Ancient temples come in all shapes and sizes in Central and East Java. Some are massive and well touristed, Others are small triumphs to the efforts to restore the past. Others still, though decrepit and beyond any hope of repair, are still sacred even in modern, Islamic Java. Candi Rimbi is none of these, and is rather a testament to the victory of time against all that man makes.
The temple is located in the far reaches of the Jombang District of East Java, which is about as middle as nowhere as you can get on an Island like Java. It’s a fair drive from Trowulan, the old capital of the legendary Majapahit Empire, through small villages, forests and impossibly green rice paddies up and down a road that could do with some widening and resealing (in some sections, a first sealing). When we got there we were greeted with no real signpost but rather a rusty barbed wire fence and chickens (All East Javan temples require some form of farm birds. Preferably two types).
Efforts to restore the temple in the 1990′s resulted in the current lopsided design of the temple. Which, if you ask me, is much more interesting than a fully restored temple. The temple receives less than 100 visitors a month, and there wasn’t even a logbook (Which tend to be ubiquitous at these sites). Though the topside monstrosity has been left this way, the bottom remains intact, miraculously, and includes a number of bas reliefs in excellent condition compared to the rest of the structure. Designed in Wayang style, to look like puppets, these tell Hindu religious fables which are still extremely popular today amongst the Javanese.
Other than that, the site is littered with the flotsam of stuff that wasn’t considered worthy of either the Trowulan Museum or the National Museum. Remains of statues and parts of the collapsed top of the temple have been left around the grounds of the temple. It’s believed to have been built in the middle of the 14th century at the height of Majapahit power in honour of a very powerful Queen whose name I have no hope of ever pronouncing (Tribhuwana Tunggadewi Jayawisnuwardhani, if you’d like to have a go ). One interesting thing about it is that it’s built in stone rather than the red brick which pretty much every other Majapahit temple in the region was built with. It’s a pretty little temple that’s quite remote. You’ll need private wheels to get here, but it’s a nice addition to any visit to the imperial city of Trowulan.