It is Wednesday – Woden’s Day … and therefore, a suitably impressive Shaivite Temple !
Now, this is from Prambanan in Indonesia – a place we today think of as the world’s largest Muslim-majority country. And yet, 1200 years ago when this impressive site was being constructed, it was quite different; the polity in question being under Shaivite dominion (I am … oversimplifying here – the King who built it was a Shaivite – although interestingly, his Queen, who purportedly provided the likeness for the fine Durga Murti also at the site, was a Buddhist).
In other words – the Eastern Frontier of the Indo-European mytho-religious sphere was not India … but Indonesia. A recognizable continuity and contiguity of belief running right the way from Indonesia through to Iceland in that age. Not quite a domain that the Sun would never set on – although in time rather than space it still remains incredibly strong!
Today, most of what remains of the Hindusphere in Indonesia is largely confined to Bali – and it is intriguing to note that some Balinese Hindu elements seem to record quite archaic Vedic elements that have since become less prominent in the ‘mainstream’ Hinduism much further to the West.
But to speak more directly of Prambanan – it is difficult to overstate just how impressive this complex is. There are two hundred and forty Temples and smaller shrines upon the site; and an entire river was diverted in order to provide a large enough area to construct them upon. Construction continued through the reigns of two Hindu Kings … and then recommenced via reconstruction in the 1930s under Colonial rule nearly a thousand years later – a process which continues to this day due to the sheer scope of the project involved.
The main Shiva Temple is … immense. 47 meters tall by 36 meters wide; and constructed, as is the frequent occurrence, as a sort of map of the Cosmos. Hence it is divided into three layers to correlate to the Three Worlds (and the names may be familiar to some from certain Mantras we have been posting … ), arranged around the form of the Mountain as Axis Mundi – with Lord Shiva Himself at the Heart of (it) All! Just as He Dances at the Heart of the Universe as the Axis Mundi Himself.
Recently, in late 2019, Hindu Rites of Shaivite devotion started being performed once more at the site – with a three day long Abhishek conducted in order to re-consecrate the complex and begin the move from “archaeological relic” to “living bastion of the tradition”.
It has been said that in Modernity, we are men living amidst Ruins of the greater glories of the past. I do not necessarily disagree with that assessment – but the key thing, I suspect, is how one chooses to regard and interact or otherwise engage with the elements in question.
It would be easy, indeed, to simply abandon them – not in the sense, perhaps, of merely moving away … but just not really noticing them, demolishing their saliency and their significance within our minds and our lives so they are “just another part of the scenery”, less thought about than the pavement immediately in front of one’s feet. [Indeed, as had been seen with Rome … some of the masonry from the Temples of the Past might even be the pavement immediately in front of one’s feet .. 😦 ]
Except … just as the Stone has endured – even despite a great number, here, of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, religious transitions, dynastic shifts and Dutch colonial occupations … so too, can that other essential endurance – the ability of men to perceive the sheer gravitas [in Sanskrit we would perhaps say ‘Graha’ quality] of places like these. Not merely because the stonework is pretty or looming – but because we feel the sustained weight of significance; that these sites are important, indeed downright sacred to us.
That they are, in short, not temporal – not in the traditional sense, anyway – but places where the Eternal intersects with the present day.
And therefore with a grandeur which is most truly undying. Not least rendered immortal through the worshipful, reverent – Eusebian, we must say, per the Ancient Greek! – regard of mortal men.
If Shaivite rites in the ancient Hindu manner can be conducted after an interregnum of more than a millennium at this site even in the world’s most Muslim country by population, well outside of the ‘usual’ Indo-European sphere … what is your excuse for not being able to engage with the religious traditions of your – our – Indo-European Ancestors ?
The ruins which stand about you are those of your mind and culture. It is upon you to rebuild and re-hallow them through your mind and deeds.
And help us to reconstruct a religious edifice even more impressive than that wrought in stone and masonry at Prambanan – the resurrection of the Indo-European Religious World; all the way from Indonesia to Iceland !
JAI ISHVARA !
ॐ नमः शिवाय !!!