Colossal figure at the temple of Singa-Sarie. Island of Java 1861.

Singa-Sarie, sculpure, figure, temple, Java, Indonesia,
Colossal figure at the temple of Singa-Sarie. Island of Java


THE island of Java abounds in ruined temples, statues, bronzes, and other antiquities, showing an anterior state of art-culture far superior to what is possessed by the natives of the present day.

Nothing is known by them of the origin of these wonderful relics, their only explanation being that they were raised by genii, and that the figures were sent from Heaven in God’s wrath to terrify the inhabitants of the island. The large figure represented in our accompanying illustration is one of two such figures evidently placed to guard each side of the approach to the beautiful temple of Singa-Sarie (lion flower) which is close at hand. In other parts of the island similar figures are found at the entrances to the ruined temples, but none possessing such colossal proportions as these, nor in such remarkable preservation.

The figure, although sunk by its enormous weight some distance into the ground, is still over twelve feet in height, and nine to ten feet broad, and is composed of one solid block of granite. The large protruding eyes, broad nose with curved nostrils, wide mouth, and thick sensual lips out of which protrude two tusks, give to the face a very remarkable but by no means pleasing look.

On the head is a tiara studded with death’s heads, the same design being carried out in the earrings and the belt encircling the stomach. The figure is kneeling on one knee, while the right hand rests on a carved club or scepter; a large snake is coiled round the body, the head of which hangs from the shoulder on the back.

The grove in which this figure is situated is filled with the kamboja tree (Plumeria obtusa) which, unlike most other tropical trees, sheds its leaves several times during the year, giving a wintry aspect to the scene. Whether from this peculiarity or not I do not know, but it is usually planted in cemeteries, being looked upon as possessing a sacred character.

The flower, some fallen heads of which may be seen on the left of the picture, is large, white with a yellow centre, and possessed of a powerful though sweet scent. The kamboja tree is often alluded to in the simple poetry of the Malays, the following being a sample:-

"Kalau tooan peggie daooloo
Cheri-kan saya daoon kamboja;
Kalau tooan mati daooloo
Nanti-kan saya di pintu Surga:"

the literal meaning of which in English would be as follows:-

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"If thou goest before me
Seek for me a kamboja leaf;
If thou diest before me
Await me at the gates of Heaven."

Descriptive Article by Walter B. Woodbury. Photographed by Woodbury.

Source: Treasure spots of the world: a selection of the chief beauties and wonders of nature and art by Walter Bentley Woodbury (1834-1885); Francis Clement Naish. London: Ward, Lock, and Tyler, Paternoster Row, 1875.