Saturday, June 27, 2009
A Tale of the Goddess Durga
Carvings tell story of ancient female solidarity Retno K. Djojo, Contributor, East Java Fri, 06/26/2009 1:08 PM Lifestyle Whatever the era or situation, women's issues have always cropped up, and the relief panels at Candi Tegowangi, in Pare, Kediri, are testimony that in East Java also, issues concerning the fate of woman were not swept under the carpet. Instead, they are made overt, portrayed on the temple's walls for subsequent generations to learn from the past and prevent problems from recurring. The beautifully sculpted relief panels at Tegowangi also show that female solidarity in defending their cause was a force to be reckoned with. It was someone no less than Prince Sadewa, one of the Pandawa brothers in the Mahabharata Hindu epic, who had a rude awakening to the presence of female solidarity when he was literally dragged by his mother, Goddess Kunti, to address the case of Goddess Durga. Though initially reluctant on being taken to face the hideous Goddess Durga and her ogress-like handmaids, Sadewa willingly conducted a purification rite. The relief panels show Sadewa sitting cross-legged and in deep meditation to undo the wicked spell cast upon Durga and her handmaids by Lord Shiva. Shiva, Durga's husband, had cast the spell on his wife in a fit of anger, rendering the beauty into something hideous. Realizing his mistake, he decreed that the spell could be undone with the help of Sadewa. The purification rite instantly restored beauty to Durga and her companions. Durga's honor was restored, and she became known in a new role as benevolent Goddess Uma. As token of gratitude she awarded Sadewa the title of Sudamala, which means "savior". The relief panels at Tegowangi, which date back to the Majapahit era, display exquisitely fine workmanship. Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, who mentioned the existence of this ancient temple in his journal The History of Java, admired the rich decorations on the temple's walls and staircase. The pillars and panels are adorned with sculptures in a great variety of forms, demonstrating the artisans' creativity. Entirely constructed of andesite, the temple, measuring 11.2 meters on each side with a height of 4.35 meters, was built as a repository shrine for an important dignitary of the Majapahit kingdom, Bhre Matahun, who died in 1388. But work on the temple's wall could not be completed, so a large portion on the temple's wall behind the 13th panel has been left blank. It should have contained the purging of wicked infiltrators into the Pandawa camp through the joint efforts of Goddess Uma and Sadewa. The temple staircase and parts of its platform, which functioned as a place for worship, have suffered severe damage, but visitors can still enjoy the excellent workmanship of those ancient artisans. Visitors to the temple should not waste the opportunity to view a smaller temple located just a stone's throw away from the main temple and enjoy another series of fine workmanship on the temple walls. The smaller temple, Candi Pariwara, measuring 4.34 meters on each side, has relief panels with animal figures, placed in rectangular, diamond or circular frames. The temple's staircase is guarded by ornate statues, including a lion figure.