Built in the 10th century, this is the largest temple compound dedicated to Shiva in Indonesia. Rising above the centre of the last of these concentric squares are three temples decorated with reliefs illustrating the epic of the Ramayana, dedicated to the three great Hindu divinities (Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma) and three temples dedicated to the animals who serve them.
Prambanan, named after the village, is the biggest temple complex in Java. It is actually a huge Hindu temple complex about 15 km north-east of Yogyakarta. Dedicated to the three great Hindu divinities, this temple with its decorated reliefs is an outstanding example of Siva art in Indonesia and the region.
It was built in the 9th century and designed as three concentric squares. In all there are 224 temples in the entire complex. The inner square contains 16 temples, the most significant being the 47 m high central Siva temple flanked to the north by the Brahma temple and to the south by the Vishnu temple. These three ancient masterpieces of Hindu architecture are locally referred to as the Prambanan Temple or Lorojonggrang Temple (Slender Maiden); the compound was deserted soon after it was completed, possibly owing to the eruption of nearby Mount Merapi.
A square platform is divided into concentric courts by square-plane walls. In the middle of the last enceinte stand the temples dedicated to the three great Hindu gods and three small temples dedicated to their animal vehicles (Bull for Siva, Eagle for Brahma and Swan for Vishnu). Other minor temples were located at the entrance gates or outside the central enceinte (four ensembles).
The Siva temple had four statues: located in the centre chamber is the Siva statue; in the north chamber stands the Dewi Durga Mahisasuramardhini statue; in the west chamber stands the Ganesya statue; and the south chamber contains the statue of Agastya. Inside the Brahma temple there is Brahma statue, and in the Vishnu temple there is the Vishnu statue. In the Vishnu temple is carved the story of Kresnayana, while the Brahma temple houses the continuous story of the Ramayana. The temples of Siva, Vishnu and Brahma are decorated with reliefs illustrating the Ramayana period (history of the Hindu hero Rama, written around 300).
The neighbouring Buddhist ensemble at Sewu comprises a central temple surrounded by a multitude of minor temples. Surprisingly, it shares many design attributes with the Hindu Loro Joggrang Temple, perhaps indicating the degree to which such temples also reflect state policies and control. Three other temples in ruins set between Sewu and Loro Joggrang complete the ensemble around Prambanan: Lumbuna, Burah and Asu.