Ijo Temple: The Unique Highest Temple in Yogyakarta

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Candi Ijo is this cool historic building up on a hill that offers some breathtaking views. Let’s dive into the history of Candi Ijo, a cultural gem in Yogyakarta that’s a legacy from the ancient Mataram Kingdom.

Yogyakarta is a province with its fair share of temples that make awesome tourist spots. You’ve got Candi Prambanan, Candi Sambisari, Candi Ratu Boko, Candi Plaosan, and even Candi Kalasan.

But among this temple lineup, there’s this gem tucked away in the hills with a killer natural view, and that’s Candi Ijo. Perched at the summit of a hill, this temple takes the crown as the highest one in Yogyakarta.

History

Candi Ijo, discovered by H.E. Dorrepaal in 1886, is a temple complex comprising 11 terraces, with the main temple located on the 11th terrace.

Relative dating suggests that Candi Ijo was likely built in the 9th and 10th centuries based on its architectural resemblance to surrounding temples, paleography of stone inscriptions found on the 9th terrace, and its association with the Poh inscription dating back to 906 AD.

The Hindu background of the Candi Ijo complex is evident through the presence of sculptures and lingga-yoni within.

The main structure of Candi Ijo consists of a base, body, and roof. The body of the main temple contains niches with sculptures of Durga, Ganesha, and Agastya, although these have been relocated to the DIY Cultural Heritage Preservation Hall. Inside the main temple of Candi Ijo, there is a chamber housing a large Lingga-Yoni, along with reliefs depicting male and female figures.

  • Candi Perwara I is a companion temple to Candi Ijo, situated on the northern side and smaller in size than the main structure of Candi Ijo. In Candi Perwara I, there is only a central well.
  • Candi Perwara II is another companion temple to Candi Ijo, positioned in the middle and smaller than the main temple. In Candi Perwara II, there is a yoni and a sculpture of Nandi.
  • Candi Perwara III, also a companion temple to Candi Ijo, is located on the southern side and is smaller than the main temple. In Candi Perwara III, only a yoni is present.

Building Architecture

The Ijo temple complex was constructed on the ridge of a hill known as Gumuk/Bukit Ijo. This name is mentioned in the Poh inscription dating back to the year 906 AD in Old Javanese.

1. Candi Complex

In general, the temple complex consists of cascading terraces, with the lower part on the west side and the highest part on the east side, following the contours of the hill. The main temple complex is located at the easternmost end.

In the western part, there are ruins of temple buildings still in the process of excavation and restoration.

After a small garden, there is a higher terrace with quite a few ruins believed to originate from a group of small worship temples (perwara temples). One of these temples was restored in 2013.

2. The Main Temple Complex

The main temple complex is situated on the eastern side, occupying the highest terrace. In this section, there is the main temple (one has been restored), flanking temples, and perwara temples.

The restored main temple faces west, and in front of it, there are three smaller temples believed to be built to worship the Trimurti: Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.

These three perwara temples face the main temple, which is oriented eastward. The three smaller temples have interior chambers and diamond-shaped latticed windows on their walls.

The perwara temples’ roofs consist of three tiers crowned with a row of ratna. The central perwara temple safeguards the Nandini bull statue, the mount of Lord Shiva.

3. Main Temple

The main temple building stands on the base of a square-shaped platform. The entrance to the inner chamber of the temple is located in the middle of the west wall, flanked by two false windows, which are window-like openings that do not penetrate into the interior.

On the north, east, and south walls, there are three niches each adorned with carvings of kala-makara motifs, mythical creatures.

The central niche is higher than the two flanking niches. These niches are now empty, suggesting that statues might have been placed in them.

To reach the entrance, which is about 120 cm above ground level, stairs with handrails shaped like pairs of makaras, mythical fish-like creatures with elephant-like trunks, were constructed.

The makara heads protrude downward with gaping mouths. Above the door lintel, there are stacked Kala heads. On the door threshold, there is a carving of kala-makara, a giant kala’s mouth connected to a makara.

This kala-makara pattern is commonly found in the ornamentation of temples in Central Java. Similar to other temples in Central Java and Yogyakarta, the two Kala heads are not equipped with lower jaws. Above the lintel of the two false windows, there are also carvings of stacked Kala heads.

Read More: Ratu Boko: Grandeur on a Hill Full of Tranquility That Mesmerizes

Inside Makara

Inside each makara’s mouth, there is a relief of a small bayan bird. The false windows are on the exterior of the north, east, and south walls, with three on each side.

The window sills are also framed with a pair of makara ornaments and Kala heads, similar to those found on the false windows flanking the entrance.

Within the main temple structure is a chamber. In the middle of the inner walls on the north, east, and south sides, there is a niche each.

Each niche is flanked by carvings on the wall depicting a pair of apsaras seemingly flying towards the niche. In the center of the chamber, there is a linga and yoni supported by a snake-like figure.

This creature from Hindu mythology symbolizes the support of the earth. The union of linga and yoni symbolizes the unity of Shiva and his shakti, Parvati.

The temple roof has three tiers of diminishing square-shaped arrangements, getting smaller as they go up. On each side, there are rows of three ratnas on each tier.

A larger ratna is located at the top of the roof. Along the boundary between the roof and the temple body, there are carvings with alternating patterns of tendrils and ganas (dwarf creatures).

The edges of the roof are adorned with a row of antefixes with tendrils as frames. Each frame contains half-body statues depicting various hand positions of deities.

Location

Candi Ijo is situated in Dukuh Groyokan, Sambirejo Village, Prambanan District, Sleman Regency, Yogyakarta. This temple is located on the western slope of a hill, still part of the Batur Agung hills, approximately 4 kilometers southeast of Ratu Boko Temple.

At the base of this slope lies the Breksi Jogja cliff tourism site, a former natural stone mining area. Its position on the hillside averages 425 meters above sea level.

The name “Ijo” is given to the temple because it sits on a hill known as Gumuk Ijo. The temple complex opens to the west, offering a beautiful panorama of rice fields and natural landscapes, including Adisucipto Airport and Parangtritis Beach.

The main temple complex covers an area of about 0.8 hectares, but there’s a strong belief that the Ijo temple complex extends much further, protruding to the west and north.

This assumption is grounded in the fact that when the eastern and northern slopes of the Ijo Temple hill were mined by locals, numerous artifacts related to the temple were discovered.

Read More: Alun-Alun Kidul: The Twinkling Courtyard of the Palace at Night

Let’s Explore Java!

Embark on an unforgettable journey to Java, Indonesia, where a world of wonders awaits! Java, the heart and soul of Indonesia, is a treasure trove of diverse landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and breathtaking experiences.

Find out the package now from Yogyakarta Tours:

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Borobudur Sunrise

Prambanan Ramayana Ballet

Timang Beach

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Author: Pramitha Chandra

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