Sukuh Temple....The Erotic Hindu Temple Of Java

Trip Start Feb 15, 2012
Trip End Feb 20, 2012

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Where I stayed
Novotel Yogyakarta
Read my review - 4/5 stars

Flag of Indonesia  , Central Java,
Friday, February 17, 2012

Located at 1,100 meters above sea level, this temple was surely a difficult ascent for the car to reach. The steep mountain slopes can only be reached by a relatively well maintained car and has got to be at least 2000cc's. Even for our vehicle, during the ascend, to get more power out of the engine, the air condition had to be turned off but it was not a problem for us as the outside air was very cool due to the height.




This temple is located on the slopes of Mount Lawu and was built in the 13th century. The architecture of the temple has earned it the name 'The Erotic Temple' similar to that of the Khajuraho Temple in India. There are numerous sculptures on the walls, all with the genitals exposed. 

The temple is not as difficult as the Gedongsongo cluster of temples as this temple is built on a single platform, with gradual ascensions as it progresses to the main shrine at the far end. The main gates of the temple are closed and one would have to use the side entrance. 





As you could see in the photos, there is an inscription of the Lingga Yoni on the floor of the main gates.  This sculpture on the floor is revered by the locals. In fact, even when I was there, there were flower offerings and incense sticks lit up at this place as a sign of ongoing prayers by the local villagers living in this area. I was told that the entire village here was a 100% Hindu population, but their Hindu practice is based on the Javanese Hindu practice. 

Well, as for the Linga Yoni inscription on the floor at the entrance, I was told that during ancient times when this temple was an active temple, the bride to be would be brought to this temple tying only a single piece of cloth around her body. The she would be told to leap over the sculpture on the floor. It is believed, that should she be able to leap over without the cloth slipping, then she is a virgin and then, is deemed suitable to marriage by the family of the groom who would also be witnessing this event. However, if the cloth slips and falls, then she is considered as unchaste for marriage and thus would remain single throughout her life. Such was the practice then but this is no longer practised. However, prayers and offerings to this sculpture is still performed till date. 





The steps and entrances from one platform to the other were very narrow and steep, in fact my dad di have a little difficulty and we had to assist him but somehow he managed to reach the top where the main shrine is. 

All along the temple walls, there are inscriptions and sculptures of the ancient stories that had happened in this temple including the war between Hinduism and Buddhism in the early centuries when this temple was constructed. As the record goes, this temple was built by the Majapahit Kingdom.

The most interesting thing about this temple is the main shrine, which is of a different architecture. If the other temples were built in the shape symbolising Mount Meru, Sukuh has a very simple trapezoidal shape. Built in the 13th Century just years before the collapse of the Majapahit Empire, this temple looks more like the Mayan Pyramids from South and Central America.  Is it possible that the two different tribes in two different continents built buildings with almost the same shape and architecture? Or was there any influence from the Mayans in the process of Sukuh's construction? So many questions are out there but there has been no affirmative answers yet provided by historians as well as archaeologists. 




Many different theories had risen to solve the mystery. One of them said that Sukuh was built in the time when Hindu cultures diminished from Java. As an impact, it was built using the concept back to the pre historic Megalithic culture. Another theory says that the temple shape is a part of finding Tirtha Amirtha (the eternal life water) story in the book of Adiparwa, the first sequel of Mahabaratha.  A cut pyramid symbolises Mandaragiri that was cut on the peak to swirl the ocean, looking for Tirta Amirtha which can give eternal life to whomever drank it. 







Still, there are many more stories like this about this temple. But surely, this was a Hindu Temple and even near the main shrine, there are other small shrines which has idols of Guardian Deities where daily offering is still performed by the local villagers.  I really enjoyed this temple and the wonderful weather here. With the amount of time spent here, we now have to go downhill again to the base of Mount Lawu and then climb another hill which is higher to reach the Cetho Temple which I shall provide more insight in the next entry.
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Jay on

Simply a fantastic temple bro! From your writings and the photographs, I definitely hold this holy place at great reverence. A very holy site though there are many underlying mysteries unexplained like the shape of the shrine and why all sculptures are with exposed genitals. Truly a great entry!

srirsridhar2 on

Dear Venothan , as far as your writing are concerned , I find all of the Hindu temple in Indonesia were constructed over the hills..... Any reason for that?..... the previous heritage temple was also at the mountain , now the present one is also at the mountains ..... I will be grateful , if you tell me

venoth on

Dear Jay, thank you very much for the lovely comment. True, this temple is filled with unexplained mysteries that is still waiting to be unearthed.

venoth on

Dear Sridhar, that is absolutely true, except for the temple of Prambanan. Besides that, as an additional info, they were also built in a straight line. For example, Prambanan temple in the centre, and in a straight line on the left, lies the Gedongsongo temple which I did publish a few days ago and in a straight line towards the right, lies the Dieng Plateau Temples, which I did not have time to visit this time. You can google to check out those temples too where they have even Arjuna and Bima temples. Also for Borobudur, Borobudur lies in the centre and on the left is Pawon temple and the right, also in a straight line, lies the Mendut temple. Information on these temples, I shall be writing soon in the coming entries. Even the reason for this phenomena is not explained. But to answer your earlier question as to why they were all in the mountains, the Javanese believed very much in Meru Mountain and believed that the gods must be in the mountain ranges. As a result , all the temples were built on mountain ranges. In fact, the highest mountain in Java island is also called Mount Sumeru.

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