You would be forgiven if at first glance you thought this may have been from Central America.
▪ This 15th century pyramid temple complex is located on the western slope of Mount Lawu in central Java, Indonesia. This unique archaeological site reflects the epitome of temple building on Java before the arrival of Islam in the 16th century.
When Islam came here, it is likely they were also responsible for the vandalization of much of the site’s sexual depictions, yet what remains is so fascinating.
▪ This place is excessively decorated with sexual context. What is an obvious and noticeable feature to this site is the pyramid itself; it resembles pyramids from Mesoamerica and is dissimilar to other structures on Java, or in Indonesia for that matter (with the nearby Candi Cetho being an exception).
Sir Thomas Raffles, In 1815
The central pyramid of the complex sits at the rear of the highest of three terraces. Originally, worshippers would have accessed the complex through a gateway at the western or lowest terrace.
To the left of the gate is a carving of a monster eating a man, birds in a tree, and a dog, which is thought to be a chronogram representing 1437 CE, the likely date of the temple’s consecration. There is an obvious depiction of sexual intercourse in a relief on the floor at the entrance where it shows a paired lingam which is represented physiologically by the (phallus) and yoni, which is represented bodily by the (vagina). Genitalia are portrayed on several statues from the site, which is unique among Javanese classical monuments.
The main structure of Sukuh temple is like no other ancient edifice; it is a truncated pyramid reminiscent of a Maya monument and surrounded by monoliths and meticulously carved life-sized figures. The Sukuh temple does not follow the Hindu architecture Wastu Vidya because it was built after the Hindu religion had weakened. Temples usually have a rectangular or square shape, but Sukuh temple is a trapezium with three terraces, with one terrace higher than the others.