Not a temple for prudes

It may not be Borobodur or Prambanan, but Candi Sukuh in central Java is worth the visit for its, erm, erratic, erm, unrefined, statues.

Sukuh Temple A mystery yet to be unraveled
Jakarta Post, 18 October 2009

Compared to Borobudur or Prambanan, Java’s famous Buddhism and Hindu icons, Candi Sukuh (Sukuh temple), discovered by Sir Thomas Raffles in 1815, is not that legendary, yet it deserves a visit due because of its antiquated and unique characteristics.

Located in Sukuh village, around 35 kilometers east of Surakarta, Central Java, the Javanese-Hindu temple is perched at around 910 meters above sea level on the western slopes of Mount Lawu.

Some archeologists have assumed the temple was constructed in the 15th century, probably at the end of the Majapahit Empire era (between 1293 and 1500 CE), as shown by one relief depicting a giant eating a human.

The uniqueness of Sukuh temple lies in its landscaping, oddly carved statues and reliefs. One assumption about its “unrefined” carvings suggested the temple was erected during the time of civil war between the Islam and Hindu communities.

During the war, Java’s Hindu adherents fled to Bali, while others moved to Mount Lawu. This is apparently why Sukuh temple was erected hastily; statues and reliefs weren’t carved elaborately. It is also thought the reliefs and statues’ current positioning are not authentic because of their erratic arrangement.


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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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