1902 Encyclopedia > Brambanan


BRAMBANAN, a village in Java, notable for extensive and remarkable ruins of Hindu character. The place lies directly south of the great volcanic cone of Mir-Api (8640 feet) in the territory of the sultan of Yugya-karta (written by the Dutch Djokjo-karta), and 10 miles east of the capital, just on the border of the other native state called Surakarta or Solo.

The remains embrace six groups of temples, besides two buildings intended for residence, perhaps monastic. The most remarkable of the former is that called Chandi Sewn, or " The Thousand Pagodas." The centre of the group is a large temple of cruciform plan, standing on a terraced basement, and surrounded by four (originally, perhaps, by five) concentric squares, formed by rows of small detached cells or temples, the whole area forming a square of up-wards of 500 feet to the side. Statements differ as to the exact number of these cells, but a plan given by Raffles shows 238 as now standing. They are sculptured exter-nally with mythological reliefs, each is crowned with a small dagoba of the usual Buddhistic pattern (i.e., very like the minor domes over the west portico of St Paul's), and probably all originally contained images of Buddha in the usual cross-legged attitude (of which a few still remain), whilst the central shrine contained, no doubt, a great image or images of Buddha also. Mr Fergusson thinks the group to be Jaina rather than Buddhist; and this a closer examination of the images and their symbols alone can decide. But similar series of shrines, clustered round a central pagoda, are found in Buddhist Pegu. There is a professed restoration of the central temple of Chandi Sewu in Raffles's History ; but the details of this plate (pi. 40) are not to be relied on.

Another Buddhist edifice, single but more perfect, is known by the name of Chandi Kali Baneng. This also is cruciform; it stands on a boldly moulded basement, and the external decoration exhibits pilasters richly carved in scroll-work, and massive double cornices. Small Buddhas in niches remain, but the great figure which must have occupied the interior has disappeared.

A third group of temples, once, probably, the most important, is known as Lara Jongran. These are so ruined that at a short distance they present the aspect of vast and shapeless cairns of stone. One of them contains in three upper cells fine figures of purely Hindu and Brahmanical character. To the north is Durga (here in the character of a strong but beneficent power) slaying the demon Mahishlsura,—precisely the same subject that is to be found in Moor's Hindu Pantheon, pi. 35. This is the Lara or Virgin, who gives the popular name to the group of temples. To the west is the elephant-headed Ganesha, and to the south a fine Jove-like Siva, bearded and trident-bearing. Offerings are sometimes made to these images by the peasantry, in spite of the universal Mahometan profession.

The name of the place is said by Friedrich to be pro-perly Parambdnan, and to mean probably " the Place of Teachers." The whole of the temples are alleged, in tra-ditional rhymes, to have been erected between 1266 and 1296 A.D. But- the chronology and history of the older Javanese remains is still very obscure, and probably the date of some of the BrambAnan temples must be carried much farther back. The destruction of the last-described group must have been the work of earthquake, and we must suppose the date of the other buildings to be subse-quent to the destruction. Some general points worthy of note in regard to these buildings are the following :—

(l.).They are all built of hewn stones without the use of any cement.

(2.) There are distinct traces showing that the exterior and interior of the buildings were once covered with a fine coat of stucco, not excepting the most elaborate sculpture in scroll-work, &c. "We know that the sculptured cave-walls of Ellora, the great idols at Bamian, and the Doric order at Selinus were similarly coated ; and probably in all these cases the stucco was intended to bear colour or gilding.

(3.) No real arch exists in these buildings. The vaults and doorways are covered by the corbelling, or stepped projection, of the horizontal courses. Mr Crawford makes a contrary statement, but that historian, usually so trustworthy, was certainly mistaken on this point.

(4.) Many of the peculiarities of this architecture, both in general plan and in ornamental details, indicate a close relation to the medieval styles of Burmah and Camboja ; and points almost necessarily to an original common type in India, a type which as yet we cannot trace satisfactorily. In this lies a problem of interest, which the accumulation of photographs will perhaps allow of being worked out. It is notable, however, that in the Burmese mediaeval brick buildings of analogous character the true arch is used pro- fusely.—(Chiefly from the notes of a visit to Brambanan by the writer.) (H. Y.)

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