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    Gedong Songo, The Ancient Complex from Hindu Kingdom - Semarang, Central Java

    Gedong Songo

    Gedong Songo is the name of complex buildings of Hindu temple cultural heritage which located in the Candi Villagee, Bandungan district, Semarang regency, Central Java, Indonesia precisely in the slopes of Mount Ungaran. In this temple complex there are nine temples (Javanese; Gedong Songo means nine building).
    The temples were built between 730 and 780 BC, the first temple excepted, which have been built some 30 years later. Gunung Songo is not the original name and also doesn't point at the number of structures. The number nine has a special meaning in the Javanese culture, in which there is a strong attachment to numbers. The temples are located at about the same distance from each other (100 meters, 200 meters) on a naturally formed terrace of edge of a mountain

    These temples was discovered by the Raffles in 1804 and it was Hindu cultural heritage from the era of Wangsa Syailendra 9th century (927 years BC).

    The location of nine temples scattered on the slopes of Mount Ungaran which has beautiful natural scenery. In some locations there are also neat pine forests and springs that contain sulfur.

    Gedong Songo is one of the most beautifully sited temple complexes in Central Java and the views alone are worth the trip. This temple is similar to the Dieng temple complex in Wonosobo. The temple is situated at an altitude of about 1,200 m above sea level so the air temperature is cold here, ranging between 19-27 C. They were also built high in the mountains in an area full with volcanic activity; and they were also from Hinduist origin. But where the temples on Dieng Plateau are somewhat squeezed into a foggy valley, Gedung Songo are spread over the higher parts of the mountains, which guarantee a splendid view. On clear days, the horizon is one long row of volcanoes, from mount Lawu in the east, towards mount Sumbing, mount Sundoro and Dieng Plateau in the west.
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    Gedong Sanga Temples compound is a cluster of temples situated on Ungaran Mountain, in Candi Village, Somawono Subdistrict, Semarang, Central Java. Experts have yet agreed on either the date of temple construction or the function of the temples as no stone inscription is available to provide a solid evidence revealing the puzzle behind the existence of these temples. As the location of the temples is on a hilly area, experts argue that the temples were constructed during an early stage of Hindu development in Java, the era in which the Sanjaya dynasty flourished. Judging from the architectural style and site, experts believe that these Shiva temples were once worshipping places. It was a common believe that plateaus and hills were the abode of Hindu gods.

    Raffles was the first to reveal these temples to the world in his report in 1740. Initially, there were only seven temples found in the area, which made Raffles call the compound Gedong Pitu (Seven buildings). The discovery was soon followed by several researches conducted by Dutch archaeologists such as Van Stein Callenfels (1908) and Knebel (1911). They discovered two more temples, which changed the name of the compound into Gedong Sanga (nine buildings, Javanese). From 1928 until 1929, Dutch administration’s office for preservation of ancient heritage restored Gedong I and Gedong II. Forty-three years later, the Indonesian conducted restoration works on the temples and their surroundings in ten years, from 1972 until 1982.

    Gedong I Temple

    Gedong I Temple is a single square building which is small but still complete. The roof consists of rectangular layers of diminishing size, decorated with a cornice wrapping around it. Half of the roof top has been destroyed. One can see Mount Telomoyo, Mount Merbabu, and Mount Merapi clearly from the temple.

    The temple’s rectangular base is decorated with panels of relief sculptures depicting simple images of lotus flowers and spiralling plants. The temple is placed on a platform that rises 1 meter with a stairway at the east side leading from the ground into a chamber inside the temple. There is a walkway around the temple, half a meter in width. The walkway is sided with stones. However, some of the stones have gone missing.

    The outer walls of the temple are plain without relief sculptures or niches. However, there is a design of a flowery pattern etched In the middle of the wall. The pattern makes an image of a big empty frame. Experts have yet to decide whether there was a statue or sculpture inside the frame.

    Gedong II Temple

    Gedong II Temple is a single cube-shaped building which remains complete. The temple is 2.5 meters square and sits on a one-meter-tall platform.
    The cornice on top of the platform makes a half-a-meter walkway encircling the temple. There is a stairway accessing the walkway at the east side opposite a door into a chamber inside the temple. There is a corbelled roof in front of the door, stretching out one meter long. A Kalamakara sculpture is found above the door.

    On the north, south and west walls of the temple, the frames of niches are projecting out and inside which statues are held. The frames are decorated with symmetrical patterns. Below the frames are sculptures of a couple of dragons with their mouths are wide open. On top of each frame, there is a sculpture of Kalamakara without its lower jaw.

    The temple roof consists of three stone blocks of diminishing size, topped with a pointing masonry. However, the pointing shape at the top of temple roof has already gone missing. On each side of the roof blocks, there are relief sculptures, and on each edge of the decorations, there is a round crown with a pointing top. Most of the decorations, however, have been destroyed. In front of the temple, there is a heap of stones and remains of a foundation indicating the existence of an ancillary temple

    Gedong III Temple

    Gedong III Temple consists of three buildings, two of them stand side by side facing east and the last one faces west. All buildings are still complete.

    The two buildings facing east almost look alike. The one at the north, however, is slightly bigger and taller than the one at the south. The bigger building is assumed to be the main temple while the smaller one is the ancillary temple. The buildings stand on low rectangular platforms.

    The roof of both temples consists of three layers of diminishing size, with a pointing masonry on top of it. The design of temple roof resembles that of Gedong II Temple. Each side of the roof layers is decorated with etching. On each edge, there is a decoration of a round crown with a pointing top. Wrapping around the temple sides is a narrow walkway without fences.

    There is a corbelled roof that stretches for a meter in front of an entrance into a small chamber inside the temple. Placed behind the entrance is a stairway with the side parts decorated with flowery design at the bottom of the stairway. At the north building, there is a niche holding a Shiva statue on each side of the entrance. The Shiva is standing and holding a long bludgeon.

    Both building facing east sit on a low rectangular platform. On each side of the platform, in the middle, there is a niche. In one of the niches on the sides of the platform, there is a statue of an elephant.

    There are also niches on the west, north and south walls. While all niches on the ancillary temple are empty, the one on the south wall of the main temple still holds Ganesha statue, sitting cross-legged. Meanwhile, the niche on the south wall still holds Durga statue standing with her eight arms open.

    The third building in Gedong III Temple compound is situated in front of the main temple and the ancillary temple. This building, with its rectangular base, has a curved ‘limasan’ roof. On top of the roof, there are three small towers standing in a row. The entrance door opposite the main temple is simple without a frame. Above the door, there are vestigial traces of a decoration. Unlike Semar Temple in Dieng Temple compound, no niche is found on the temple walls. Experts believe that the temple was a storage, built to keep items inside, thus it serves the same functions as Semar Temple.

    Gedong IV Temple

    Gedong IV Temple consists of one complete building and a number of building remains scattered around the place. Experts have yet succeeded to explain the original shape of the destroyed buildings and their functions. However, some argue that the building remains were ancillary temples.

    The only surviving building in the compound has the same design as the building in Gedong II Temple. The temple sits on a rectangular platform that rises 1 meter. The cornice on top of the platform makes a half-a-meter walkway wrapping the temple. On the east side, opposite to the entrance into a chamber inside the temple, there are stairs leading to the walkway.

    In front of the temple door, there is a corbelled roof that stretches out for one meter. Above the door, there is a sculpture of Kalamakara head without its lower jaw. There is an empty niche on each side of the door. Below the niche, there are unclear decorations as the original design is hardly recognizable.

    On the outer walls of the west, north and south walls, there are niches as well. Inside one of the niche, there is a statue of a standing man. The statue is presently half-damaged. The roof of Gedong IV temple consists of three layers of diminishing size, with a pointing masonry on top of it. The design of temple roof resembles that of Gedong II Temple. Each side of the roof layers is decorated with etching. On each edge, there is a decoration of a round crown with a pointing top.

    Gedong V Temple


    Gedong V Temple consists of a single intact structure and ruins of other structures, probably ancillary shrines, around it. The shape of this building resembles that of Gedong II and Gedong IV.

    This temple’s body stands on a platform 1 m high laid out on a rectangular plan. The platform’s edge is 0.5 m wide, enough to form a walkway encircling the temple’s body. Stairway to access the walkway is on the east, right in front of the gate to a small interior of the temple. The temple’s entrance door also has a corbelled roof projecting 1 m from temple body. Above the door frame is embellished with sculptures of Kalamakara without its lower jaw in high-relief. Each of the left and right side of the door has a niche to place statue, yet, no statues are found in them. Worn-out relief ornaments are found on the lower part of the niches.

    The outer wall on the west, north, and south has niches with statues inside. One of the statues is Ganesha sitting cross-legged on a bench with the left hand on the thigh and right hand on the knee. The statue is in damaged condition.
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