Hanuman in East Javanese Art

This article is focused on a neglected subject in ancient Javanese art, which is the presence of Hanuman in late Javanese art. Five stone statues in particular are described, all of them depicting a monkey-faced figure that can be identified as Hanuman. (To view these pictures, please click here).

Hanuman in East Javanese Art

In the contemporary reliefs of Panataran important monkeys like Sugriwa, Hanuman, and Anggada, have human bodies. Also the wearing of a crown by these monkey figures is not common for any of the mentioned monkeys in the contemporary reliefs of Panataran. Bali and Sugriwa are the only two monkeys who can be seen depicted with a crown since they are kings. The identification of Hanuman is based on the fact that the monkey’s head in this statue is surrounded by a halo and the fact that he has four arms which indicates a divine origin. There is only one monkey who fits this description, and that is Hanuman, the son of the wind god Bayu. Something remarkable about the depicted Hanuman are the yoni and lingga, because Hanuman is usually associated with Rama, who is an incarnation of Wisnu. The iconographic elements of these statues contain the yoni, lingga, and rosary (aksamala), which all point to a Siwaite context.

Hanuman also figures in a series of narrative reliefs on the first terrace of the main temple of the Panataran complex. These narrative reliefs are known as a Ramayana series, but actually the focus of the story as depicted at Panataran is on Hanuman, rather than on Rama. Only 4 out of 106 panels depict Rama and Laksmana, 1 depicts Laksmana without Rama, only 4 depict Sita and Trijata, 8 depict Rawana, and 35 depict Hanuman. Therefore, it would be more appropriate to call these series the story of Hanuman. In the story depicted at Loro Jonggrang the focus is, instead on the main characters of the Ramayana story – Rama and Sita. The role of Hanuman in the narrative reliefs of Loro Jonggrang clearly is of less importance.

The relief series of Panataran ends with the last fight in which Hanuman actively takes part, the fight against Kumbhakarna, and not with the last fight of the Ramayana, the fight against Rawana himself. The reason why this is the last scene of the depicted narrative series of Panataran, is because all parts in which Hanuman does not play a role are also not seen depicted on this temple.

It may be concluded that the reliefs and the statues show two different qualities of Hanuman. In the narrative reliefs his martial qualities are depicted, and in the statues his ascetic qualities are depicted.

Reference: Klokke, M. (2010): ‘Hanuman in the Art of East Java‘, pp. 1-12.

Spread the knowledge