Reading the Message from Nirvana in Gampingan TempleNot all temples have typical, beautiful relief since generally they are decorated with statues and general relief as those found in almost all other temples. One of the temples with specific, beautiful relief is Gampingan, a temple that was incidentally found by a brick craftsman in Gampingan Village, Piyungan, Bantul in 1995. Small and incomplete, Gampingan temple is still rich in the enchanting relief.
One of the reliefs that we can see in this temple is the animal relief at the foot of it. The animal relief in this temple looks so natural that we can name the described animals. It is quite rare to find such relief; at least, they are only Prambanan and Mendut temples that have similar relief. All of the reliefs are decorated with ivory plant, namely padmamula (the roots of lotus plant) that is believed to be the source of life.
When YogYES walked around the temple, it clearly look that birds dominate the decoration. There is a relief of a raven with its big beak, robust body, up stretching wings and the fan-like tail. There is also a relief of a woodpecker that is described to have a crest on its head, rather long, pointed beak, and not-stretched wings. Besides, there is also a crow with distended chest and wings stretching downward.
The making of many bird reliefs in this temple relates to community belief in transcendental power of birds. It was believed that birds are manifestation of the deities or nirvana. Birds are also related to human absolute freedom that is attained after the renunciation, the symbol of human soul that leaves its body.
Other animal that is often described in the temple is frog. The community believed that frogs have supra natural power to send rain so that it was also believed to increase productivity, because the rain will be able to increase the harvest. The frogs that usually come up from waters also symbolize life renewal and the awakening towards better direction.
The relief still leaves a question of whether it is a fable (the animal story told to children) like the one in Mendut temple or a description of animals that was intentionally made to denote certain meaning. Such question rises because the description of the animals in the temple was not found in any books containing fables such as Jataka, Sukasaptati, Pancatantra and its hereditary versions.
Gampingan temple that is predicted to be built between 730 - 850 AC is believed to be the place for adoring Jambhala (god of prosperity, the child of Siva). The idea is based on the finding of Jambhala statue in the digging process. Jambhala is described to have been meditating; sitting crossed-legged while closing the eyes. The body was decorated by iconographical element (asana) in the form of a lotus with 8 pieces of leaves as the symbol of Vishnu mystical weapon (cakra) in the human body.
The figure of Jambhala in this temple is different from those in other temples. Generally, Jambhalas in other temples are described with wide eyes looking at the worshippers with various accessories symbolizing prosperity and luxury. This different description is believed to be based on the worship motivation, not to invoke prosperity but guidance in order to achieve the real happiness.
Visiting Gampingan temple will lead us to remembering the path we have taken to achieve happiness and prosperity. Relief that is dominated by animals that live in the surrounding environment could be the realization of local community's wisdom by that time in representing a message from nirvana: mankind must keep the harmony of nature in order to live in prosperity and to avoid disaster.