Sari Temple: The Grand Legend Behind the Carvings

Benedictus O.

Side view of Sari Temple with two children walking by.
Two children walk past the ancient Sari Temple in Sleman, Yogyakarta. (Benedictus Oktaviantoro/

Sari Temple, constructed in the 8th century under Rakai Panangkaran, served as a Buddhist monastery during the Ancient Mataram Kingdom. This rectangular structure, adorned with nine stupas and 36 detailed sculptures, reflects intricate Buddhist and Hindu influences. The carvings, embodying Buddhist cosmology and teachings, illustrate significant cultural narratives, serving both educational and spiritual purposes.

Visitors can explore guided tours, picnic spots, and souvenir shops that enhance the overall experience.

To reach Sari Temple, you can travel from Yogyakarta by rental vehicle or public transport. By visiting, you experience not only the architecture but also the profound historical context.

History of Sari Temple

Visitor observing the main chamber inside Sari Temple.
A visitor takes in the historical details inside the main chamber of Sari Temple in Sleman, Yogyakarta. (Benedictus Oktaviantoro/

The Buddhist temple of Candi Sari, constructed in the 8th century during the reign of Rakai Panangkaran, served as a monastery for monks. This era marked a significant cultural evolution in the Ancient Mataram Kingdom, reflecting the region’s local beliefs and artistic intricacies. The temple’s intricate carvings and sculptures showcase the rich cultural significance of Buddhist traditions in Yogyakarta. Various reliefs and statues found here are essential for understanding the religious and cultural heritage of the area.

Candi Sari’s construction was more than an architectural endeavor; it was a reflection of the architectural evolution influenced by local beliefs. The artistic details, including the carved sculptures of Bodhisattvas and the intricate reliefs of Dewi Tara, offer a glimpse into the craftsmanship and religious devotion of the time. The temple’s design, featuring a multi-story structure and numerous niches, indicates a sophisticated understanding of both functionality and aesthetics.

Serving as a monastery, the temple played a crucial role in the spiritual and educational life of Buddhist monks. The carvings and statues weren’t merely decorative; they conveyed religious teachings and local beliefs, thereby enriching the region’s cultural landscape.

Architecture of Sari Temple

Children climbing the steps of Sari Temple's entrance.
Children climb the steps leading to the entrance of Sari Temple in Sleman, Yogyakarta. (Benedictus Oktaviantoro/
Ceiling of Sari Temple with sunlight streaming in through windows.
The ceiling of Sari Temple in Sleman, Yogyakarta, illuminated by sunlight through its ancient windows. (Benedictus Oktaviantoro/

The architecture of Sari Temple, with its rectangular structure and intricate carvings, showcases the brilliance of 8th-century Buddhist design. The unique construction measures 17.30 by 10 meters and is adorned with nine stupas arranged in three parallel rows atop the structure.

Intricate carvings on the temple walls demonstrate the advanced carving techniques and symbolism employed by ancient artisans. Various cultural influences are reflected in the artistic details, incorporating elements from both Hindu and Buddhist traditions.

The temple’s walls feature 36 carved sculptures, including figures like Kinara Kinari, Sulura, Kumuda, and Kalamakara, each embodying significant symbolic meanings. These carvings enrich the temple’s aesthetic appeal and serve as a medium for conveying religious and cultural narratives.

Protruding walls encircle the central part of the temple, creating niches that house these detailed sculptures. Decorative motifs, including floral patterns and mythical creatures, illustrate the rich cultural tapestry of the period.

The architectural design and reliefs of Sari Temple bear a striking resemblance to those found in Candi Plaosan, highlighting a shared architectural heritage.

Function and Meaning of Sari Temple

Shelf inside Sari Temple used for prayer or placing relics.
An ancient shelf inside Sari Temple once used for prayer or placing relics. (Benedictus Oktaviantoro/

Sari Temple’s architectural splendor is complemented by its role as a central hub for Buddhist learning and monastic life. The function and symbolism of Sari Temple are deeply intertwined with its design, facilitating the monks’ spiritual and educational activities. Each of the three rooms on both floors served specific purposes, from meditation to scholarly discussions, creating an environment conducive to monastic pursuits.

Cultural significance and rituals associated with Sari Temple underscore its importance. The temple wasn’t just a place of residence for monks but also a vibrant center for religious ceremonies and daily rituals. Intricate carvings and reliefs, including depictions of Bodhisattvas and Dewi Tara, highlight the religious devotion and artistic craftsmanship of the era.

Monks living at the temple engaged in various rituals that reflected the temple’s spiritual essence, infusing the site with a profound sense of reverence. With its nine stupas and detailed carvings, the structure embodies the symbolic representation of Buddhist cosmology and teachings. Sari Temple stands as a testimony to the harmonious blend of function, symbolism, and cultural significance in the context of ancient Buddhist monastic life.

Things to Do at Sari Temple

Children playing at the front of Sari Temple with an airplane flying overhead.
Children enjoy their time playing at the front of Sari Temple in Sleman, Yogyakarta. (Benedictus Oktaviantoro/

Visiting Sari Temple offers a rich array of activities that immerse you in its historical and cultural essence. Engage in meditation retreats to let the tranquil atmosphere and ancient surroundings enhance your mindfulness practice. The serene environment of the temple complements a meditative state perfectly, making it an ideal spot for spiritual rejuvenation.

Participate in cultural workshops to deepen your understanding of the temple’s history. These sessions often cover various aspects of significance, including architectural design, historical background, and associated religious practices. Engaging with these workshops provides a comprehensive insight into the heritage of Sari Temple.

Here are four activities to make the most of your visit:

  1. Explore the architecture: Wander through the temple, appreciating its intricate carvings and unique multi-story structure.
  2. Photography: Capture the beauty of the temple’s reliefs and the surrounding landscape.
  3. Join a meditation retreat: Experience tranquility and spiritual connection amidst the temple’s serene environment.
  4. Attend cultural workshops: Gain deeper knowledge about the temple’s history and cultural significance.

Amenities and Facilities at Sari Temple

Interior view of Sari Temple with sunlight streaming through a window.
Sunlight streams through a window, illuminating the ancient walls inside Sari Temple in Sleman, Yogyakarta. (Benedictus Oktaviantoro/

While exploring Sari Temple’s rich history and engaging in various activities, you’ll find several amenities and facilities designed to enrich your visit. These features ensure that your exploration is both comfortable and engaging, providing a well-rounded experience at this historical site.

You’ll appreciate the designated picnic spots scattered around the temple grounds. These serene locations offer a perfect setting to relax and enjoy a meal amidst the historical ambiance.

Guided tours led by knowledgeable guides are also available, providing detailed insights into the temple’s history, architecture, and cultural significance. This enhances your understanding of the ancient site.

To make the most of your visit, consider the following amenities and facilities:

  1. Rest Areas: Benches and shaded spots are conveniently located for you to rest and take in the surroundings.
  2. Information Centers: These centers offer brochures, maps, and additional information about the temple’s history and nearby attractions.
  3. Restrooms: Clean and well-maintained facilities ensure your comfort throughout your visit.
  4. Souvenir Shops: These shops offer a variety of local crafts and memorabilia, allowing you to take a piece of Sari Temple’s heritage home.

With these amenities, your visit to Sari Temple will be both informative and enjoyable.

Best Times To Visit

To make the most of your visit to Sari Temple, aim to go during the dry season from May to September when the weather is most favorable. During these months, the weather conditions are typically dry and sunny, making it ideal for exploring the temple and its intricate carvings without the disruption of rain. This period also coincides with the peak tourist season, which means you’ll experience a higher tourist influx.

The increased number of visitors requires effective crowd management to fully appreciate the serene ambiance and historical significance of the temple. Arriving early in the morning or later in the afternoon can help you avoid the bulk of the crowds, allowing for a more peaceful and immersive experience.

Visiting during the rainy season, from October to April, might result in fewer tourists but less predictable weather conditions, which could affect your exploration plans. Balancing these factors will help you choose the best time for your visit, ensuring you enjoy the beauty and tranquility of Sari Temple without the challenges posed by adverse weather or large crowds.

How to get to Sari Temple?

Curious about how to get to Sari Temple? There are several travel options to ponder, each offering a unique experience. If you prefer driving, head east from Yogyakarta city center on Jalan Solo for approximately 12 kilometers until you reach Desa Bendan, Kelurahan Tirtomartani, in the Kalasan District. Renting a motorcycle or car is also a convenient choice for those who enjoy a bit more freedom. Numerous rental services are available in Yogyakarta, providing flexible schedules and routes.

Public transport offers a viable option as well. Take a Trans Jogja bus from Yogyakarta city center towards Prambanan and alight at the Kalasan stop. From there, you may need to hire a local ojek (motorcycle taxi) or walk a short distance to the temple.

For driving, use a GPS app to navigate the local roads, which can be narrow and winding. When using public transport, have small change ready for bus fares and always confirm your stop with the driver.

Whichever method you choose, reaching Sari Temple is an adventure that adds to the charm of your visit.

Entry Fees or Permits Required

Paying a small entry fee is required to discover the historic and serene surroundings of Candi Sari. The fee is modest, with adults paying Rp 2,000 and children Rp 1,500. This allows you to immerse yourself in the temple’s cultural significance and enrich your visitor experience. Your contribution supports local community involvement and ongoing restoration efforts, ensuring Candi Sari remains well-preserved for future generations.

To maximize your visit, consider the following:

  1. Plan your visit during open hours: Candi Sari is accessible daily from 09:00 to 17:00, giving you ample time to investigate its intricate carvings and tranquil setting.
  2. Bring a camera: The detailed reliefs and unique architecture offer numerous photo opportunities, capturing the temple’s beauty and historical essence.
  3. Engage with locals: Interacting with the local community can provide deeper insights into the temple’s legends and the significance of its carvings.
  4. Respect the site: Candi Sari holds immense cultural importance, so maintaining the integrity of the site is essential for both current and future visitors.

Travel Tips to Sari Temple

When visiting Sari Temple, wear comfortable shoes to explore the ancient grounds and intricate carvings. The temple’s historical significance and architectural beauty deserve thorough exploration, and comfortable footwear ensures you can fully appreciate the site.

To make the most of your visit, consider these tips:

  1. Arrive Early: Sari Temple opens at 8:00 AM. Arriving early helps you avoid crowds and enjoy the serene atmosphere.
  2. Bring a Guidebook: A guidebook provides valuable cultural insights, helping you understand the historical and religious context of the carvings and structures.
  3. Sample Local Cuisine: After your visit, indulge in some local cuisine at nearby eateries. Traditional dishes like Gudeg and Sate Klatak offer a taste of Yogyakarta’s rich culinary heritage.
  4. Respect Local Customs: When visiting any religious site, including Sari Temple, dress modestly and behave respectfully to honor local customs and traditions.

Exploring Sari Temple offers a profound glimpse into Indonesia’s Buddhist heritage. Deepen your experience by engaging with local residents, who often share intriguing legends and historical anecdotes. Whether capturing photos of the intricate reliefs or simply soaking in the tranquil surroundings, these tips will help you enjoy a fulfilling visit.


As you conclude your journey through Sari Temple, see it as a timeless manuscript etched in stone, each carving a chapter waiting to be deciphered.

The temple stands not just as a relic of the past but as a guiding light of cultural wisdom and architectural prowess.

By visiting, you’re not merely observing history; you’re becoming a part of its ongoing narrative.

Respect this ancient site, preserving its legacy for future generations.



Benedictus O.

Benedictus Oktaviantoro is a dedicated mountaineer and adventurer who loves helping others. He began climbing Mount Salak in 2002 and has since explored many beautiful places in Indonesia. Benedictus is also active in social activities, such as Search and Rescue missions and disaster relief efforts. Currently, he is learning more about digital marketing to improve his skills.