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Rara Jonggrang: The Legend of Prambanan Temple

Yogyakarta - Indonesia
Rara Jonggrang: The Legend of Prambanan Temple
Rating : Rating 2.3 2.3 (29 vote(s))


Rara Jonggrang is the charming daughter of King Baka who rules in Prambanan Kingdom. Once upon a time, a warrior from Pengging Kingdom named Bandawasa comes to propose her. Rara answers that she will accept his proposal on one condition: he must first build her no less than a thousand temples and two wells in a night. Can Bandawasa make it? Find out in the following story of Rara Jonggrang!


A long time ago in the kingdom of Prambanan, there lived an ogre king named Baka. He looked scary yet possessed godlike supernatural power. With small surrounding kingdoms all submitting to him, he ruled an immense size of territory. Despite his ghastly physical appearance, King Baka had a very beautiful human daughter. Rara Jonggrang was her name and she was so dear to the king.

Far away from Prambanan, there was also a kingdom as big called Pengging. The kingdom had been known to have a strong warrior named Bandawasa. His power came mainly from his weapon, a club called Bandung. Besides, he had the ability to call a troop of spirits in a blink of an eye whenever he needed help.

There came a time when the king of Pengging wanted an expansion. He commanded Bandawasa together with other warriors to conquer Prambanan.

“Bandawasa! Ready your soldiers to attack Prambanan!” instructed the king.

“Yes, King! I will do it right away," answered Bandawasa with a bow.

Bandawasa was heading to Prambanan along with his soldiers. They ran amuck into the palace right away after they arrived. King Baka reacted instantly by ordering his military to block Bandawasa’s troop. A blood-shedding war was inevitable with Prambanan troop massacred. King Baka himself got killed by Bandawasa’s weapon. Since the great victory, the cold-blooded commander was given a new calling, Bandung Bandawasa.

After the war, the king of Pengging trusted the new conquest to Bandawasa. He was assigned to take care of Prambanan and whatever in it, including King Baka’s family. “This is my gratitude to you, Bandawasa. I hope you’re happy,” said the king.

“It’s an honor, my King, thank you for your generosity. I promise to do my best to keep it for you,” answered the commander.

Bandung Bandawasa now resided in the royal palace of Prambanan. On the very first day of his occupation he was already mesmerized by the beauty of Rara Jonggrang. He wanted her to be his wife.

“O, Princess Rara Jonggrang! You are a goddess. I want you to be my wife,” said Bandung Bandawasa.

Instead of answering him, Rara sat in silence, panic, and fear. The truth was she hated Bandung Bandawasa so much for murdering her father. At the same time, she was too timid to refuse the proposal because however strong she was, the man was no match for her. After a while, an idea popped up in the princess’ head.

“Well, Bandung Bandawasa, I will marry you. But I have a condition,” said Rara Jonggrang.

“What is it, my dear princess?” asked Bandung Bandawasa.

“Before you can marry me, I want you to build me a thousand temples and two wells. I will give you one night to do all that,” answered Rara Jonggrang.

Sure he was able, Bandung Bandawasa agreed with the princess. When the night fell, he called on his unseen troop of spirits to help him out. Shortly after, thousands of them came up to build the temples and wells like Rara Jonggrang wanted. They worked very quickly that by the middle of the night there were nearly a thousand temples done; only three temples and two wells left to build.

Rara Jonggrang had been watching them working and now started to feel uneasy. “They are almost done by now. What do we do?” asked Rara Jonggrang to one of her lady-in-waiting.

“Poise, Princess. There must be a way-out," cheered the maid.

Rara Jonggrang went on thinking strenuously and finally found an idea. She would make it like it was daybreak to make the spirits stop working before completing the temples. 

“Wake up your friends, maid! Quick! Tell them to burn the hay and pound the rice! Oh, and pour flowers in the streets too!” Rara Jonggrang shouted.

“Right away, Princess!” answered the maid whilst rushing into the palace to get her friends up.

The royal servants did their princess’s command well. Before long, a reddish beam shone from the east where they burnt the hay. Some of them then began to pound the rice—something people usually did in the morning. The smell of the flowers could be felt faintly and meanwhile, the roosters started crowing.

Bandung Bandawasa’s troops were taken aback to realize that the sun was about to rise. Afraid of getting burnt by the sunshine, they hurried to get off and leave the work. They were all gone whereas there was only one temple more to a thousand. Few big rocks were scattered at the place.

“Hey!! Where are you going!? It wasn’t morning yet!" shouted Bandung Bandawasa at his troop.

The spirits did not care about the work anymore. Left alone, Bandawasa tried to build the last temple himself. However, he failed because the morning really came when he had not finished it. Rara Jonggrang was relieved. She went up to him and said, “What happened, Bandawasa? It seems you have fallen short.”

Bandawasa realized that the princess had cheated him. He was furious that he released his anger by turning Rara Jonggrang into a statue.

“You’ve been unfair to me, young lady. Now you’ll be the thousandth temple,” said Bandawasa wrathfully.

Rara Jonggrang became a statue, a very beautiful one. Until today, the statue is still there in a big room inside Rara Jonggrang Temple in Prambanan Temples Complex. The other temples around it are known as Sewu Temple. Sewu is a Javanese word for a thousand.


Thus the story of Rara Jonggrang ended. The above tale is a folklore legend that bears morals for daily life. A major message in the story is cheating and deceitfulness will cause misery for the doer. This is shown by Rara Jonggrang’s effort to fail Bandung Bandawasa’s work to avoid marrying him. Consequently, she is turned into a statue.

A Malay word of wisdom says:

Apa tanda orang yang licik (What shows a deceitful)
Janji mungkir cakap berbalik (Promises broken, word not walked)
Kalau suka bersifat curang, (If you like to cheat on others)
Alamat kepala dimakan parang (You’ll suffer like your head chopped with a knife)


Source of Photo: 366 Cerita Rakyat Nusantara, published by AdiCita Publisher in cooperation with the Center for Research and Development of Malay Culture, 2008.


Story is adapted from Daryatun. 2008. 366 Cerita Rakyat Nusantara. Yogyakarta: AdiCita Publisher in cooperation with the Center for Research and Development of Malay Culture (BKPBM).

Anonymous. “Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta,” http://id.wikipedia.org, retrieved on April 27, 2009.

Tenas Effendy, 1994/1995. “Ejekan” terhadap Orang Melayu Riau dan Pantangan Orang Melayu Riau. Pekanbaru: Bappeda Tingkat I Riau.

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Comments for "Rara Jonggrang: The Legend of Prambanan Temple"

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