Following the Cap-Figure in Majapahit Temple Reliefs

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


Author: Lydia Kieven
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.
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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.