Yogyakarta is one of the oldest cities in Indonesia and for that it has earned a prime spot in the world of international tourism. Tourists, cultural enthusiasts, Buddhist pilgrims, photographers, vacationers, expats and the mere curious from several countries in the world come to Yogyakarta to check out its many historic sites and heritage buildings. One of its many attractions is Candi Kalasan.
Candi Kalasan, also referred to as Candi Kalibening or Tara Temple, is an ancient Buddhist temple believed to have been built in the 8th Century. You may reach the village of Kalibening in Kalasan by driving along Solo Street going to Surakarta and the Prambanan temple, about 13 km east of Yogyakarta proper. Below are some bits of information about this mesmerizing temple, reasons for you to visit this candi when in Yogyakarta.
First, if you’ve been to Yogyakarta, you would know that “candi” is a term used to refer to ancient structures such as temples, monuments and buildings. The term still makes sense in English since these ancient landmarks are definitely eye “candies”.
Second, you should know that Kalasan is the oldest Buddhist temple in Yogyakarta. This means you will be immersed in a great deal of history when you visit it. It is believed that the person responsible for its construction, Rakai Panangkaran, was the same person who thought about building the great Borobudur Temple, easily the biggest and most important temple in Indonesia. Most tourists come to Indonesia primarily for Borobudur and along the way see other ancient structures as well. It makes sense to visit Kalasan along with Borobudur because the two temples share the same history. Although there are reservations as to whether Rakai Panangkaran truly built Borobudur, ancient inscriptions reveal that it was indeed he who constructed Kalasan. The inscriptions also mention that he built another temple in Thailand.
Candi Kalasan or Tara Temple was completed as early as 778 AD, perhaps a few decades before Candi Borobudur, since no one knows for sure when Borobudur was built. Tara Temple is believed to have been constructed for two reasons: as a wedding gift from Pancapana to Dyah Pramudya Wardhani of the Syailendra dynasty, and as monastery for the monks in dedication to the goddess Tara.
The third reason for visiting is the most obvious one. Visit Tara Temple to see the beauty of ancient Javanese architecture. There is no style like it in the world. Consisting of the temple foot, body and roof, Candi Kalasan is a richly adorned cube-shaped temple. Some of the ornaments are in the form of climbing plants, a lion standing on an elephant, flowers, domes, a dwarf named Gana, and Buddha. There are also intricate carvings of clouds, different gods, heaven, and dwellers of heaven holding shells and playing a two-stringed instrument. Outside the temple are 52 surrounding domes about 5 meters high. Looking at these domes truly inspires an air of mysticism, although some of them are damaged and with missing parts.
Finally, perhaps the most amazing thing about Candi Kalasan is the idea that it was constructed in an attempt to unite ancient people with different religions. There is proof that the Hindu Rakai Panangkaran built Tara Temple to please Buddhist monks and as a gift to Pancapana, who was Buddhist. Such ecumenical efforts were unheard of in the ancient world, and witnessed only in this amazing temple.