Candi (Temple) Sukuh: Erotic Mayan-Like Temple, Karang Anyar, Central Java

This temple architecture is unlike other temples in Indonesia, its trapezium. At a glance, it looks like Mayan building in Mexico or Inca in Peru. This temple is also controversial as there are linga and yoni, hindu sexual symbols. Located on the slope of Mt Lawu, notably in Berjo Village, Sukuh, Ngargoyoso District, Karanganyar Regency, East Java, Indonesia. It is just situated 20 km from Karanganyar and 36 KM from Solo.

The site was discovered when Java Island was occupied by British in 1815, found Johnson, The Resident of Surakarta. Johnson was assigned by Thomas Stamford Raffles to collect data for his book, The History of Java. In 1842, a Dutchman, Van der Vlis, did research, and restoration commenced in 1928.

Sukuh Temple was built in 3 terraces. The first terrace is the main gate. This gate is depicted Javanese candra sankgalan “Gapura buta abara wong” ( Gate of giant that preys human), those words mean 9,5,3 and 1. So it is 1359 Saka or 1437. On the gate’s floor, there is a phallus relief faces vagina relief. It may look like porn, but actually that was not what the maker meant. It is impossible that porn carving is made in a sacred place like temple. The relief has a deeper meaning, it has similar shape as lingga and yoni that symbolized Siva and his wive Parvati. Lingga Yoni are symbol of fertility, and carved on the gate that whoever step on it will be free of sins for already got ” suwuk”.

On the second terrace, there is a gate that has damaged. Dwarapala on the left and right side are already decoyed. The gate’s roof is gone, and on this terrace there are not many statuary, but this gate carved with “Gajah Wiku Anahut Buntut” or Elephant of a Priest Bite Tail, means 8,7,3 and 1 or 1378 Saka or 1456. So this gate was built 10 years after the first terrace gate.

The third terrace constitute of a plain ground consists of a main temple and few relief on the left and statuary on the right side. To get to the main temple, one should pass terraces with narrow hall. This narrow hall got its architecture model from vagina, that according to expert, this narrow hall was built to test women virginity. If the woman passing the hall was still virgin, then her virgin membrane will be torn here and then bleed, and if she was the opposite, passing this alley will make her jarit (cloth) released.

Right above of the main temple, in the middle part, there is a square that was used as shrine to put offerings. This shrine is traced with incense that indicates that it is still utilized for prayer altar.

The building structure of Sukuh Temple can be cited to infringe the architectural pattern of Hindu standard in Hindu Wastu Widya. Wastu Widya mentiones that a temple should be square and the center should be placed right in the mid of it, where the sacred shrine should be placed. While Sukuh Temple diverges from the grip, can be described as Sukuh was built when Hindu glorious day was fading away that Indonesia prehistoric came up to re-surge as in Megalith era. The third terrace, the most sacred terrace has many remains, and as the other terraces, this terrace split by stone passage. The stone passage is very rarely found and only found in a sacred building in the Megalithic period.

On the south of the stone passage, there is a stone fragments about Sudamala tale. Sudamala is one of 5 Pandawa Knights, more popular as Sadewa. Sudamala that was able to make purification ceremony for Durga, from a woman giant or Hyang Pramoni, to her original being, Btari Uma Sudamala. Sudamala tale was taken from Sudamala Ballad Book.

Also located a Garuda statue as part of Tirta Amerta search in Adiparwa Book, the first Mahabarata book. On the Garuda tail there is an inscription. Also there are figures of 3 turtles as earth symbol and the manifestation of Visnu. The turtles are designed like table that probably for shrine purpose. A pyramid with the summit cut is symbol of Gunung Mandaragiri, that was taken to stir the ocean to search for Tirta Amerta.

Visiting Sukuh Temple is just like seeing how rich Indonesia culture is. The relief, the architecture, the symblolism, and that we have old magnificent design from prehistoric periode, such as punden berundak. It would be amazing if other building from prehistoric can still be preserved, as maybe there were magnificent building such Mayan or Inca temple in Indonesia.