Gedong Songo Temples

Travel Guide Asia Indonesia Java Central Java Salatiga Gedong Songo Temples

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Introduction

Gedong Songo first site

Gedong Songo first site

© theo1006

The Gedong Songo Hindu temple complex is one of the most ancient in Java. It is thought to have been built between 730 and 780 AD by the Sanjaya dynasty, which probably also built the temples on the Dieng plateau. The abandoned temples were discovered in 1740. Gedong Songo is Javanese for Nine (songo) Stone Buildings (gedong). The number nine is puzzling. Along the round walk one encounters only five sites. But at each site there are, or were, several temples. So if one counts these seperately, there are many more than nine. In the time of Raffles they were referred to as Gedong Pitoe, Seven Stone Buildings. Perhaps people settled for the number nine because it is a special number in Javanese lore.

The Archeological Park is very popular for a day outing, not so much for the temples as for the location. The temples lie on the southern slope of dormant Ungaran volcano (2,050 metres) at a height of 1,200 to 1,300 metres. When the weather permits, looking south one has a great view of Telomoyo (1,893 metres) and Merbabu (3,142 metres) mountains, which practically lie on one line. An additional attraction are remnants of volcanic activity and a hot spring half way on the the temple trail.

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Opening Hours

Daylight hours.

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Cost

Foreigners pay IDR 50,000 for a ticket, residents of Indonesia pay less. Ask for a map of the park in case they forget to give it.

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Sights and Activities

It is best to plan one’s visit on a working day, if one does not want to share it with crowds of local sightseers. Although the round walk is only 2.5 kilometres long, count on 2 hours doing it at leasure with stops at all five temple sites. The path is concrete paved throughout, and the five sites are well indicated. If one fears the walk may be too strenuous, one can make it on horseback for IDR 90,000.

The first site is easy to reach and has only one temple, which is thought to have been the last one to be built. It was restored in 1916 and 1928/1929 by the Dutch Archeological department. In recent years some maintenance has been done.

From here the hard part begins, a pretty steep ascent to the second site at 1,274 metres above sea level. This site counts one temple restored in 1930/1931 and just some rubble of a secondary or perwara temple.

For the third site one has to cross a small ravine before climbing up to 1,297 metres. Here are three restored buildings, with evidence that there have been more. The main building at this site is the most interesting of all, because it still features the full set of five statues in niches in the walls: Mahakala, Nandisvara, Durga, Ganesha and Agastya.

Fumaroles

Fumaroles

© theo1006


From the third site the main path leads down into a crevice with fumaroles and hot spring. Before going there, walk another 100 metres uphill along a forest trail to see the statue of Hanuman among the pine trees. Hanuman the white monkey chief is one of the heroes in the Ramayana epos. Why his statue stands here and whether there is any connection with the temples, no one knows.

The fourth site, at 1,295 metres on the other side of the crevice, actually consists of three groups of temples close together. The main group consisted of eight buildings, but only one has been restored. Two smaller ones in the second group have been restored in 2009, while of the third group only rubble can be seen.

If you come on horseback, you still have to do the fifth and last site on your own legs, because horses cannot negotiate the stairs leading up to it at 1,308 metres. This group of temples lays spread out over two terraces, just one temple has been restored and still has the Ganesha statue in its east wall.

From the fifth and last site the path goes zigzagging down. Halfway you can climb up a hill with gazebo for the best views south and east. Finally, like at Borobudur and Prambanan, before leaving the park one is directed through a maze of souvenir and food stalls, most of which are empty on working days.

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Getting There

The distance from Salatiga is 28 kilometres, a 50-minute drive by car with the usual traffic. By public transport one can take a local bus to Ambarawa (16 kilometres), then a minibus to Bandungan (6.5 kilometres) and another one to the turnoff that leads to Darum hamlet, the location of the Gedong Songo site (3 kilometres). From the turnoff it is a 2.3-kilometre walk or ojek ride uphill. Alternatively one can take a ride on horseback all the way from Bandungan.

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Sleep

Being a mountain resort, Bandungan has a choice of accommodation. Many of them are not even present on the internet. A few that are: Kusuma Hotel, Amanda Hills Hotel, Griya Persada Convention Hotel & Resort.

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This is version 13. Last edited at 7:20 on Oct 16, 19 by theo1006. 3 articles link to this page.

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