Nourished by the volcanic detritus of Mount Merapi and washed by innumerable small rivers, the verdant Prambanan Plain lies 18km east of Yogya, a patchwork blanket of sun-spangled paddy fields and vast plantations sweeping down from the southern slopes of the volcano. As well as being one of the most fertile regions in Java, the plain is home to the largest concentration of ancient ruins on the island.

Over thirty temples and palaces, dating mainly from the eighth and ninth centuries, lie scattered over a thirty-square-kilometre area. The temples, a number of which have been fully restored, were built at a time when two rival kingdoms, the Buddhist Saliendra and the Hindu Sanjaya dynasties, both occupied Central Java. In 832 AD, the Hindu Sanjayas gained the upper hand and soon the great Hindu Prambanan temple complex was built. It seems that some sort of truce followed, with temples of both faiths being constructed on the plain in equal numbers.

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