Deified kings and queens

During the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century, the ritual deposit boxes buried under Javanese temples were thought to be reliquaries. Consequently, temples were thought to be royal graves. This hypothesis seemed to be confirmed by ancient texts (especially the Nagarakertagama) and inscriptions, where kings were sometimes mentioned as ‘being placed in a religious domain’ (dhinarma) after their death. The Nagarakertagama even refers to kings being enshrined after death as statues.

Statue of Parvati of Candi Rimbi

Hence the idea developed that many of the statues from the Singhasari-Majapahit period were actually portrait statues of deceased kings. The statue of Parvati from Candi Rimbi (Jombang, East Java), for example, was considered to be the embodiment of Queen Tribhuwaneswari, daughter of Kertanagara, while the statue of Shiva Mahadeva from Candi Kidal (Malang) was thought to be Anushanatha, the second king of Singhasari.

Shiva Mahadeva of Candi Kidal, now in Tropenmuseum

This view, however, must be somewhat tempered. We now know that ritual deposit boxes are not reliquaries. In addition, Soekmono has clearly proven that Javanese temples are not graves, but commemorative monuments. It has also been shown that most Javanese sculptures that were considered portraits do not have individual traits and that, in all likelihood, they do not mimic faces of actual kings and queens.

Furthermore, it has recently been questioned whether the statue of Shiva Mahadeva said to be from Candi Kidal was indeed from Candi Kidal. Nevertheless, the fact remains that, if one believes the texts, some temples and statues served as memorials to deceased kings and queens and that a form of ancestor worship was celebrated in those places.