Following the Cap-Figure in Majapahit Temple Reliefs

A New Look at the Religious Function of East Javanese Temples, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries


Following male figures wearing a cap (cap-figures) in temple reliefs of the Javanese Majapahit period (ca. 1300-1500) leads to astonishing results on their meaning and function. The cap-figures, representing commoners, servants, warriors, noblemen, and most significantly Prince Panji, the hero from the East Javanese Panji stories, are unique to depictions of non-Indic narratives. The cap-figure constitutes a prominent example of Majapahit’s creativity in new concepts of art, literature and religion, independent from the Indian influence. More than that, the symbolic meaning of the cap-figures leads to an esoteric level: a pilgrim who followed the depictions of the cap-figures and of Panji in the temples would have been guided to the Tantric doctrine within Hindu-Buddhist religion.

This title is available online in its entirety in Open Access.
Open Access


Open Access

Biographical Note

Lydia Kieven, born 1956, was awarded the degree of PhD by the University of Sydney. She has been studying East Javanese temple reliefs for nearly twenty years. She is co-author, with Ann Kinney, of Worshiping Siwa and Buddha (2003). At present she teaches at the department of Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Frankfurt.


The book is aimed at a broad readership of art-historians, archaeologists, philologists, historians with an interest in ancient Indonesia and particularly ancient Java, and moreover with interests in today’s discourse on Javanese cultural uniqueness and identity.

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