The island of Java, the most populated in the vast archipelago of Indonesia, has many magnificent ancient structures. Borobudur is the biggest Buddhist structure in the world.
Prambanan is second only to Angkor Wat as far as Hindu temples are concerned. Countless others dot this fascinating island, which has been home to the indigenous Javanese animistic religion since antiquity, as well as Buddhist, Hindu, and Islamic empires for more than a thousand years.
The architectural features are completely unlike any of the other structures found across Java
One of these temple structures is called Candi Sukuh, and is located on a mountainside roughly four hours from the cultural capital of Java, Yogyakarta. Candi Sukuh is very different from any of the other temples in Java, however, because it looks astoundingly like a Mayan temple. Anyone familiar with Mayan temples, such as Chichen Itza or Tikal, would immediately assume Candi Sukuh was built by the Mayans. The odd thing is that it’s in Java, halfway around the world. How did this happen?
Few solid facts are known about who built this four-sided step pyramid with a central staircase in front leading to the top. The date 1437 C.E. has been attributed to an enigmatic chronograph found at the site, however it is disputed whether this date is correct, or if it even has anything to do with when the structure was built. The architectural features are completely unlike any of the other structures found across Java, and the religious features in the artwork are quite different as well. There are a large number of phallic symbols at Sukuh, but none of them are like the common phallic symbolism found at temples dedicated to Shiva on the island. They are much more, shall we say, anatomic.
I spoke with a man who has lived near the temple for decades, and he told me that the common belief among local people was that the builders of Candi Sukuh were an ancient group who came from Mexico and worshipped the sun in the same way that Mayans did. After arriving and building this mysterious temple, he said, it was not long before they converted to Islam and were through with their phallus and sun-worshipping ways.
But whoever built it, whether the unlikely Maya or Javanese sun worshippers, the temple still begs the question of why it is completely out of place in Java, architecturally speaking. It will take a serious archaeological study to decipher just when and how Candi Sukuh came to exist.
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