Sacred Monuments

Ancient Temples in Java and Bali

Ever hear of Java Man? No, he's not some web-savvy code warrior gearing out on some trendy new operating language. Java Man is a group of skeletal remains found on the Indonesian island of Java dating back at least half a million years ago. Yeah, he's a different species (homo erectus) and yeah, the modern Javanese culture dates back a (comparatively) mere 4500 years, but you gotta at least admit, there's a lot of human history on the island. Because the island has had a long and intense habitation, it's riddled with traces of what humans have used to mark what was profound and significant: temples, sacred spaces, ruling compounds. The monuments.

Java is the big island, the capital, the plum. A skip across the pond is Bali, the tiny gem, the legend, the pinch of saffron. The monuments of both reflect their nature. Java has had turbulence and change, seen the rise of empires and movements — then their quick collapse. Bali has had a more isolated history, allowing for more continuous tradition and quirky idiosyncrasy. The experience of visiting different sacred sites on the two islands reflects this difference. The principal sites of Java tend to be huge ruins that were abandoned centuries ago, then rescued in modern times as archeological projects. The sacred sites of Bali are smaller, in a way more humble. Generally, Balinese temples have been in continuous use, in some cases since the stone age. They are still very active places of religious observance.

There's a lifetime worth of exploring to do on both islands. All we could ever hope to do is give you a sketch of some of the highlights. Many of these places are situated in areas of great natural beauty and interest — perfect destinations for hiking and biking trips.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 8 Nov 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication



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