Gedonsongo....the Oldest Hindu Temples in Java
Trip Start Feb 15, 2012
25Trip End Feb 20, 2012
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Read my review - 5/5 stars
Read my review - 5/5 stars
This temple starts from a height of 981 meters above sea level and as such, the entire area is very cool and foggy. The height of this small village promotes the cultivation of highland vegetation and flowers which are sold to the major cities nearby, especially Semarang.
This archaeological park houses nine ancient Hindu Temples built by the Sanjaya Dynasty that ruled a radius of 100 square Kilometres (from north to south) in Central Java and is the earliest of antiquities built in Central Java. These temples were built between 730 and 780 AD.
Only early this year, UNESCO has gazetted this site as one of the World Heritage sites and it would officially take effect from the 1st of April 2012. Once we reached the base, the entire surroundings were so beautiful and I was awe struck by the natural beauty of this place. All kinds of activities were taking place here. Many were here just to enjoy the natural weather, some going about doing their daily chores as they live here and cultivate their farms on the slopes of these volcanic mountains, and just a handful of us were truly interested in these temples.
Though originally there were 9 temples, but today only 5 remain. This was due to the numerous earthquakes in this area and some of the temples could not be rebuilt as they did not have a clue as to how it should be built. The very first temple is located close to the entrance but the rest of the temples are located further up which requires quite a difficult trek up and down the mountain range. If one would have any difficulty doing this, then there are many horses for hire around this place at a very small fee i.e. IDR 50,000 which amounts to USD 5 for a ride of about one to two hours.
It is also believed that these temples are built further from one another as a result of the caste system, though all of these temples are Shiva Temples, except in cluster three, where there is a Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu temple, Shiva shrine being the main one. It was said that the members of the lowest caste, can only visit the first temple and this progresses on. Only the Brahmins were allowed to visit the ninth temple as it is said to be the highest and the purest.
The entire journey was surely no easy trek and every now and then, we had to stop to catch our breath and get some water to drink. There are also hot springs in this area where one can stop for a swim. As we were really slow in our trek up and down these hilly slopes, we did not stop for a swim but just a short while at this spot to enjoy the view.
Some of these temples are just left in the ruins as the museum authorities did not have a clue as to how to rebuild these temples. Even though officially prayers have stopped being performed at these temples, I still observed quite a number of locals that come and place flowers at the temple pedestals and offer their prayers and salutations.
As we walked through these temples, we also observed the unique methodology as to how these temples were built as opposed to the modern South Indian way of building temples. In fact here, Shiva linggas were stacked at all 4 corners of the Gopura right to the top where Kalasas were not used here as opposed to the present way of building temples. There is also a great emphasis to Sage Agasthya, one of the Tamil Siddhars and temples are erected everywhere for him here.
Along the way, as time passed, we could also see the fog coming down on the terrain and the far away mountains were beginning to disappear from sight. By the time we arrived at the last temple, it was clear that we had been walking for almost two hours. Now the most difficult part, walking down some very slippery raw terrain of the mountain. All the way, it was extremely painful for our thighs and toes and somehow, we arrived at the base station around 6.40 pm. The entire walk took us around 3 hours, a mere 9 kilometre walk through difficult mountain terrain but it was surely an enjoyable and memorable. If not for the view and weather, I would have surely opted for the horse ride. With this we bid farewell to this place and headed back to Bandungan town in search of a good place to have dinner and yes.....I am surely starving after the massive workout.