Characteristics of Hindu Buddhist historical remains in Various region in Indonesia

In Indonesia, especially in Java, there are many Hindu-Buddhist historical inheritances in the form of temples (‘candi’ in Indonesia). The word ‘candi’ is derived from one of the names of Durga (goddess of death), ‘Candika’.


A temple originally functioned to glorify someone who had died, especially kings and important figures. When a king had died, a temple was then built to keep his charms. The charms were put in a stone case. Then the case was put at the bottom of the temple. Besides, a statue of the king was usually also created that picturized the king as a god.

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According to its parts, a temple consists of three important structures, the foot, the body, and the roof.

  1. The foof of a temple is the bottom part which symbolizes the lower world or ‘bhurloka’. It is normally square in shape with stairs on one side.
  2. The body of the temple is the middle sectionwhich is usually cubic in shape and symbolizes the intermediate world or ‘bhuwarloka’. The temple body consists of a chamber (room) in which there is a statue in the middle, some hollows on the exterior, and in this section there is also a wnding path called ‘pradhakshita’.
  3. The roof of a temple is the top part of the temple which symbolizes the upper world or ‘suarloka’. Generally, the roof of a temple consists of three layers, the upper one being smaller in size than the lower one. On top of the roof, there is usually a stupa.

The temples which are scattered in Indonesia are mostly located in Central Java and East Java. In terms of style and shape, the temples in the north part of Central Java are not so much different from the temples in the south part, but the ones in the south part of Central Java are normally more magnificent. Meanwhile, the temples in East Java look significantly different.

Characteristic of temples of Central Java style

Temple of Central Java style
  1. The shape is more chubby.
  2. The roof is multi-layer.
  3. The top is stupa-shaped.
  4. The temples are positioned in the middle of a yard.
  5. They commonly face the east.
  6. Most of them are made of andesite rocks.

Characteristic of temples of East Java style

Temple of East Java style
  1. The shape is slimmer.
  2. The roof is progressively pyramidal.
  3. The top is cubic.
  4. They are positioned at the back of the yard.
  5. They commonly face the west.
  6. Most of them are made of brick.


A stupa is a sacred building associated with Buddhism. Remains of stupas in Indonesia are not many, among others are stupas of Borobudur in Central Java, Sumberawan in East Java, and Muara Takus in Riau.

The Borobudur Stupas is not entirely stupa-shaped. A stupa is placed on top of the temple, but the largest part of the temple is the ‘prasada’ (foot of temple). Variations of stupas are found in some countries. There are three important sections of a stupa, they are as follows.

  1. Base of stupa, this is the foundation which symbolizes the robe of Buddha that is rectangularly folded.
  2. Andha, this is most important section which is shaped like a hemisphere and symbolizes eternity.
  3. Yasthi, this is the top of the stupa that is equipped with a cathra (umbrella) and symbolizes the cane of Buddha Gautama.

The statue heritages in Indonesia are common images of kings which picture them as gods. Hindu-Buddhist statues have specific characteristics, so they can distinguish one god from another. The following are some of the important statues.

  1. Shiva, it is characterized by the third eye on the forehead, it has four hands each of which holds an ‘aksamala’ (set of prayer beads), a ‘camara’ (fly expeller), a ‘kamandalu’ (jug of life water), and a ‘trisula’ (trident) with a snake ornament.
  2. Brahma, it has four faces, four hands – the rear ones holding an ‘aksamala’ and a ‘camara’ – and it rides a goose.
  3. Vishnu, this is characterized by four hands each holding a club, moving wheel, ‘syangka’ (shell with wings), and a lily bud or seed, it rides on a ‘garuda’ bird.
  4. Buddha and Dhyani Buddha are characterized by a simple appearance with no ornaments, they only wear robes, have curly hair, with a kind of hair knot on top, and a kind of mole called ‘urna’ on the forehead.
  5. Dhyani Boddhisatva, this is characterized by a regal or deity robe complete with a crown and accessories.

The relationship between Indonesia, India, and China started with trade relations. Then, using trade relations, other forms of relationship also developed, such as social, cultural, and religious relations. It turned out that Indian influence developed faster in Indonesia and affected different aspects of people’s life.

The Indian influence in Indonesia was evident from the appearance of Hindu-Buddhist societies. Other evidence of Indian influence was the emergence of Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms in Indonesia, starting from Kutai until the end of the Majapahit era.

Since the development of the Hindu-Buddhist religion and culture in Indonesia, there had been some changes in people’s life. Though the changes did not eliminate the original culture of Indonesia, they had created a distinctive pattern of the life of the Indonesian people.

Acculturation of Indonesian culture with Hindu-Buddhist culture is evident in various aspects, such as architecture, literary works, scripts and languages, a calendar system, a system of government, and a system of belief.

Read also: Map of the route of entrance and spread of Hindu Buddhist religion and culture in Indonesia

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