Jolotundo Temples, Mojokerto, East Java

The Jolotundo Temple lies on the slopes of Mount Penanggungan (1653m), one of the sacred mountains of Java. It is a place of spiritual power and a sacred pond (Petirtaan) of the Javanese religion.

The temple is set into a steep, forested hillside. Before you arrive, incense fills the air, as you start hearing the sound of running water.  The temple enclosure contains stone pools filled with spring water which is said to have strong healing and cleansing effects. Offerings of petals float in the water.

There are many holy springs throughout Java. But the water of Jolotundo is said to be particularly powerful. The spring was probably considered sacred long before the temple was built, and of all Mount Penanggungan’s temples it is the one still most venerated today.

The temple is built using the famous Javanese andesite stone, with refined carvings that stood the tests of time. The Jaladwara from which the water flows is a Naga, the serpent-guardians of the rivers and water bodies. Water keeps flowing even in dry season.

In the daytime these pools are generally visited by tourists and casual visitors. True pilgrims arrive at dusk to meditate, pray and bathe in the waters for healing and renewed energy.

People travel from all over Java to bathe in Jolotundo. Pilgrims come from all faiths, as this is a Javanese sacred place which predates even Javanese Hinduism and the imported religions. After bathing, pilgrims usually take bottles of holy water away for later use.

As is the case throughout Java, bathing in sacred pounds (petirtaan) after dusk is considered to be more effective. Due to the creeping islamization however, men and women now have to bathe separated in two different pools.

The energy is said to be best between midnight and 2 am. Some of the radical Moslem visitors might try to convince you that “the early hours of Friday morning are the best time to visit”, or that the water here is “the second best in the world, after that from the ‘Zamzam’ well in Mecca”…

In reality though, the most powerful nights are said to be those of a Full Moon (Purnima), or of a Kliwon Tuesday, when the second day of the seven-day calendar coincides with the last day of the the five-day Javanese week. On those nights, the temple is really busy and you have to queue for a long time to bathe in the holy waters.

King Airlangga used to meditate here. The Jolotundo temple was built by his father to welcome his birth in 997.

An ancient subak Temple

Jolotundo is a also an ancient water temple that was used in the Hindu-Javanese water management system (subak) that is still in use in neighboring Bali. The water from this temple is of very high quality – it said to be one of the best in the world.

Even from a purely biological standpoint, the Jolotundo water has been ranked in studies as the third best water in the world for its high quality minerals. Even when keeping the water for long time (two years) the smell, color and taste of the water did not change at all.

A major ritual occurs in the temple every year for Melasti, the Indonesian Hindu ritual held to cleanse the soul and nature ahead of Nyepi, the annual Day of Silence. Melasti is performed at the ocean shores, in lakes and in rivers and ponds. It is a ritual of purification of both buana alit (Self) and buana agung (the Earth).

Jolotundo’s real name is Jalatunda. The Javanese replace the vowel a by o. To understand the original Sanskrit meaning of most Javanese words, you therefore must replace the o by a – then the meanings become more evident. Jala means ‘water’ in Sanskrit. There exists another sacred spring called Jalatunda on the Dieng plateau for example.

Not far from Jolotundo, there is another sacred bathing place, Candi Belahan, on Mont Penanggungan’s eastern slopes. It is also known colloquially to the locals as ‘Candi Tetek’ (“Breasts Temple”), because the water there comes from the ample breasts of a statue of Goddess Lakshmi (a manifestation of Dewi Sri).

The sacred geography of Mount Penanggungan

Mount Penanggungan is considered one of Java’s most sacred peaks, right after Mount Sumeru (Java’s highest peak), the home of the gods in Javanese Hinduism. The mountain, shaped like a perfect cone, is said to be the broken summit of the mythical Mount Meru.

In Old Javanese, tanggung means “to take on a burden”, therefore pananggungan might mean “the place where the world is supported”. So it is possible that the name of the place reflects its ancient function – a place where Javanese ascetics and kings “took on the burdens of the world” by connecting with Shiva.

Penanggungan is therefore a particularly revered mountain. This whole area has always been one of the spiritual cores of Java. There are 81 temples on its slopes, which has a numerologic significance (9 x 9).

Out of all these, Candi Jolotundo is the oldest and most sacred. It is considered the main starting point for the one-day walk that can bring you to the summit of Mount Penanggungan.

The pilgrimage route passes through many sites of great interest. After a while, the subsidiary peak of Bekel can be viewed on the left of the path. Above the agricultural land, on the higher, forested slopes, numerous temples appear at intervals of approximately 200 metres. These are ideal places for meditation, as the trail is not very frequented.

The mountain’s perfect cone is visible from the Majapahit capital in Trowulan, around 30 kilometers to the west. For centuries, pilgrims made their way up from Trowulan towards the sacred summit. In 1543, Mount Penanggungan was captured by the Moslem state of Demak. The temples were then hidden by the locals among the trees to protect them from destruction.

Candi Jawi

The most impressive and spiritually significant of all Penanggungan temples is certainly Candi Jawi, which stands southeast of the mountain in the village of Prigen.

Candi Jawi is a syncretic Hindu-Buddhist candi (temple) from the Singhasari kingdom and at the same time is the mortuary stupa of King Kertanegara, the last king of Singhasari, who built this temple as place of worship for the adherents of the Shiva-Buddha denomination (the pinnacle of both Hindu and Buddhist philosophy that is still practiced in Bali today).

This syncretic religious tradition is indigenous to the Javanese people who unified the aspects of the two religions into the same God, the oneness of the Dharma, as is written in the Kakawin Sutasoma, from which comes the Indonesian national motto of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika. When Kertanegara was deified as Shiva–Buddha, it symbolized that he had achieved final liberation (moksa).

According to Nagarakretagama, in the year 1359 CE, on his return from an extended tour of the eastern provinces, King Hayam Wuruk of Majapahit stopped off at the temple of Jajawa (Jawi) to make offerings to his great-grandfather Kertanagara.

The Nagarakretagama describes in great detail the magnificence of the sacred compound. The principal monument, which survives today, was unique in that it was a Shivaite sanctuary crowned with a Buddhist ornament. It thus reflected clearly the advanced religious philosophy expounded by Kertanagara, who is said on his death to have “returned to the realm of Shiva-Buddha.”

The shrine contained two mortuary statues of the king, representing the essence of both religions. There were also other Shivaite statues such as the pratimas of Nandisvara, Durga, Ganesha and Brahma. However these statues have been removed to be placed in the nearby museums of Trowulan and Surabaya.

Upon his death, the poem describes the deification of Kertanegara in three forms: a Jina, an Ardhanarishvara and an imposing Shiva-Buddha, also called “the Lord of the Mountains”, or “the Supreme God of the Realm”.

Roughly 300 meters to the northwest of the temple stand two huge dvārapāla statues (guardians of Hindu-Buddhist temple compounds). Their enormous size is an indication of a monumental structure they once guarded.

Yoni inside the garbagriha (main chamber) at Candi Jawi

How to visit

The temple is located on the eastern slope of Mount Welirang (Candi Wates village, Kecamatan Prigen, Pasuruan, East Java), around 31 kilometers west of Pasuruan city and 41 kilometers south of Surabaya. It is on the main road between Kecamatan Pandaan – Kecamatan Prigen and Pringebukan.

How to visit

Candi Jolotundo is located near Seloliman village (Trawas district) on the eastern slope of Mount Penanggungan, at an altitude of 500m. It is only a short distance from the main road connecting Surabaya and Malang.

There is a small office booth there where you can find a guide for climbing. This is important because the trail is not always very clear and there are numerous farm tracks which can add to the confusion. The route is however marked with red arrows painted on rocks and trees.

Pilgrims can find places to stay in the nearby hill resorts of Trawas or Tretes. The closest accommodation to the mountain is perhaps PPLH Environmental Education Centre, west of the mountain, where you can also find guides., a kilometer downhill from the Jolotundo temple. This is the best place to start from if you want to make your way up to the summit of the sacred mountain.