Thursday, June 12, 2008

Dieng Temple

The oldest known temples that have been preserved are those of the Dieng plateau near Wonosobo on Central Java. Dieng was not a capital or a major settlement. Its location, at a high altitude in a poorly accessible, damp and wet mountain vale, is ill suited for human habitation. In Indian tradition, the Gods live on the mountains, so that the location might be explained from this perspective. Even today, the place at a high altitude feels mystical, enshrouded in clouds and surrounded by coloured lakes.

The Dieng complex is dedicated to Çiva. A statue of Çiva from the Dieng plateau can be seen in the National Museum in Jakarta.

Chinese sources quoted by Krom (1923) report annual visits to Dieng by the King of Java. The Candi at Dieng were built in two stages in the 8th and the 9thC. Of the structures at Dieng, seven survive in relatively complete state. Remaining foundations show that there used to be more temples. The temples are known by the names of key characters from the Javanese shadow play, such as Semar and Arjuna. Not all the buildings were used for religious purposes. Candi Semar is widely believed to be a storage place for artefacts. Dieng was a religious settlement in nature. With the main town likely far removed from the mountaintop, a store for key implements seems a necessity. It is interesting, though, that this store would be made from stone rather than wood that was used for the priests' dwellings.

An inscription dated 808 dated found at Dieng is the oldest old Javanese inscription handed down to present times. A carved inscription found at Dieng and dating from 1210 suggests that the complex had been in use continuously. Dumarcay draws the conclusion from this that the temples were changed over the centuries as demanded by ritual. As an example he quotes Candi Gatotkaca where in the mid 9thC the base was enlarged to accommodate a second shrine to the south of the original building. This new building is now in ruins because it did not have a strong foundation.