The Archaeological Site Of Gunung Padang

Large and long rectangular, ancient-looking blocks of stone – hundreds of them – lying strewn all over the mountain top, and mysteriously, many more scattered lower down among rice paddies and village houses and a lot more believed to be still buried on the mountainsides where the soil is fertile.

Located 885 meters above sea level, this the view one meets on top of the mysterious and most enigmatic Gunung Padang (Mount Padang), located in the village of Karyamukti in the subdistrict of Campaka, Regency of Cianjur in the province of West Java.

Gunung Padang, Cianjur in West Java
Gunung Padang, Cianjur in West Java (Source : gelut.com)

The archaeological site of Gunung Padang is believed to be largest megalithic site in Southeast Asia which has an estimated construction area of 900 square meters, set in a total area of around 3 hectares. The original construction itself is believed to have been a stepped pyramid that was built of natural volcanic stones in various sizes. All this making one wonder, what ruins can these be?

Right across the pinnacle of the mountain, these large stones are seen scattered about over 5 terraces. Scientists estimate that the huge stones are dated between 4,000-9,000 years BC, while the megalithic site itself dates back to between 2,500- 4,000 years BC. Which means, that the building must have existed more than 2,800 years before the construction of the mighty Borobudur temple in Central Java (built in the 9th century AD) and is even older that Machu Pichu in Peru. In fact, Gunung Padang is believed to have been built about the same time as the construction of the great Pyramids of Egypt.

Mount Padang or Gunung Padang in Garut, West Java
Mount Padang or Gunung Padang in Garut, West Java (Source : archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.co.id)

The word “padang” in the local Sunda language means caang, meaning: very clear. Another possible derivation of the word could also be : pa (place), da (large) and hyang (ancestors). The three words together when shortened to padang, means:  the exalted place of the ancestors.

The Gunung Padang Site is most certainly an invaluable  heritage from the megalithic age. The building seemed to have had one meter high pillars with 20 cm in diameters, and were made of andesite, basaltic and basalt type stones. The geometrically sharp cut at the ends of the stones and the shape of thousands of these large slabs have all been made pentagonally (with five corners). The digit 5, therefore, seemed to indicate that its inhabitants believed in the sanctity of the number “5 “, just as the ancient Babylonians believed in the figure “11” and the Romans in the number “7”.  Up to now, the musical notes of the Sunda ethnic group are also based on the pentatonic scale of : da mi na ti na. Thus it is  for this reason that many scientists also suggest that Gunung Padang may have been an ancient musical theater.

The andisite stones found scattered across the Gunung Padang site are found on this location only and nowhere else. For as soon as one crosses the Cikuta and the Cipanggulaan rivers, no such stones can be seen. Local inhabitants believe that the stones were first cut and carved in a nearby location named Kampung Ukir (Village for Carving) and then washed in a lake at Kampung Empang (Village by the Lake), where up to today one can still see remnants of stone cuttings. The village and the lake lie around 500 meters due southwest from the Gunung Padang archaeological site.

The Gunung Padang Site was first mentioned in 1914 in the “Rapporten van de Oudheidkundige Dienst ( ROD) or Reports of the Archeological Office of the Dutch East Indies government. N.J. Krom, respected Dutch historian, wrote about the site, but not much more was revealed.

Further archaeological, historic and geological studies and researches were later undertaken by the Indonesian Archaeological Research Center in 1979. The lack of any beads or bronze artifacts on the site made it difficult to date the site, since most megalithic sites in Indonesia and in Southeast Asia contained these familiar artifacts that date back to the Dongson Age (500 BC).

Whatever  conjectures, all archaeologists agree, nonetheless, that this is not a burial site, as believed by Krom (1914) but it was more likely a place of worship of the ancient Sunda population. Furthermore, it was constructed in a position that took full account of geomantic and astromantic calculations.

Astronomically, the Gunung Padang site is clearly in harmony with the position of the stars . Analyses made by the planetarium that go back to 100 AD revealed that the Gunung Padang site was  positioned exactly below the orbits of clusters of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy 

Meanwhile, present-day local inhabitants believe that these stone ruins are closely linked to King Prabu Siliwangi of the kingdom of Pajajaran. According to legend, Prabu Siliwangi was determined to build his palace in one night. His troops and the people together collected stones from Mt. Padang. But, – as the legend goes, – he failed in this attempt when the cocks started to crow early, indicating that dawn had broken. The massive number of stones were then left scattered about as found today. This legend is still strongly believed in by the local population since these prehistoric stones seem to have remained completely untouched by human hands and are so plentiful scattered all across the hilltop of Gunung Padang.

The locals refer the 5 stepped terraces by names talem from local Islamic history, being : Meja – Table- Kiai Giling Pangancingan, Kursi – Chair –  Eyang Bonang, Jojodog (seat) Eyang Swasana, Sandaran – Backrest – Batu Syeh Suhaedin (Syeh Abdul Rusman), Tangga – Steps -Eyang Syeh Marzuki, and Batu – Stone – Syeh Abdul Fukor.

The Gunung Padang site appears to have been a regular place  for gatherings(most likely for yearly meetings when all traditional chieftains of the ancient Sunda were called together. Until today, the site is still used by followers of the original ancient faith for prayers as done 2000 years ago.

Nonetheless, there are still those who believe that it was built by Prabu Siliwangi, King of the Sunda Pajajaran kingdom who ruled around the 15th century, since, etchings of the kujang, – typical weapon of Pajajaran – and etchings of tiger footprints were found among the stones, symbols of the Sunda kingdom. But archaeologists are adamant that this ancient site long preceded the Sunda Kingdom and already existed between 2,500-400 BC. This conviction is based on  researches made on these monumental stones and notations written by Bujangga Manik, an aristocrat of the Sunda Kingdom in the 16th century who mentioned that there was a place named Kabuyuta (seat of the ancestors) that was located at the source of the river Cikotan at Gunung Padang. Bujangga Manik also wrote that this site already existed even before the Sunda Kingdom.

ACTIVITIES

There are a number of good accommodation facilities at Cianjur, but you can also stay at hotels in Cipanas a Puncak popular mountain resorts when travelling from Jakarta.

Just be resolved and come visit this amazing site, Indonesia’s own cultural heritage which still contains unfathomable enigmas.

Visit the site at night and stare in wonder at the dome of the deep sky filled with thousands of shining stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, where you can indentify the Serpens and Aquila constellations symbolizing the upper and nether worlds. A bright clear evening in July  is the best moment to watch the full moon and the millions of stars shining on this enigmatic prehistoric megalithic site called Gunung Padang.

The Gunung Padang site is an asymmetric stepped pyramid, which differs from the Borobudur temple which is a symmetric stepped pyramid. Its asymmetric shape indicates that it was purposely built to face one particular side. Here one can  imagine the kind of rituals and offerings that were made by our ancestors dedicated to the Sun, the Moon and to the spirit of the ancestors. Could they  perhaps have offered 5 (five) cows on the 5 upper terraces?

The five stepped terraces at Gunung Padang in fact face Mt. Gede volcano (2,950 meters above sea level) which is located some 25 km from here. The first and lowest level of the terraces is the widest which then tapers up with each terrace, where the topmost terrace has the smallest dimension. These stepped terraces also indicate that the higher the terrace, the more sacred the place.

This prehistoric site is invaluable not only for Indonesia but also for the world as a world heritage. For this reason visitors must refrain from vandalizing the site by writing grafitti , knock on the stones, and of course, all must ensure that the place remains clean, free of rubbish.

The site is surrounded by deep valleys. The area is long in shape and covers a hilly area that is bordered by large rectangular andesite stones. Reaching the top of the mountain you will enjoy a surround panoramic vista overlooking Mt. Gede, Mt. Pangrango, Mt. Pasir Pogor, Mt. Pasir Gombong and Mt. Pasir Domas.

Besides at Gunung Padang, a number of other megalithic sites have been discovered near Cianjur, namely at Ciranjang, Pacet, Cikalong Wetan and Cibeber.

GET THERE

Located in the village of Karyamukti, subdistrict Campaka, in the Regency of Cianjur, West Java province, this extraordinary megalithic site at Gunung Padang is best reached from the town of Cianjur, and is some 45 km or 1.5 hours ride away from the town. The quality of the road there varies from pretty smooth to potholed so it is best to rent a sturdy car from either Bandung or Jakarta.

Best landmark to indicate that you are nearing the site is the Lampegan Station (built between 1879-1882) some 26 km south west from Gunung Padang.  There is also an old tunnel where you can pass through before or after your visit to Gunung Padang.

By motorbike or car the easiest routes are the ones passing Pal Dua or Tegal Sereh. When you wish to pass by Pal Dua take the Canjur – Sukabumi highway. At the village of Warung kondang turn right into the Cipadang – Cibokor – Lampegan – Pal Dua – Ciwangin – Ciwanggu road that leads to Gunung Padang. This route takes you pass the Gunung Manik tea plantation.

But if you take the Tegal Sereh route pass the Cianjur – Sukabumi highway, then turn left at Sukaraja and follow the Cirungas – Cibanteng – Rawabesar – Sukamukti – Cipanggulaan road which leads you to Gunung Padang.

Tips

Although the megalithic site stands on top of a steep hill, but there are already steps built for people to reach the top, climbing up 95 meters. The staircase consists of 468 steps built of andesite stones, while another is constructed of river stones and the other again of sand and cement.

When going up the steps that are built with natural river stones do be carefully since the stones are slippery but this route gives you a most wondrous panorama of the environment.

But when you descend by the cement staircase, take a breather, rest several times to stop your legs from shaking.

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