Discover the Hidden Gem of Javanese-Hindu Acculturation: Puh Sarang Church

Discover the Hidden Gem of Javanese-Hindu Acculturation Puh Sarang Church

Unveil the fascinating story of a unique church that seamlessly blends Christian faith with Javanese cultural heritage. – Have you ever ventured into the depths of Java’s cultural tapestry, where the echoes of history resonate through every corner? Nestled amidst the serene hillsides and winding paths lies a gem known as Puh Sarang, a place that encapsulates the essence of both Hindu-Javanese heritage and Christian devotion.

Outside of Puh Sarang Church

Picture this: the morning sun gently unveils the mist veiling the slopes of Mount Klotok, as you traverse the meandering paths of Padukuhan Puh Sarang, just ten kilometers away from Kediri. Originally named Kepuh Ngarang, meaning the aged Kepuh tree, the village has evolved over time, its name condensed to Puh Sarang, a moniker echoing since the mid-19th century.

As you ascend the slopes of Mount Wilis, you’ll stumble upon a church adorned with contemporary Hindu architecture, a masterpiece crafted by Henri Maclaine Pont, a fervent admirer of Javanese culture. This architectural marvel, resonating with both Jan Wolters’ reverence for Javanese values and Maclaine Pont’s fascination with Javanese relics, stands as a testament to their harmonious collaboration.

Inside of Puh Sarang Acculturation Church
Inside of Puh Sarang Acculturation Church

A testament to cultural fusion:

  • The church’s architecture is reminiscent of a Javanese candi (temple), complete with intricate reliefs depicting biblical scenes and Javanese mythology.
  • The symbols used in the reliefs are a blend of Christian and Hindu-Javanese elements, such as the garuda (eagle) representing St. John the Evangelist and the kalpataru (tree of life) symbolizing eternal life.
  • The church’s interior features Javanese-style pews and stained glass windows depicting Javanese saints.
A brick relief within Puh Sarang Church depicting the scene where Abraham prepares to sacrifice Isaac
A brick relief within Puh Sarang Church depicting the scene where Abraham prepares to sacrifice Isaac. The sudden appearance of an angel thwarting his intention. The Hindu temple-style reliefs in this church portray stories from the Bible.

More than just a church:

  • Puh Sarang Church is a living testament to the successful integration of Christianity into Javanese culture.
  • It is a place where faith and culture intersect, offering visitors a unique glimpse into the rich tapestry of Javanese history and spirituality.
  • The church’s serene atmosphere and stunning architecture make it a popular destination for both pilgrims and tourists alike.
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One part of the terracotta tablet in Puh Sarang Church
One part of the terracotta tablet in Puh Sarang Church depicts the scene of Jesus, dressed in rags, journeying towards Golgotha Hill. This scene is part of the Eight Stations of the Cross to Golgotha Hill.

The inauguration of Puh Sarang Church on June 11, 1936, marked a milestone where Hindu-Javanese cultural values intertwined seamlessly with Biblical narratives. Unlike colonial edifices embellished with Dutch porcelain or stained glass, Puh Sarang Church was erected using local materials, sourced from the nearby Kedak River.

The façade of the church resembles a mountain and a ship, inspired by the tale of Noah’s Ark resting on Mount Arafat. Adorned with motifs reminiscent of Javanese temples, the church’s interior boasts intricate reliefs depicting biblical narratives intertwined with Javanese symbolism, reminiscent of Majapahit-era artistry.

Every detail within the church tells a story; from the iconic symbols of the Four Evangelists—lion (Mark), human (Matthew), ox (Luke), and eagle (John)—to the reverence towards Jesus and Mother Mary depicted in the reliefs flanking the altar. Each carving holds layers of meaning, inviting contemplation akin to deciphering cryptic codes.

Unlike typical churches, pilgrims at Puh Sarang conduct mass while seated cross-legged or kneeling
Unlike typical churches, pilgrims at Puh Sarang conduct mass while seated cross-legged or kneeling

Beyond its architectural grandeur, Puh Sarang embodies a living testament to the fusion of cultures, where Catholic masses are conducted in Javanese, accompanied by traditional Javanese music and attire during festivities. It’s a place where spirituality transcends boundaries, welcoming all who seek solace amidst its historical embrace.

In the eyes of Maclaine Pont, witnessing the elegance of Puh Sarang Church is akin to beholding the exoticism of Java through a cultural lens, where every stone whispers tales of a bygone era.

Planning your visit:

  • Getting there: Puh Sarang Church is located approximately 10 kilometers from Kediri, East Java. It is easily accessible by car or public transportation.
  • Opening hours: The church is open daily from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
  • Admission: Admission to the church is free. However, donations are welcome.
  • Dress code: Visitors are expected to dress modestly and respectfully when visiting the church.
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Uncover the hidden gem of Puh Sarang Church and immerse yourself in the captivating blend of faith and culture.

At Java Private Tour, we understand the allure of exploring Java’s cultural treasures firsthand. Explore Java with Java Private Tour:

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