For the third and final post in a series of the lesser-known temples of the Dieng Plateau, I am going to focus on Candi Bima, which is certainly the most unorthodox of the district’s temples. Both in terms of its design and decoration, it varies sharply from the other temples in the vicinity, raising some interesting questions about the early history of Hinduism in Java.
The form of Candi Bima is very different from the temples of the nearby Arjuna Complex. Rather than the tiered, pyramidal roofs of Candi Arjuna and Candi Srikandi, we have a curvilinear form which seems to shoot upwards from the temple body. It brings to mind the temples or Odisha (formerly Orissa) in Eastern India rather than those from Southern India. In other words, Candi Bima references an architectural tradition which was quite distinct from that of the other candis on the plateau. It seems probable that cultural or trading links existed between the peoples of ancient Orissa and Java but this remains speculative. What can be more safely said is that Candi Bima represents a style of architecture which found an early toehold in Java but ultimately lost out in popularity to the pyramidal style of Candi Arjuna. This makes it something of a cul-de-sac in the development of the Javanese temple.
Its separateness from other Dieng temples is reflected not only in the curvilinear form of the roof but also in its rich and varied decoration. Like other temples on the Dieng Plateau, it sports kala heads over its niches, but in other aspects it diverges quite markedly. Above the kala niches there are two bands of decorative detail- the lowermost one shows draped cloth and the uppermost one shows a row of dentils. Both of these features are most unusual in the Javanese architectural tradition. However, it is the decoration on the roof which its the temple’s remarkable feature.
The first thing you are likely to notice in looking at the roof is the heads which peer down from the roof, each of them contained in horseshoe arches. These heads represent the Hindu divinity Shiva and are known as kudu heads. For the traveler who is accustomed to Shiva being represented only in the form of linga, this can come as a surprise. While kudu heads are also present on some temples in the Yogyakarta such as Candi Ijo and Candi Merak, Candi Bima is the sole repository of them at Dieng. Yet there are a number of other unusual details on the roof.
One of the more striking is the presence of amalakas on the roof. These are a kind of ribbed capital, two fine examples of which survive on the western side of the temple. Just below them can be seen a couple of pots known as kalasa. These pots symbolize the abundance of the universe. They are worth comparing with the khumba pots which adorn boundary stones from North-Eastern Thailand during the same period. A final detail worth noting here is the preponderance of lotus petal motifs which can be found both in bands and around the edges of kudu arches. While the lotus blossom is more typically associated with Buddhism, in Southeast Asia the use of hybrid imagery is quite common.
In conclusion, Candi Bima is one of the most unique and idiosyncratic of early Javanese temples. Its elongated silhouette calls to mind the temples of Odissa rather than the pyramidal rooflines of early South India. Furthermore, it boasts a wealth of unusual decorative details- most notably a collection of kudu heads- which sets it apart from neighbouring temples. It represents a distinct chapter in early Javanese temple art which hints at the varied cultural links which informed its Hindu architecture.
The entrance to Candi Bima features a kala head and floral motifs