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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

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Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
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1 entry, paper

-7.7955798, 110.3694896

Thurs 19. [19 March 1903] Up at 5 as usual and off at 6.30 to Prambanan which I reached at 7.15. Took a Malay boy for guide and went off first to Tjandi Sewu which is Buddhist. A central temple containing a big shrine in the middle and 3 little ones on the 3 other sides and all round rows and rows of small shrines which had originally contained Buddhas - none remained inside that I cd see but there were one or two standing about outside - probably destroyed by Moslem iconaclism. Each with 9 niches - lotus capitals but no Buddhist emblems charming arabesques round the top of the shrines. These little shrines were much ruined having been, I suppose, buried under lava by the volcano [space left blank] which is quite near. On those that stood one cd see low relief carvings of a distinctly Hindu character. At the 4 entrances were 2 monsters guarding the gate and these were perfectly preserved. All was overgrown with grass and weeds and small boys were pasturing bullocks in the temple. So through rice fields to a small group, which from the mass of lingas I take to have been a Shiwa temple - the same arrangement, a central shrine with small shrines round. No figures anywhere. So to the big group, which they are repairing - it was much injured by the eruption of the volcano. A nice friendly guardian took me round. We saw exhaustively the carvings on the Shiwa temple which represent the whole Ramayana the tale told with wonderful vigour and sense of selection[?]. I think Borobudor must have largely influenced the builders of Prambanan - the temples are the same in miniature the carving more or less similarly disposed round the gallery and even details are alike - for instance the dead king of Ayod Lya being prepared for the pile is represented sitting up and so is Buddha's father at Borobudor. There are 4 shrines in the upper parts - Shiwa, very fine, in the eastern, Shiwa as Guru in the southern, Ganesh in the western and Durga in the northern. The Durga figure is particularly fine and is much reverenced by the people nowadays. There was a charming party of natives going round with Ceylon combs[?] on the heads - raja people my guide said. The temple to the north is dedicated to Vishnu and his statue is perhaps the finest of any. That on the south to Brahma. One statue is much ruined but the 4 facing head is perfectly preserved. It seems to have had 4 arms also. There are carvings all round the gallery of a bearded Jupiter like figure sitting in contemplation with 2 attendants - Brahma I suppose. Outside the other temples are panels with trees and animals. There are some beautiful panels of groups of 3 dancing female figures - they don't seem to know where they belong. Exactly east of the Shiwa temple is one containing his bull - the bull shrine faces the Shiwa shrine. People come here, lay offerings before the bull, get on his back and ask their desire of the god. The other temples are much ruined. There is a drop from the platform on which all these are and apparently an outer row or two of small ruined shrines below it. Got back to Prambanan at 12.15 and went off to see the Wassercastel the ruined palace of a former raja, an absurd place. Saw swells in kriss, jockey cap, and tight sarong with their umbrella carriers walking behind. Also driving. The umbrellas green and gold and blue and gold. The Java [Jawa] swell has a great cachet. His head is done up in a batek [sic] scarf the ends tied at his nape - sticking out on either side of his head like rabbit's ears. He is very tall and slight - not like the Sundanese. The coat is short behind to show the kriss and comes down in long points in front. Had a dance - the dancing not much but the music charming. The woman however, very attractive, slight and tall with her sarong folded above her breasts and her neck and arms bare - 2 or 3 wooden keyed instruments and a drum beaten with the fingers. Off at 2.30 back to Maos where I arrived at 6.15. Bath diary dinner and to bed. There are a lot of mosquitoes at Maos.

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