Check how Hinduism and even Buddhism influenced Indonesia in the past

Indonesia is that country in South East Asia which has around 2000 ethnic groups. Still, despite the diversity, the country shows religious pluralism where majority of the inhabitants are Muslims. The national motto of Indonesia is “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” which means – many, yet one. The country not only strongly promotes Universalism but demonstrates in its culture the rich history which is deeply influenced by Hinduism, Buddhism followed by Islam and then Christianity.

The Roots: Hindu Influence

Srivijaya Empire ruled Indonesia during the 7th century and with them emerged Hinduism and Buddhism in Indonesia. But, the two dynasties that left a major impact on this country weere Sailendra and the Mataram reign which flourished in between the 8th and the 10th centuries. Highly influenced with Hinduism, they built the Borobudur and Prambanan temples respectively.  However, there are not just these two temples but numerous ancient Hindu and Buddhist temples located in almost every part of this diverse country with majority Muslim population.

Borobudur Nothwest view The Hindu Influence in Indonesia

The Hindu Root in Bali

Bali alone has 17 temples including the biggest Hindu temple in Indonesia, that is, the Mother Temple of Besaikh (Built in 14th century). Other prominent temples include the Pura Ulun Danu Bratan(Shiva Temple built in 1663), Goa Gajah (Hindu Shiva Temple built in 11th century), Tanha Lot (Pilgrimage temple built in the 15th century) and the Tirtha Empul Temple (Built in 926 AD). In Balinese, Pura means temple.

Durga Loro Jonggrang copy The Hindu Influence in Indonesia

Archaeology Expedition in October 2012

In October 2012, last year, archaeologists believed that they discovered the largest ancient Hindu temple of 14th century in the Bali islands.

As per the local archaeologists, Wayan Swantika, construction workers were digging drainage basin in the eastern Denpasar when suddenly their tools hit upon a huge stone, roughly 3 feet underground. Soon it was reported to the Denpasar Archaeology Agency which carried out the excavation. After digging, it was found that, it was 11 m huge stone plate, a foundation of the structure and the very first plate of many others which was found later in the same premises. As per the archaeologist, the square stone discovered is identical to many other prehistoric temples discovered in East Java, predicting its birth around 14th century.

Wayan further added his stance on the era by saying that the reinforced layer found in between stone plates were generally observed in the 13th or 14th century stone construction. In addition, the locals have found ceramic wares and stone plates at that site. The unearthing is said to be the major stone temple discovery in the Bali Islands.

Parambanan Indonesia The Hindu Influence in IndonesiaRavana kidnapping Sita while the Jatayu on the left tried to help her. Prambanan bas-relief

Also, in 1986, the Wasa Temple was founded in the Gianyar region, which was 11 meters long and 10 meters wide. Again, in 2010, archaeologists from Bali discovered 16 sarcophaguses submerged in Gianyar. Bali, the well-known resort island is home for most of the Hindus in the country, having the largest Muslim population in the world. (Ref: Jakarta Global)

Java, the place of Hindu Temples

Java has 15 Hindu temples including the Prambanan and the Borobudur. Other prominent temples include the Dieng Temple (Built around 750 CE), the Cetho Temple (Built in the 15th century), Kidal Temple (Constructed in 1248 during the Singhasari dynasty), the Sukh (Built in the 15th century with life before birth theme), the Penataran (Built in between 12th and 15th century in the Majapahit kingdom. Due to its outstanding “universalism” value it has been added in UNESCO list under the cultural category in 1995) and the Surawana Temple (Built in 1390 AD).

Archaeological Expeditions in Yogyakarta, Java in 2010

In February 2010, archaeologists discovered two temples in Yogyakarta near the premises of a private ISLAMIC UNIVERSITY in Indonesia when the university decided to build a library next to the mosque situated. Although, no temple had been ever found there, after 35 days of unearthing and excavating the area, two 1,100 years old temples were found. As per the archaeologists the temples are not so big but it has certain unique traits which have not been excavated in Indonesia before. The unearthed temple removed a statue of Ganesha, Shiva’s divine son, two altars and the existence of 2 sets of linga (the symbol of worship for Lord Shiva ) and yoni. (A hindu symbol of divine passage of birth)

Ganesha Idol Java The Hindu Influence in IndonesiaThe Ganesh Idol Found during the expedition

At another site, archaeologists during the excavation discovered a effigy of Nandi, the holy bull that carried the Hindu god Shiva, amidst the ruins. However, the statue was quite exquisite as it was carved in different style and was not fat as the usual fat. (Ref: NewYork Times)

Besides, there are 7 Hindu temples in North Sumatra, out of which 5 are in Medan, while Jakarta, the capital has three temples.

Indonesia may be a Muslim Nation but Hinduism has been a major influence in the culture and civilization of Indonesia – Promoting not only Hindu-Muslim unity but also cross cultural harmony across the world.

By: Deepti Verma

Also See:
Ayutthaya City – The Ayodhya of Thailand
India’s Southeast Asian Connection
Bagan: The Ancient Lost Temple City of Myanmar

Image Source: Borobudur Northwest By Gunawan Kartapranata (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons, Ganesha Idol, by New York Times, Parambanan Relief By Tropenmuseum of the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT)  via Wikimedia Commons

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