He’s Bholenath–the innocent one. He’s Nataraj–the divine dancer. He’s Mahadev–God of gods. He’s Loknath–ruler of the world. It’s easy to see why many are fascinated by Lord Shiva. He isn’t the typical definition of ‘god’ as far as Hindu deities go. Not only is he a leader of the gods and an enchanting dancer, but also rather human in his temperament–gentle one minute, but ruthless when irked! And with Amish Tripathi’s Shiva trilogy novels painting the deity as a heroic man rather than as a god, Shiva has become all the more relatable.
He’s probably the most revered of all Hindu gods; the innumerable Shiva temples across South-East Asia are a testament to that. While Shiva may reside in all these temples, they say his presence can be strongly felt in the most ancient ones. Some believe it’s the architecture that incites such a spiritual experience, while others insist it’s their innate powerful energy that draws devotees. Whichever the case, certain ancient Shiva temples are thought to be auspicious given the special legends about their birth. They’re also considered unique for recording history by marking the rule of certain dynasties. Here’s Soulveda delving into the history and legends behind the birth of renowned ancient Shiva temples in Southeast Asia:
Prambanan Temple, Indonesia
Archaeologists believe that the Prambanan Temple in Indonesia was originally designed to look like Meru, the mountain home of Shiva, complete with the Hindu cosmological concept of Bhurloka (mortal world), Bhuvarloka (angel world), and Svarloka (godly world) in its architecture. The temple is said to mark the return of the Hindu Sanjaya Dynasty, back in 856 CE, going by the information available in the Shivagrha inscription housed within its premises. Historians believe that this temple signified the Medang court’s shift of patronage from Mahayana Buddhism to Shaivite Hinduism.
Lord Shiva in this temple is accompanied by his consort Durga. The statue of Durga within the complex is associated with the Javanese legend of Princess Rara Jonggrang. The story goes that Princess Rara was persistently pursued by Bandung Bondowoso, who had killed her father. Naturally, unwilling to marry him, she challenged that Bandung build a thousand temples for her overnight. Bandung accepted the challenge and conjured demons to do the work for him. Upon hearing of his remarkable progress, Rara attempted to thwart him. She had a fire lit in the eastern part of the temple, and got the villagers to pound rice. Thinking that dawn was rising, even cocks began to crow. This sent the demons scurrying to the underground, in fear of daylight. Furious that he had been tricked, Bandung cursed Rara into a stone, and this stone is now said to be worshipped as Durga.
It is said that there are 12 Jyotirlinga temples in India, which collectively represent the body of Shiva. These temples are considered auspicious as the deity is said to have appeared as a column of light near their premises.