Just 17 kilometers to the east of Yogyakarta on the main Jogja-Solo highway lies the Prambanan temple complex. Constructed over 1000 years ago, in the middle of the 9th century, this complex is the most visible remains of the Hindu kingdom of Materam.
Over the course of two centuries over 244 temples were constructed, but it is thought the temples were all destroyed in a major earthquake in the 16th century. Reconstruction was first attempted by the Dutch in 1937 and reconstruction continues till this day. At the moment the main temples are reconstructed which was quite a feat considering the temples were reduced to just a pile of bricks centuries ago and were since then ransacked by thieves and locals needing building materials.
Although the Borodbudur is more famous and more visited most people find this complex more impressive. Probably due to the tall structures (the main temple is a massive 47 meters high), the mixed styles and unique sculpturing. Although the temples are Hindu there are also Buddhist elements in the architecture and sculpture. This may be due to the marriage of the Hindu prince of the Mataram kingdom with a Buddhist princess of the nearby Buddhist kingdom of Sailendras in the late 9th century. This combination of styles makes the Prambanan temples unique.
Candi Shiva Mahadeva
This is the main and largest temple dedicated to Shiva, the God of Destruction. It is 47 meters tall and has the finest sculptures and carvings. The innerwall is carved with scenes from the Ramayana, a famous Hindu story. To follow the story go up at the eastern staircase and go around the temple clockwise. Inside the temple is a statue of Shiva, the mightiest of Hindu Gods standing on a Buddhist lotus leave.
Candi Shiva is flanked by two other large, but bit smaller temples, Candi Brahma and Candi Vishnu.
Candi Brahma is standing next to the main temple at the south side. It is dedicated to Brahma, the God of Creation. Here you can find the final scenes of the Ramayana story. Inside is a four headed statue of Brahma.
On the other side of Candi Shiva is the temple dedicated to Vishnu, the Preserver. Inside is a four armed statue of Vishnu while the carvings tell the story of Lord Krishna.
Candi Nandi, Hamsa and Garuda
Opposite the main temple are another three smaller temples dedicated to the vehicles of the Gods in front. The bull Nandi for Shiva, the sacred swan Hamsa for Brahma and for Vishnu the legendary eagle Garuda. Unfortunately the last two statues are missing.
Most visitors do not explore the other temples which is a shame, not only because the walk to there in the nicely maintained park under the shadows of the old trees, is a pleasure in it self. The outer lying temples are smaller and less impressive though but worth a visit.
Since Prambanan lies at the main road to Solo it is easily reached with local transportation (TransJogja line 1A or 1B). Or if you have your own car or motor just take the main road to Solo and you can't miss it.
Inside there is a free tourist train that shuttles around the temples.
Entrance is $18 for foreigners and Rp 30,000 for Indonesians.