Sewu Temple is located in Bener Hamlet, Bugisan Village, Prambanan Subdistrict, Klaten Regency, Central Java. It is around 17 km from Yogyakarta en route to Solo. Sewu Temple is a temple complex located nearby Prambanan Temple, approximately 800 meters to the south of Rara Jongrang statue.
This temple was probably built in 8th century by Rakai Panangkaran (746-784 AD) and Rakai Pikatan, the kings of Mataram Kingdom. Mataram was under the influence of Syailendra family, who were Buddhist. Scholars estimate that Sewu Temple was the center of religious activities of Buddhist people. The assumption is founded on the content of andesite stone inscription discovered in one of the ancillary temples. The sculpture, known to be Manjusrigita, is written in Ancient Malay dated in the Javanese year of 792. The stone inscription describes prasada purification rituals called Wajrasana Manjusrigrha in the Javanese year of 714 (792 AD). Manjusri is also mentioned in Kelurak stone inscription of 782 AD, discovered near Lumbung temple.
Thousand Temple is situated next to Prambanan Temple, making it part of Prambanan Temple tourism area. The area also has Lumbung Temple and Bubrah Temple. Not far from the area, there are several other temples, namely Gana Temple, around 300 m to the east, Kulon Temple, 300 m to the west, and Lor Temple, around 200 m to the north. Sewu Temple, the second biggest Buddhist temple after Borobudur, and Prambanan temple, which is a Hindu temple, indicate that during the period Hindu and Buddhist communities had lived a harmonious coexisting life.
Sewu Temple has four gates on the east, north, west, and south that lead to the outer court, and each of them is guarded by a couple of Dwarapala statues facing each other. From the outer court into the inner court, there are also four gates, each guarded by a couple of Dwarapala statues similar to those at the outer gates.
Each of the Dwarapala statues is made of a single block of stone, placed on a square base 1.2 m high with one leg on its knee, the other one bended, and one hand holding a club. The statue stands 2.3 m high.
The main temple is laid out on a square area 40 m2 wide, encircled by stone wall 0.85 m high. This temple is polygon in shape with 20 angles and 29 m in diameter. The structure stands 30 m high with 9 roofs, each of which has stupa on top.
The temple’s body is constructed on a 2.5 m high platform. The base is adorned with reliefs of flowers in vases. To go to the temple platform, which forms a walkway, one can use 2 m-wide stairs with stone railings. The end of each railing holds a makara, dragon’s head with open mouth, with Buddha statue inside. The outer part of the railing is adorned with Kalpawreksa, a figure of giant.
There is no Kalamakara above the door frame, but the walls on the left and right hand sides of the door have statues of dragon’s head with open mouth. Unlike the one at the end of the railings, which has a Buddha statue inside, this dragon’s mouth has a lion inside.
The main entrance of the main temple, which is made of andesite blocks, is located on the east, and it can be said that this structure faces east. In addition to the main entrance, there three other doors facing towards the north, west, and south. The entire doors have a small porch. The chamber inside the temple body is cube-shaped, with walls made of red bricks. The chamber contains an ‘asana’. This temple’s outer walls and the base of its roof have niches that hold Buddha statues in various positions.
The entire ‘perwara’ (ancillary) and ‘apit’ (flanking) shrines are located in the outer court. The flanking shrines are laid out between the main temple and the ancillary shrines. Each pair of the flanking shrines faces each other and is separated by a walkway leading to the main temple.
The flanking shrines are constructed on 1 m high platforms and have 1 meter-wide stairs heading for the temple base. The door frame does not have Kalamakara statues, but a number of paneled reliefs. The roof has a stupa with smaller stupas around its base. The walls of the flanking shrines are adorned with male figures dressed in imperial clothing in standing position.
The ancillary shrines are constructed on an arrangement of four rows encircling the main temple and flanking shrines. The innermost row has 28 shrines, the second has 44 shrines, the third has 80 shrines, and the fourth has 88 shrines. The entire ancillary shrines, except those in the third row, face the outside or have the main temple on its background. Only shrines in the third row face the main temple. Most of these shrines are in damaged condition, with only piles of stones left.