circular and has 8 niches crowned with a single large dagoba. The octagonal aspect of the structure has led to speculation of non-Buddhist elements in the temple, similar to some interpretations of the early Borobudur structure.

The temple is facing East, and the eastern room also served as access to the central room. In the larger main room there is lotus pedestal and throne carved with makara, lion and elephant figures, similar to the Buddha Vairocana throne found in Candi Mendut.

According to the Kālasan inscription, the temple once housed the large (probably around 4 meters tall) statue of the Bodhisattva Devi Tara. By the design of the throne, most probably the statue of the goddess was in seated position and made from bronze. Now the statue is missing, probably suffering the same fate as the bronze Buddha statue in Sewu temple, being looted for scrap metal over the centuries.

On the outer wall of the temple traces of plaster called vajralepa (lit: diamond plaster) are found. The same substance is also found in the nearby Candi Sāri. The white-yellowish plaster was applied to protect the temple wall, but now the plaster has worn off.

The temple is located on the archaeologically rich Prambanan valley. Just a few hundred meters north east from Kālasan temple is located Candi Sāri, which most probably was the monastery mentioned in the Kālasan inscription. Further east lies the Prambanan complex, Candi Sewu, and Candi Plaosan.

Text adapted from Wikipedia, (retrieved, March 9th 2012)


Kālasan Inscription

The Kālasan Inscription

photo by Gunkarta Gunawan Kartapranata

Namo bhagavatyai āryātārāyai
Honor for Bhagavatī Ārya Tārā

1. Yā Tārayatyamitaduḥkhabhavādbhimagnaṁ lokaṁ vilokya vidhivattrividhair upayaiḥ, sā vaḥ surendranaralokavibhūtisāraṁ tārā diśatvabhimataṁ jagadekatārā.
After seeing all the creatures in the world drowning in misery, Tārā helps them across with the three true knowledges, she who became the only guiding star for the direction of the world and the gods.

2. Āvarjya mahārājaṁ dyāḥ pañcapaṇaṁ paṇaṁkaraṇāṁ Śailendra rājagurubhisTārābhavanaṁ hi kāritaṁ śrīmat.
A holy building for Tārā that is truly beautiful was ordered by the teachers of Śailendra king, after obtaining the approval of the Mahārāja Dyāḥ Pañcapaṇa Paṇaṁkaraṇa.

3. Gurvājñayā kṛtajñais Tārādevī kṛtāpi tad bhavanaṁ vinayamahāyānavidāṁ bhavanaṁ cāpyāryabhikṣūṇāṁ.
By order of the teacher, a sacred building for Tārā has been established, and likewise a building for the noble monks skilled in the Mahāyāna teachings, has been established by experts.

4. Pangkuratavānatīripanāmabhir ādeśaśastribhīrājñaḥ Tārābhavanaṁ kāritamidaṁ mapi cāpy āryabhiksūṇam.
Tārā’s sacred building, as well as the monastery belonging to the noble monks, has been established by the officials commissioned by the king, called Pangkura, Tavana, Tiripa.

5. Rājye pravarddhamāne rājñāḥ Śailendravamśatilakasya Śailendrarajagurubhis Tārābhavanaṁ kṛtaṁ kṛtibhiḥ.
A sacred building for Tārā has been established by the teachers of Śailendra king in a growing kingdom that is the jewel of the Śailendra dynasty.

6. Śakanṛpakālātītair varṣaśataiḥ saptabhir mahārājaḥ akarod gurupūjārthaṁ Tārābhavanaṁ paṇaṁkaraṇaḥ
Mahārāja Paṇaṁkaraṇa constructed a Tārā sacred building to honor his teachers in the 700th year of the Śaka era.

7. Grāmaḥ Kālasanāmā dattaḥ Saṁghāyā sākṣiṇaḥ kṛtvā Pankuratavānatiripa desādhyakṣān mahāpuruṣān.
The Kālasa village has been given to Saṁgha after calling the witnesses; prominent people the village authorities which are Pankura, Tavana, Tiripa.

8. Bhuradakṣineyam atulā dattā Saṁghāyā rājasiṁhena Śailendrarajabhūpair anuparipālyārsantatyā.
The great and incomparable alms that was given to the Saṁgha by the lion king, of the kings of the Śailendra dynasty and subsequent rulers.

9. Sang pangkurādibhih sang tāvānakādibhiḥ sang tīripādibhiḥ pattibhiśca sādubhiḥ, api ca,
By the Pangkura and his followers, the Tavana and his followers, the Tiripa and his followers, by the soldiers, and religious leaders, and also,

10. Sarvān evāgāminaḥ pārthivendrān bhūyo bhūyo yācate rājasiṁhaḥ, sāmānyoyaṁ dharmmasetur narānāṁ kāle kāle pālanīyo bhavadbhiḥ.
The lion king asked repeatedly to the future kings to be bound to Dharma so that they will be protected forever.

11. Anena puṇyena vīhārajena pratītya jāta arthavibhāgavijñāḥ bhavantu sarve tribhavopapannā janājinānām anuśsanajñāḥ
By granting the monastery, all sacred knowledge, the Law of Cause and Effect, and births in the three worlds, can be understood.

12. Kariyānapaṇaṁkaraṇaḥ śrimān abhiyācate bhāvinṛpān bhūyo bhūyo vidhivad vīhāraparipālan ārtham iti.
Kariyana Paṇaṁkaraṇa requests repeatedly the future noble kings to always protect this important temple according to the rules.

Photographs by Anandajoti Bhikkhu

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