Prambanan is the other ubiquitously famous temple near Yogyakarta and is nearly always visited in conjunction with Borobudur. It is the largest Hindu temple site in Indonesia.
You can visit them on separate days or do a combined your which is what we opted to do, due to the fact we were planning on fitting in a 3 day volcano trek before skipping over to Bali so that my friend could get to her surf and yoga retreat in time.
Plenty of people had things to say about the combined tour but I had no qualms with it and I felt like a day visiting each temple would have been too much.
Unlike Borobudur which is a Buddhist temple, Prambanan is a remnant of the Indian influence in Indonesia and is a hindu temple dedicated to “Trimurti” (the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva).
Lucky for us, there were school children that were offering free tours of the temple in order to practice their English, they were so enthusiastic with very good English skills already and gave us genuinely interesting information and explanations.
The compound is comprised of three main temples to the three deities, with smaller temples dedicated to each of their “Vahanas” or “mounts”.
The scared swan Hamsa is Brahma’s mount, the “Garuda” (a mythological bird like creature) is Vishnu’s mount, and the bull Nandi is Shiva’s.
There are then two other temples that are empty and the dedications unknown, as well as various smaller shrines.
The walls of the temples showcase many bas-relief works depicting various Hindu narratives.
The temple is also the subject of a legend about a princess.
The story goes that a princess received an unwanted proposal from a Prince whom she loathed for murdering her father.
She was under pressure and forced to accept the proposal, but in order to try and avoid this, she granted her acceptance on one impossible condition.
The prince would have to build her a thousand temples in one night. the prince nearly completed the task with the help of demons and spirits but was tricked by the princess before he completed the final temple.
When he realised he had been tricked, he grew furious and cursed the princess to turn to stone, where she became the stone image of Durga in the Shiva temple.
I find the mythical stories surrounding Prambanan enchanting, though I must confess preferred the atheistic of Borobudur.