Candi Prambanan is the is the great Hindu temple in Indonesia and is located about 17 kilometers of Yogyakarta. Located on the Prambanan plain, this sprawling temple complex sits majestically in an open area about twenty kilometers south of Mount Merapi, which dominates the horizon. The temple was constructed in the early ninth century by the Sanjaya dynasty, a flourishing Hindu kingdom that shared the island with the Buddhist Sailendra dynasty that built Borobudur. The relationship between the two dynasties is not clear, but one theory maintains that the Sanjayas constructed Candi Prambanan as a symbol of dynastic power in response to the construction of Borobudur. However, the Sanjayas do not seem to have been particularly antagonistic toward the Buddhist faith of the Sailendras—indeed, the temple complex is located just a few hundred meters south of Candi Sewu, a once awe-inspiring marvel of Buddhist art.
Whatever their motives, the Sanjayas certainly constructed Candi Prambanan on a grand scale comparable to Borobudur. In its original form, the temple complex contained over 250 large and small temples. From afar, the temple probably resembled a small city, with a towering core of central spires surrounded by hundreds of subsidiary structures. At the center of this "city" is a square-shaped terrace surrounded by a heavy wall. Gates in the wall are oriented to the four cardinal directions, leading into a middle courtyard surrounded by a much wider wall. Within this zone were once 224 nearly identical temples, each measuring 6 x 6 x 14 meters. Beyond the middle wall was an even larger outer wall that was skewed at an angle to the inner walls. No traces of this wall remain, though parts of it existed as late as the 19th century.
Candi Prambanan is often called Loro Jonggrang temple after the local name of the Durga statue enshrined in one side of the Shiva temple (Loro Jonggrang means "Slender Virgin"). The substitution of Durga for a more locally-derived god occurred through the fame of an ancient legend. According to legend, the statue of Durga is actually the petrified body of Loro Jonggrang, the daughter of King Ratu Boko. When prince Bandung Bandawasa asked for her hand in marriage, the king answered that he could have her only if he could kill him in battle. In the ensuing fight, the prince killed Ratu Boko. Loro Jonggrang did not wish to marry the murderer of her father, so she asked of him an impossible task: build 1,000 temples in one night. If he fulfilled the task, he could marry her.
Bandung nearly accomplished the job by securing an army of spirits through the help of his dead father. The supernatural laborers erected temples at lightning speed, and Loro Jonggrang realized that Bandung would finish before daybreak. To stop him, Loro Jonggrang pounded on a rice block, making the cocks in the neighborhood wake up early and call the arrival of dawn. Hearing this, Bandung's army of spirits feared the daylight and rushed away from their work, leaving just a single temple unfinished. In fury, Bandung cursed Loro Jonggrang and had her body turned to stone. Through the intervention of Shiva, the petrified body became the idol that now stands in the north cella of the Siva temple at Candi Prambanan.
In recent centuries, the fame of Loro Jonggrang spread far and wide, and the original purpose of the temple was forgotten as worshipers flocked to her small cella, leaving offerings of food, money, and gifts. Early foreigners who visited the temple often had trouble reaching the statue with all of the offerings clogging the narrow passage. Of the idol herself, the numerous hands of the worshipers had rubbed the breasts and stomach to a smooth sheen, giving the appearance of shining metal.