Built to honour the last & greatest king of the Singosari Dynasty, Kertanegara. King Kertanegara is famed in modern times for insulting a great figure in Asian, Middle Eastern, Persian & European history, the Mongol Kublai Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan-the most ruthless ruler the human race has ever known. Kertanegara had refused to pay the Mongol, who had just conquered all of China, a yearly tax to avoid being destroyed. Instead, Kertanegara imprisoned, tortured & cut off the ears of Kublai’s ambassador & sent him back to the great Khan with his face branded by a hot iron. The great Khan didn’t think this was very nice & replied with a Mongol army of 30,000 Chinese soldiers who crossed the seas to teach Kertanegara some Mongol hospitality.
The ensuring drama lead to disaster, ending in Kertanegara’s betrayal, humiliation & death, the defeat of his army, destruction of his city & the end of the Singosari kingdom & dynasty. If you ask me its a pretty heavy price to pay for cutting someone's ears off. Eventually, Kertanegara’s son-in-law Raden Wijaya prayers to Hindu god Shiva, lord of destruction were answered & got his revenge on the Mongol army, revenge on his father’s betrayers & from the ashes of the Singosari kingdom they created the Majapahit Empire, eventually becoming the largest empire in the history of all South East Asia controlling more land than current day Indonesia crossing into parts of Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines & New Guinea.
Candi Singosari was built after the Mongol invasion of Java, presumably after Kertanegara’s son-in-law Raden Wijaya had established the city of Majapahit. In this sense, Candi Singosari can be considered one of the oldest surviving structures of the Majapahit Empire, if not the oldest.
Nowadays located in the middle of a sleepy suburban area of Malang, the slow encroachment of houses over hundreds of years has reduced the prestige of this temple. Today it seems more like a local monument than a great shrine to one of Java’s greatest rulers, if not the bravest. Unfortunately Kertanegara is less known than Kermit the Frog & his shrine is now only a 20 mins pit-stop on most tour itineraries. Interestingly, Kertanegara openly practiced a tantric version of both Hinduism & Buddhism which involved entering a trance while drooling & mumbling, basically like drinking too much Tequila & talking a lot. This fusion of the 2 religions is reflected in the statues that decorate the temple. There are many broken statues & bas reliefs in the yard which look easy to steal, in any other country they would be in a museum but quite frankly will most likely end up in someone’s private collection.
Singosari was the location of the discovery in 1829 of the statue of Prajnaparamita, goddess of transcendent wisdom. This is the Indonesian National Museum’s most famous & the most beautiful statue reportedly of Ken Dedes, the first queen of Singosari, who men murdered each other over. It was taken to the Netherlands for 160 years until they returned it in 1978.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.