Before it became a predominantly Muslim country sometime between the 13th and 16th centuries, Indonesia had a long and rich Hindu history. The evidence exists in the form of numerous ancient temples spread across the islands that together form the country.
Among those temples is one called Sukuh, also known as Candi Sukuh.
The temple is located on the main island of Java – between the Central and Eastern parts of the island.
It was one of the last temples constructed in Indonesia before the country came under the influence of Islam. The temple is significant because of its association with Lord Shiva, Mahabharata and the architecture which resembles that of a Mayan temple.
The reliefs at Sukuh depict Bhima, Arjuna and Lord Ganesha besides numerous motifs related to Shiva worship.
Though partially destroyed during the medieval Islamic period of Indonesia, Candi Sukuh continues to be a prominent treasure trove of artefacts dating back to the Hindu times of the island nation.
In recent years, many of those artefacts have been removed from the site and shifted to the National Museum of Indonesia. Prominent among those is a 1.82 meter Shiva Lingam.
The Indonesian government recently launched a restoration exercise of the temple. It was during this drive that some amazingly new artefacts were discovered.
The artefacts include an exquisitely beautiful crystal Shiva lingam hidden inside an ancient pot.
The lingam is encased in a bronze cup. To the surprise of the archaeologists, the cup had water in it.
“It’s fascinating that the water stored in the bronze was not dry, although it has been stored for many centuries,” said Deny Wahju Hidajat, Head of the Candi Sukuh Restoration Unit.
The pot in which the lingam was found is one of the many jars carefully hidden beneath a monument inside the temple premises.
According to the archaeologists the artefacts date back to the 15th century – a period when Islam was rapidly (and violently) spreading in Java possibly explaining why the pots were hidden.
The water in the bronze cup could be perplexing to the scientific mind but to the locals it is elixir, or Amrit. In fact, a story of the Amrit from the Adi Parwa of the Mahabharata can be found inscribed on one of the walls of Candi Sukuh.
Among other artefacts are jewellery such as bangles. Deny says that the discovery is “one of the biggest from Central Java.”
The ancient jars and their contents are currently being stored in the Archaeological Heritage Preservation Hall of Central Java, Prambanan, Klaten.