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The Legacy of Ancient Jambi
Many have asked me about my hometown Jambi, what to eat and where to go if they come and visit Jambi. Usually it takes less than 30 seconds for me to give my answer, first thing that comes to my mind is always Muaro Jambi Temple Complex in Batanghari Regency, not because Jambi has no other places to visit, but out of many places that one can visit in Jambi, Muaro Jambi Temple Compound should be on top of their list.
Muaro Jambi Temple is unique and one of a kind, it is the symbol of the great Malay Kingdom that was triumphed in Jambi more than a millennium ago. The history of this temple is recorded by I-Tsing, a priest from China, in Tang Dynasty Era. On his way to India to learn more about Buddhism, I-Tsing stayed in Srivijaya for couple years, this event was written in Karangbrahi Inscription. In his documents, I-Tsing described about canals and ponds that the archaeologists believe it resembles canals and ponds once found in Muaro Jambi. For centuries, priests and pilgrims from different places in particular East Asia (China and Tibet), came to visit this temple to learn more about Buddhism, until it was abandoned and re-discovered back in 1960s. No wonder due to its role in the old days, UNESCO recognizes this temple as a World Heritage.
Although, at a glance this compound site looks like ruins, but this site is one the biggest complex of Buddhist Temple in South East Asia (it covers about 12 square kilometers (7 villages), stretches 7,5 kilometers along the Batanghari river), and actively visited by Buddhist all around the world every year during Vesak and other Buddhist holidays. The temples in the compound site are built from red brick with little ornamentation, carving or statuary, so forget about over embellished temples that you find somewhere else, these temples are so raw and modest, it is almost like a simplicity of the era.
I visited this magnificent temple during the Eid Mubarak holiday, August 2013, I remember I was only 8 year old when I visited this temple back in 1992 by Kapal Pompong (vessel), it took hours to finally arrived in the site, but on my last visit, I chose land transportation, by using car it was only 30 minutes from the town square, I fully recommend this, because it is the fastest, easiest way to get there.
We got there at 4 pm, it is better to be there in the morning or in the afternoon, because it is less hot and crowded, just the right time to scroll around the complex, avoid to visit at noon, otherwise you'll get sun stroke or sun burns because of the blazing sun. The entrance ticket is cheap, it is only IDR 5000 per person, less than one dollar, I guess the ticket is valid for local and international visitors, unlike other famous temple where you have to pay higher price if you are an international tourists. I wonder, with this cheap price, do they have enough money to maintain and preserve the complex area? Well, we are about to find out.
The compound site is extensive, and surrounded by trees. The distance from one temple to another temple is quite far, you can walk if you only want to visit the main Temple (Tinggi Temple, Gumpung Temple or Kembar Batu Temple) but if you want to see the whole temples in the site, you can rent a bike, so yeah, you have to wear your most comfortable shoes and clothes for walking or bicycling.
The biggest temple of this compound site is Tinggi temple, the location is just near the entrance gate. This temple is the most visited temple of the site. In the same area there are many other small temples, but there was one ruins that attracted me, this ruins looks like stacks of red brick, people called this Menapo (pile of rocks, in this case bricks, that have been buried) maybe the anthropologist could not figure out the original shape of the temple, so they just let it lay like that. In this complex you will find many ruins lay like that. Oh, there are many old trees around the area, I took photos of those trees, maybe as a person whose work is to safe trees, I always been fascinated by them.
300 or 400 meter from Tinggi Temple, we can visit Kembar Batu Temple. This temple is rather small compared to Tinggi Temple. There are some temples in this area, but the highlight is two identical temples facing each other, maybe that's why they name it Kembar Batu which means Twin Temple. Too bad that I could not see the whole site, because it is closed at 5 pm, and I have spent 45 minutes walking around seeing the two temples. As I said earlier that this compound site is extensive, it takes days to really see the whole Temples and Menapos. But if you insist, you can visit other temples and menapos that have been identified and renovated in this site, they are Candi Gumpung, Candi Kedaton, Candi Kotomahligai, Gedong Satu, Gedong Dua, Telago Rajo, Candi Astano, Menapo Cina, Menapo Pelayangan, Menapo Mukti and Menapo Astano.
I am glad I can return to this beautiful yet majestic place, and this time, I am able to admire its beauty. Too bad when I was there, there was Dangdut party there, so it was loud and crowded. Despite that, I can imagine that centuries ago many people were here, doing nothing but contemplating and meditating, to find their soul and to be close to the universe, to experience the most divine feeling ever.
However, I believe the government of Jambi can do better than this, to treat this place not only as a tourist object but as a legacy that needs to be maintained and preserved seriously. As a note; I found nasty graffiti in some of the temples and temples' area, and also this site looks dirty because there are many garbage here and there. We've lost this temple once and it takes centuries to re-discover it and years to rebuild and renovate it, are we going to lose it again? Well, I hope not.