Neatly piled rubble, remnants of smaller temples, line the grassy area that surrounds the compound of the main structures. The large temples sit silently, magnificently, and with a form and ambiance often absent in the modern world.
The craggy, pointed buildings almost seem aggressive at first. But upon entering the main compound, the elegant details carved into the temples begin to take shape and offer a gentler feel to the area.
Prambanan, the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia, was built in 9bc in dedication to the gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Today, the temple is little more than a tourist trap.
We were in luck, however – other tourists were sparse.
Leaving a coffee shop on Sunday at 3.30, we realised that, but for a few clouds, the sky was clear – a rarity at this time of the year. Prambanan at sunset flashed into my mind. We got home, Rachel quickly skyped, and then we ran out of the door.
The weather can change in a heart beat in Yogyakarta.
We jumped in a taxi. We could have taken a bus but we’d be cutting it too fine for time.
The mad-dash was over once we entered the compound. As a photographer, and a traveller, there are times in life where you need to slow things down, to absorb things more clearly. Then, there are other times when the situation is so commanding you are forced into a state of hyper-awareness, where everything seems so vivid.
Prambanan’s effect was such that I was compelled to explore it all, slowly. Usually, I’m neither here nor there when it comes to tourist haunts. Maybe on this occassion the lack of tourists added to its authenticity and allure. Or, maybe the sheer beauty of the place overwhelmed me. I took my time.
The clouds began to appear. This didn’t worry me. Clouds in HDR photography only add to the drama of the photo. My worry was that too much cloud would suck the beautiful dusk colour out of the sky. That wasn’t the case.
As the minutes ticked by what few tourists there were began to disappear, and soon we were the only ones left.
The Oxford dictionary contains 171,476 words. No combination of these will ever express the feelings that Prambanan, with the colours and stillness of sunset, can stir in a person.
As an atheist, I’m not inspired by any deity, or moved spiritually while bearing witness to these types of scenes. A different mix of emotions arise in me – I marvel at what mankind can achieve, both in its imagination and its labour. It’s no wonder why institutions fight to keep such places well preserved, apart from the benefits of tourism, of course.
Such ruins are not just a representation of our past, they are our present and future. They are the wonderful things that we are capable of, and a symbol of what will become if we don’t learn to tread lighter on our world.
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How to get to Prambanan