June 03, 2008

Temple of Loro Jonggrang

Loro Jonggrang

Loro Jonggrang was the daughter of King Prabu Baka, who reigned over the ancient Javanese kingdom of Prambanan. Prabu Baka was a cruel, powerful king who ruled by sheer terror and for a long time none dared challenge him-but finally, in a fierce battle, he was killed by the King of Pengging. This victory was due to the King's first minister Bandawasa, who fought with a weapon possessing supernatural powers. Bandawasa had named his magic weapon "Bandung," and for this reason he himself was known as "Bandung Bandawasa."

Upon the defeat of Prabu Baka, the King of Pengging established Bandung Bandawasa in the palace at Prambanan. Not long after his arrival, Bandung Bandawasa expressed his desire to take to wife the Princess Loro Jonggrang, the daughter of his victim.

Now Loro Jonggrang had no desire whatsoever to marry the murderer of her own father, but she had little choice in the matter. She and the Patih discussed the problem at great length. If the Princess rejected Bandung Bandawasa's proposal, there was no foreseeing what dire results might follow; if she accepted, it would break her heart. Finally, the Patih made a wise suggestion: the Princess should accept the proposal, but on conditions that Bandung Bandawasa could not possibly fulfill.

The conditions were these: Bandung was to build a thousand temples, and in addition, two deep, deep wells, and the work was to be completed in one night. When Bandung Bandawasa was told of the Princess' requirements, he objected strongly to himself, but to the Princess he stated his readiness to perform what she demanded of him. Fortunately for Bandung, there were two persons he could call upon for help, both of whom possessed magic powers. One was his father, Damarmaya, who had at his disposal a whole army of men capable of performing superhuman tasks. The other was the mighty King of Pengging whom once he himself had helped in the defeat of King Prabu Baka. Both expressed their willingness to help Bandung Bandawasa complete the temples and the wells in the stipulated time.

The date was fixed, and in the evening Damarmaya's army, with the followers of Bandung Bandawasa, began their giant construction job. Miraculously five hundred temples had already been completed by midnight. Loro Jonggrang had sent a representative to watch the progress of the work, and by four o'clock in the morning he saw nine hundred and ninety-five temples already built, and two deep wells nearly finished. He returned to the palace with news of this incredible progress, and the Princess and the Patih and the whole palace were filled with confusion, knowing that if the Princess' conditions were fulfilled, as it now appeared they would be, the Princess would have to marry the man who had murdered her father. What were they to do?

Again the Patih had an idea. Quickly he went to several nearby villages where he waked the young maidens and ordered them to fetch their rice pounders and begin pounding rice at once. Around each rice-pounder he carefully arranged fragrant flowers.

With all their magic, the workmen still had to work frantically to complete the temples and wells in time, and they were so deeply engrossed in their hammering and chiseling that they did not even hear the first sounds of the pounding of rice. Then one of the men caught it; then another, and another, each one of them stopping for a moment to listen—and then, as the sound became clearer, all of them stopped, for the pounding of the rice as well as the fragrance of the flowers permeating the air about them were signs that dawn had broken and their work was over.

At break of dawn Bandung Bandawasa was at the site to view the work of his men. With a joyful heart he gazed upon the tremendous assemblage of temples before him He counted them himself-and to his great consternation discovered that there were 999 temples! He soon learned the reason for his failure of his men to reach the goal, and in blazing anger he pronounced a curse on all young maidens in the neighborhood of Prambanan. From that day forward no girl was to be allowed to marry until she had reached an advanced age.

Loro Jonggrang herself he changed into a statue, and to his day she stands in the great inner hall of the largest of the temples, known as "The Temple of Lore Jonggrang." And even though Bandung Bandawasa's army fell short of the thousand he had demanded of them, the whole group near the “Temple of Loro Jonggrang" is still called "The Thousand Temples.”***