[History of Java] Abstract of Contents


I. Guardians of Temples and Shrines

This article written as a supplement of

Java Essay: The History and Culture of a Southern Country, by Masatoshi Iguchi, published from Troubador Publishing, Leicester, UK, 2015

was aimed at describing about various ornaments which were put up in a wish to guard candis, or ancient religious structures, constructed in the Hindu/Buddhist Period Java, i.e., between the mid-7th and 15th century prior to the pervasion of Islam. Specifically, they are:

    1. Kala's head and Makara,

    2. The Atlas that supports buildings,

    3. Dvarapala or Deva King Statues,

    4. Lion Gatekeeper Statues.

Similar objects found in temples and shrined in Japan were also investigated.


1. Kala's head and Makara

The Kala’s head, a literal translation of Kepala Kala in the local language, means the Monster’s head which originated from a Hindu mythology in India in which a greedy monster who ate, by the orders of Lord Siva, his own limbs and body was honoured with the name of Kirtimukha (The Face of Glory) and told to remain always at the doorways of Siva temples and watch intruders.

Makara is an imaginary aquatic animal in Hinduism that is said to be served as the vehicle of Ganga ma, the goddess of water, or Varuna, the god of sea, or to represent the insignia of Kamadeva, the god of love. Makara is often discharging a strange creature from, or swallowing it into her mouth.

Like in India, the sculptures of Kirtimukha and Makara were adopted in Java, especially combined in the form of Kalamakara motif, in the oldest remaining candis in Dieng Plateau constructed in the mid-7th century and those built in later times in Kedu Basin and Prambanan Plain in Central Java.

It is remarked that Lion’s head appeared in the Prambanan Temple Complex (856 AD to supersede the traditional Kala’s head). Lion’s head was continually used in candis in Malang, Kediri and Blitar in East Java but Makara became less important for some reason. Makaras at Candi Kidal, the only makaras which this author saw in East Java, had no creature in their mouth.

In Japan, ridge end tiles with the face of ogre, called Onigawara, appeared for the first time in Todaiji Temple founded in the early 8th century in Nara. This author assumed it was designed after Kirtimukha probably suggested by Rev. Bodhisena a monk from India, who was one of the four key members for the temple’s construction. Such ridge end tiles that thenceforth became adopted in many temples as well as ordinary buildings were constructed. Roof ornaments in Japan imitating the tail and the whole body of some fish, called Shibi and Shachi, respectively, as well as Makaras from Fujian, China, have been also investigated.


2. The Atlas that supports buildings

Atlas in Greek mythology was a Titan who challenged Olympus and was punished by the enraged Zeus to carry the globe on his shoulders or, according to Homer, to support the column that separated the heaven and the earth. His figure was carved in Gandhara as a mighty man to support Buddhist buildings and adopted in Java in the early Hindu period and placed to support the upper structures or the entrance pillars of temples. The design of Atlas was various as described.

In Japan, sculptures of ogre and some animal placed on the beams of buildings as a strut to support the roof are found in Horyuji Temple, the oldest temple in Japan founded in 607 AD and many other temples, being called Sumioni or “corner monsters”. Besides those that support the building structure, sculptures of demon that shouldered such heavy objects as the fire house of garden lantern, incense burners, and rainwater cisterns appeared in later times. In the Edo Period that started in the beginning of the 17th Century, figures depicting wrestlers or power deities emerged to replace the corner monsters. In one shrine (Hagurosan Shrine in Kamikawachi, Joshu, the present-day Gunma Prefecture) such figures were placed at the bottom of the main hall to support the foundation. This author supposed that the carvers of these sculptures would have seen and imitated the Greek Atlas illustrated on the Mercator’s Maps which the Dutch had brought to Japan.


3. Dvarapalas or Deva King Statues

In Gandhara, the Greek divine hero Hercules was adopted as Vajradhara or a protector of Buddha and statues were used as Dvarapala (Door Guardian). In Java, dvarapalas were placed on the approach to Buddhist temples constructed in the heyday of Sailendra Dynasty, such as Candi Sewu (782 AD) and Candi Plaosan (780s AD). Unlike muscular Hercules in Greece, dvarapalas in Java are round and plump presumably designed after the image of Rakshasa but that they represented Vajradhara is evident from their weapons, a truncheon to beat intruders and a rope or naga (snail) to tie them up, both the special possessions of the deity, Similar dvarapalas were inherited in Candi Singosari (1268 AD) and Hindu-Buddhist conglomerated temple in Panataran, the state temple of the Majapahit Kingdom (14th c). After the establishment of New Mataram Kingdom, old Hindu/Buddhist culture which was neglected after the propagation of Islam was esteemed again and dvarapalas as well as Kala’s faces were adopted in the palaces in Solo and Yogyakarta. Dvarapalas in a temple in Bali (Pura Puseh, 1022 AD) was different from those in Java, representing demon queen Rangda.

In Japan, Vajradhara depicting muscular wrestlers, called Niou (Deva-King) was placed first in Horyuji Temple (711 AD) in Nara and dvarapalas of similar designs spread in other temples. Niou statues at The South Gate of Todaiji Temple (1203 AD, wood), Nara, carved by the master sculptor, Unkei and his school members are reputed as the best work.


4. Lion Gatekeeper Statues

The idea to entrust the king of beast, lion, with the guarding of shrine occurred in ancient times at Assyria and Greece. The adoption of lion statue as the gatekeeper of Buddhist temples allegedly originated in Gandhara and spread around India, viz. in Sri Lanka. Although a number of Buddhist temples remain in Java, Lion gatekeeper statues exist only in Candi Borobudur as far as this author has seen. The best pieces found in pair on the ground at the foot of the staircase at the centre of the south sector had a charming countenance, rather than an intimidating air, with round eyes, plump cheeks and unique manes similar to those of a donkey. Several other statues on the ground as well as a few pieces on the upper stairs were more or less similar but their work looked inferior and the placement of these statues was rather irregular. Thus, this author supposed that the lion statues might have not been included in the original plan of the candi but added at some later times. The feature of the statue, viz. round eyes and curled hairs around the neck, seems to be quite similar to that of Yapahuwa Castle, Sri Lanka, implying that the design came from Sri Lanka. Lion sculpture similar to that of Borobudur but much smaller in size was found in the so-called “Prambanan Motif” adorned on the walls of basement of Candi Siva and Candi Nandi in the Candi Loro Jonggrang Complex.

In Japan, the oldest lion statues are the pair of pieces in the rear side of the Great South Gate of Todaiji Temple which, according to the history, were sculpted by four guest artists from South Sung with the stone imported from Ningbo. They imitated the so-called Chinese lions. In the Heian Period (794-1192AD), Shishi-Komainu (lit. lion and dog) emerged and became common. Around the 16th century, smaller sculptures of lion and baku (an imaginary beast) to watch intruders from the beam ends or the ceiling of the gate and entrance of temples were invented.



II. History of Java

Brief History of Java

This is based on the Introduction of my book, Java Essay: The History and Culture of a Southern Country (by Masatoshi Iguchi, published from Troubador Publishing Ltd., Leicester, UK, 2015) and reviews the history of kingdoms that rose and fell after the first century, until the modern times in the Island of Java with a certain respect to their culture. The author wishes to underline the followings.

(1)    A country in Java which was described as 呵羅單國 in Sung Shu (宋書, The Book of Sung, 430 AD) and pronounced in early studies as ‘Holotan’ or ‘Karatan’ was questionable among historians. Thanks to the suggestion from a Chinese friends that ‘‘a-ro-tan” would have been also possible for the original sound, this author has got an idea that it could be “aruteun” of Ci-aruteun in which the prefix ‘Ci-’ meant water. Ci-aruteun is the name of village where some pieces of stone inscriptions of Tarumanagara Period had been discovered and where this author was shown, by the village chief, many pieces of large foundation stones which would have been of use for a palace or some large edifice. Thus, this author has concluded that “A-ro-tan” or the present-day Ciaruteun was the capital of Tarumanagara Kingdom and the “A-ro-tan country (呵羅單國) was a synonym of Tarumanagara.

(2)    Another enigmatic country was 訶陵國 reigned by 悉莫女王 (Queen Sima) that was recorded in the Old Book of Tang (舊唐書,  mid-10th century). It was previously transcribed as Ho-ling or Ka-ling country. It was rather surprising to this author to find detailed description about “Keling Kingdom” in the domestic history books,  Carita Parahyangan (Parahyangan Stories) and Pustaka rajya rajya i bhumi Nusantara (The book of kings in the archipelago), compiled in the 16th and the17th century in Cirebon, respectively. It included the life of Queen Simaher husband and  offspring, the countrys relation to Srivijaya kingdom in Sumatra and so on.


Chronology of Java

This is another citation from Java Essay: The History and Culture of a Southern Country. Due to the fact that ever since the prehistoric time Java Island was occupied by two ethnic groups, Sundanese in Tanah Sunda (The land of Sundanese, West Java) and Javanese in Tanah Jawa (The land of Javanese, Central and East Java), and that they were remote from each other before the start of the modern age, historical events has been sorted in two columns. This chronology covers the period from the 1st century AD to 1945 (the declaration of the Indonesian Independence). A minor revision has been made.



III. Royal genealogy in ancient Java

In the stage of writing Java Essay, the author wished to sort out the relationships between many kingdoms which rose and declined in ancient Java. The genealogical chart presented in the book was derived from the following literature.

(1)     Saleh Danasasmita, Sejarah Bogor, Pemerintah Daerah Kotamadya DT II Bogor, 1983 (A history of Bogor),

(2)     Atja, Edi Suhardi Ekajati, Pustaka rajya-rajya i bhumi Nusantara Vol. I - 1, Bagian Proyek Penelitian dan Pengkajian Kebudayaan Sunda (Sundanologi), Direktorat Jenderal Kebudayaan, Departemen Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan, 1987,

(3)     Atja, Carita Parahiyangan: Naskah Titilar Karuhun Urang Sunda, Jajasan Kebudajaan Nusalarang, Bandung 1968,

(4)     Sketsalaku, Galuh Karangkamulyan, June 18, 2010, http://sketsalaku.wordpress.com/2010/06/18/4/.

In the renewed version in this website, the relationship between Keling, Sanjaya, Sailendra and Kanjuruhan Kingdoms has been made clearer with reference to additional literature.

(5)     Edi S. Ekadjati (Ed.), Polemik Naskah Pangeran Wangsakerta, Pustaka Jaya, Jakarta 2005,

(6)     Ayatrohaedi, Sundakala: cuplikan sejarah Sunda berdasarkan naskah-naskah "Panitia Wangsakerta" Cirebon, Pustaka Jaya, Jakarta 2005,

(7)     Raja-Raja Jawa Kuno by Zamrut Khatulistiwa Selasa, 22 March 2011”, http://nusantara-dwipantara.blogspot.jp/2011/03/kerajaan-keling-di-jawa-timur-1.html


    This author believes this genealogical chart is much more comprehensive than those ever published in literature.



IV. Legends and tales

Episodes in this section are the extracts from Java Essay. Some illustrations to give visual image have been added.

  1. A myth on the birth of Java Island.

  2. Loro Jonggrang Legends.

  3. Jayabaya Prophecies.

  4. The appearance of a hero, Ken Arok.

  5. The Tragedy in Bubat.

  6. Siliwangi Legends.

      (1) The Story of Siliwangi

      (2) The Story of Mundinglaya Di Kusumah

      (3) A Tale of Tigers in Sancang Forest

  7. Three Pantung Sunda.

      (1) Ciung Wanara Legends.

      (2) Lutung Kasarung legends.

      (3) The story of Bujangga Manik.

  8. Arjunawiwaha.

  9. Krsnayana.

10. Arjunawijaya.

11. The Stasoma Story.

12. A tale of Mur Jangkung.

13. Garuda Myth.

14. A legendry cannon - Si Jagur or Kyai Setomo



V. Cultural Tradition (New)

A review, entitled,
    Wayang (Javanese Shadow Play) and its Derivatives [Part 1 & 2]
 (in Japanese)
contributed in the November and December issues of Journal of The Society of Fibre Science and Technology, Japan, as the journal‘s <Series of Cultural Tradition Associated with Festivals 15>, and the article's [English Translation] have been added recommended by Prof. Makoto Tsuchida, the editor-in-chief.
    The unique shadow play, Wayang Kulit, allegedly originated in the later period of Mataram Dynasty (8th-10th centuries) in Central Java, was inherited in the subsequent dynasties and polished up into the sophisticated art in the New Mataram Dynasty which arose in the 15th century Central Java and continued to date. In its course, the repertoire expanded from such classic kakawin (verses) as Ramayana, Mahabharata, etc. to include titles written from time to time. From Wayang which literally meant shadow were derived puppet shows to show the real image, masque and stage play played by actors and actresses, forming the so called “Wayang Wordl”.. In common with above plays, the indigenous Javanese Orchestra, Gamelan, is played as background music. This review "composed of the following sections.

      1. First sight,

      2. Wayang kulit show hosted by the Solonese Royal House.

      3. The origin and the evolution of wayang kulit

      4. 4. Wayang World:

(1) The expansion of the repertoire of Wayang, (2) Wayang Klitik, (3) Wayang golek, (4) Wayang Beber, (5) Illustrated Lontar (6) Wayang wong, a stage-play, (7) Stage-plays in royal courtss.