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In the last weekend of December 2010 my mum, my 2 sisters, a friend and I visited 2 Hindu temples which are know so well known for common people. But if you are among those who like to meditate or temple lovers or history geek or live in Central Java, then you must have heard about these temples located on the slope of Mt. Lawu.

Candi Cetho

When we arrived at Candi Cetho, the weather is nice, a bit rainy but not foggy. But it didn’t last long, before the rain finally stopped. Unfortunately we didn’t have a guide who could give us detailed information about the temple.

Candi Cetho is located in Dusun Cetho, Desa Gumeng, Kecamatan Jenawi, Kabupaten Karanganyar, at 1,400 m above sea level.  Cetho is Javanese word means clear.  According to the reliefs found in the temple are, Candi Cetho was started to be built in 15th century, precisely in 1373 Saka or 1451 (Saka calendar is started in the year 78 of common calendar), in the end of Majapahit era. The temple was found by Van de Vlis in 1842.

Hindu people believe that  Candi Cetho is the centre of Nusantara (read: Indonesia archipelago), which is the pillar of stability of the archipelago.

The 1st level is the front yard of the temple. We find petilasan (a place where someone of importance once stayed) of Ki Ageng Krincingwesi, the ancestor of people of Cetho on the 2nd level. On the 3rd level there’s stone structure forms a giant turtle. In front of the turtle’s head there’s a 2m symbol of pierced phallus (penis).  The turtle is symbol of universe while the penis is symbol of human creation and/or symbol of lust.

The reliefs found on the 4th level tell a story about Sudhamala. This story is regarding human efforts to get free from misfortune. On the 7th level we found 2 statues of Sabdopalon and Nayagenggong, two loyal servants of King Brawijaya of Majapahit. On the 8th level there is….. penis (again!) called Kuntobimo and the statue of King Brawijaya. The phallus on this level represents fertility.


Finally, on the 9th level, we found the most important part of the temple. The shape is not like common Hindu temple. At this trapezoid structure people pray to God.

Candi Cetho in Misty Blanket

How to get there?

We actually drove a car from Yogyakarta through Surakarta then to Karanganyar. However, you can take public transport to go there.

  1. Take the bus of Karanganyar – Tawangmangu from Tirtonadi bus terminal in Solo. Stop at Karangpandan bus station.
  2. Take public transport till Kemuning Station.
  3. From Kemuning you can have a 2-km walk through the luscious green tea plantation or take ojek (motorbike taxi) till the temple complex.

Candi Sukuh

Candi Sukuh has a distinct theme than other Hindu temples. It tells about life before birth as well as sexual education (even at that time they’ve  known the importance of this!). The temple was built in the last period of Majapahit, before Islam came to Java, in the 15th century under the administration of Suhita, around 1429-1446.

Candi Sukuh is located in Dusun Sukuh, Desa Berjo, Kecamatan Ngargoyoso, Kabupaten Karanganyar, Central Java. It’s situated in the western slope of Mt. Lawu at 910 above sea level. The temple was found in 1815 by Johnson during Raffles Era.

The complex face to the west and it has 3 teraces, which symbolized phases that must be passed by human beings in order to reach nirvana and/or enlightenment.  The reliefs found in the Temple also symbolizes the 3 worlds; under world symbolized by Bima Suci, middle world symbolized by Ramayana, Garudeya, and Sudhamala, and the upper world symbolized by Swargarohanaparwa.

Sacred Union: Lingga & Yoni

At the 1st terrace there a depiction of sexual intercourse in a relief found on the floor at the entrance. It shows paired lingga (phallus) and yoni (vagina) surrounded by a chain symbolizes holy bond (marriage). In Javanese philosophy this means that the union of lingga and yoni should only happen after marriage.

At the 2nd terrace, there’s another gate with very poor condition and 2 guardian statues (dwarapala).

Third Terrace

The main structure of the complex is a simple trapezoid structure located at the highest terrace. Other statues can be found on this level are a life-sized male figure with his hand grasping his penis and three turtles. In Hindu mythology, turtle symbolizes the base or support of the World and is an avatar of Vishnu.

Depiction of Human Life & Womb

There’s also a big relief of human womb in this terrace, which tells that every human has good and bad side. The story of creation of human happens long before the fetus is in the womb. It starts with the meeting of a man and a woman and their unification. When the child is born, good education will gives significant contribution to his well being.  These process before and after the creation become someone’s background which will less or more affect his characters, opinions, life, etc.

Hmmm… that sounds like Javanese philosophy in finding a match: bibit (seed), bobot (weight), bebet (cloth) . Bibit is someone’s origin, parentage.   Bobot is the quality of the person, including character, beauty, etc. Bebet is the outer appearance, including wealth, as well as his milieu.

In general the architecture and the reliefs found in Candi Sukuh are meant to symbolize human’s effort to come to perfection through religious ceremony called ruwat to get away bad luck (mala) from someone.

How to get there?

  1. Take bus of Solo-Tawangmangu from Tirtonadi bus Terminal in Solo. Get off at Karangpandan Terminal . This bus ride takes about 1.5 hours.
  2. Take small bus to Sukuh. Get off at Nglorog T-junction. It takes around 15 minutes I heard.
  3. From the T-juction take ojek to Candi Sukuh.

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