Mendut Temple

Buddhist temples from Mahayana sects that closely related to Borobudur temple are Mendut temple and Pawon temple. Mendut temple is the first temple where people stop before proceeding to Pawon temple and Borobudur temple. It is located on the confluence of Progo River and Elo River. Most temples face east but Mendut temple entrance faces west. Probably the temple builder wanted to honor the first Buddha sermon in Deer Park in Benares and he hoped to reach the enlightment as Buddha did. According to famous epigraph, Dr. J. G. De Casparis, Mendut temple was mentioned in the Karangtengah (near Temanggung) inscription as “Venu Vana Mandira” or “the temple in the midst of bamboo groves.” The size of Mendut temple is 13, 7 meter by 13, 7 meter, by 26, 5 meter high. The temple was “discovered” by the Dutch soldiers in 1834 and later restored by the Dutch East Indies government from 1897-1904. According to the experts, Mendut temple was built in 784-792 AD by Syailendra king, Indra, the father of king Samaratungga, who built the Borobudur temple. Other expert say that the temple was built by Buddhist king Samaratungga himself, assisted by Rakai Garut, a vassal Hindu king, as a symbol of harmonious relation between Hindu and Buddhist followers at that time among the ancient Javanese people. When the Mendut temple was restored, it was discovered that it had been built on the top of older brick foundation with Hindu temple characters. Casparis said that Mendut temple was built to honor the ancestors of Syailendra kings.

The roof has pyramid form, with linking stone in the middle, so all stones are united by this central stone. The bas relief on eastern wall describes Bodhisattva (Mansjuri and Samanthabadra), recognized by their parasol. On southern wall there is bas relief depicting Goddess Tara comes out from a Lotus flower on a pond whose water came from Avalokitesvara’s tear, sitting on a Lotus throne, crying to see the suffering of human. On the rear wall of the temple there are bas reliefs of Avalokitesvara and Kagarba carrying swords. The kings that flank them are Syailendra dynasty kings. The bas relief of Goddess Tara, the Buddha’s magical power, is depicted on the northern wall
Other bas reliefs are taken from Jataka book, telling Tantric or fable stories from animal world. One of them is about a monkey who had to cheat the crocodiles to save his life. The crocodiles wanted to eat the monkey’s heart and the monkey convinced them that his heart actually the mango fruit in the mango tree and the crocodiles had to carry him to the mango tree to pick his heart. The crocodiles did as the monkey told them and that saved the monkey’s life. On the northern wall of the stairs there is a bas relief about the crab and the monk. A monk saved the life of a crab and in turn the crab saved the monk’s life from a poisonous snake.

Other bas reliefs telling the story of the geese and the turtles, which convey us a good advice that silent is gold, while speaking too much sometime is dangerous, as seen in the story carved on the wall of the temple. Once upon a time, the large pond where the couple of turtle lived was to get dry because of the long dry season and they thought about moving to other place. They had good friends, the geese< who wanted to help them to carry them to other pond with deep water. The geese would carry the stick on their beaks on each edge and the turtles will bite the stick in the middle so they would fly safely until the destination. Before starting the journey, the geese warned the turtles to close their mouth and to stay silent no matter what happened because if they spoke, they would fall and die. In this way they flew safely until they arrived in a place where many wild dogs lived. The wild dogs saw the geese flying with the turtles and one of them asked his friend, “Hi, look! The geese fly with something clinging to the stick on their beaks. What are they carrying?” Jokingly his friends replied, “Well, that’s just the bullshit.” The turtles were angry because the wild dogs said that they were bullshits and they replied,”Hi, you..........” And they fell to the ground to be eaten by the wild dogs. Other important carvings that decorated the walls are about the tree of life or Kalpataru and heavenly creatures with bird body and human head called Kinnara-Kinnari. On the inner entrance wall on both sides, there are carvings of God Kuvera, the God of Wealth, and his wife with many children and many jars full of money. The jar full of money is the typical attribute of Kuvera, God of Wealth. At the carvings, the God is described as Alavika or Atavaka or giant Pancika, with his wife, Hariti, who before learning Buddhism was children eaters but after converting to Buddhist were children lovers and children’s protectors. This carving may be the origin of the famous aphorism in Indonesia: many children produce much wealth. In Bali, Hariti is known as Men Brayut, or the fertility goddess. People who don’t have any child after years of getting married used to come here to pray so they may have a blessing from fertility goddess and they may have children. Inside of the Mendut temple there are three big and well conserved Buddhist statues: the 3 meter Sakyamuni Buddha statue in the middle, the historical Buddha with mudra position while turning the wheel of Dharma as the symbol for the first Buddha sermon in Deer Park in Benares, with the feet standing on the ground, not cross-legged as usual. On his left side is the statue of Mansjuri or Vajrapani, Buddha who will set free the human beings in the future. According to Jacques Dumarçay the statue is Lokesvara, Bodhisattva who refuses to be a Buddha if not all humans are saved. On his right side is the statue of Avalokiteswara, the human beings helper Buddha, with Amithaba sign on his front head. Beside Mendut temple now stands a beautiful and elegant Buddhist Vihara, an important place of worship for Buddhist followers particularly during Vaisak celebration every year that commemorates the birth, the time when he achieved enlightment and the death of the historic Buddha Siddhartha Gautama. References:
Borobudur, Pawon and Mendut, Moertjipto & Bambang Prasetyo, Kanisius, Yogyakarta, 1993.
Candi Borobudur, Pawon dan Mendut, Aiaz Rajasa, Percetakan Kupu, 2007.
Guias de Viajes – Indonesia, Editor: Javier Rodriguez, Nobel Tours, Madrid, 2005.
Jalan-Jalan Yogyakarta, editor: Morissan, Intergraph Graphic Solution, Jakarta, 2006.
Java – Periplus Adventure Guides, Periplus Editions, Singapore, 1997.
The Magnificence of Borobudur, Gramedia Pustaka Utama, Jakarta, 1995.
The Temples of Java, Jacques Dumarçay, Oxfortd University Press, Singapore, 1991.