The Cathedrals of Java

Beautifully renovated pre-islamic monuments

If in Yogyakarta, the true centre of all things Javanese, one should not forborne to pay a visit to the numerous temple sites, scattered around the city. The village of Prambanan has the remains of many ancient Hindu temples. A splendidly renovated, 45 meter high temple tower reigns over a wide plain, enclosed by thundering volcanoes and the mystic, Indian Ocean in the south. Together with hundred of smaller shrines and Buddhist sanctuaries, they constitute a magnificent mausoleum, for rulers who considered themselves Gods. There are many other sites in Central and East Java, reminiscent of an ancient Hindu and Buddhist era. But Borobudur, some 40 kilometers outside Yogya, is probably the most prominent token of this once omnipresent Indian culture.

During the middle ages, it was the most important Buddhist place of pilgrimage, until tropical jungle took it out of sight. The unique temple got all but forgotten, until Sir Stamford Raffles discovered it in the 19th century. It took another century and enormous scientific and financial efforts to renovate it.