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Once upon a time, there were two big kingdoms in Java Island, Prambanan and Pengging. Prambanan was led by a cruel and angry king called Prabu Baka. King Baka had a very beautiful and charming daughter called Rara Jonggrang who was very dear to the king. The king also had a minister named Patih Gupalo.
Pengging was ruled by a wise king named Prabu Darma Moyo. The Pengging kingdom had a strong warrior named Bandawasa who was the King’s son. Bandawasa had the extraordinary ability to summon spirits in the blink of an eye whenever he needed help. However, the genies could only work at night as they would be burnt by the fierce rays of the sun.
Both kingdoms lived in peace until Prabu Baka became greedy and decided to extend his kingdom by invading Pengging. His forces launch a surprise attack on Pengging. Many soldiers died on both sides and the people of Pengging suffered greatly and became hungry and poor. Knowing that his people were suffering and that many soldiers had died, Prabu Darma Moyo sent his son to do battle with Prabu Baka. After a lengthy battle, Prabu Baka was defeated and killed by Bandawasa.
When Rara Jonggrang heard of the death of her father, she was very sad. “Why did this happen to me?” she cried. But before she could recover from her grief, Bandawasa arrived. He was very surprised when he meet Rara Jonggrang. He was mesmerized by the beauty of the princess and decided to marry her. “O Princess! You are the most lovely, sweet and beautiful young princess I have ever met. I want you to be my wife. Will you marry me, Rara Jonggrang?” asked Bandawasa. Instead of answering him, Rara Jonggrang sat in silence, panic, and fear. She hated Bandawasa so much for murdering her father but at the same time, she was too timid to refuse the proposal because Bandawasa was such a powerful warrior. After a while, an idea popped up in the princess’s head. “Well Bandawasa, I will marry you on one condition,” said Rara Jonggrang. “What is it, my dear princess?” asked Bandawasa. “First, you must make a well, the deepest one in this land. And second, you must build a thousand temples. And you must do it all in one night,” answered Rara Jonggrang. “I agree,” replied Bandawasa confidently, knowing that he could ask the spirits to help him when he tired.
Immediately he started to dig the well. He swiftly finished the construction and asked Rara Jonggrang to look at it. “Well princess, here’s the well like you wanted. The deepest one ever!” said Bandawasa proudly. “Hmm… I don’t believe you. Go inside and prove it!” said Rara Jonggrang. When he did so, Patih Gupalo piled stones inside and buried him alive. However, Bandawasa managed to escape and was very angry with what she had done but after looking at her beauty once again, his anger died and he calmed down.
When the night fell, he called on his unseen troop of spirits. “All my genies. Come out! Help me to build one thousand temples!” shouted Bandawasa to the sky. Shortly after, thousands of them came up to build the temples that Rara Jonggrang wanted. They worked so quickly that by the middle of the night there were nearly a thousand temples done.
Rara Jonggrang had been watching them working and now started to feel uneasy. “They only have one more temple to build. What shall I do?” Rara Jonggrang suddenly realised that if they thought it was daybreak, the genies would stop working before completing the last temple. Rara Jonggrang said to her maid. “Wake up your friends, quickly! Tell them to burn the hay and pound the rice! Oh, oh and pour flowers in the streets too!”
The royal servants did as their princess asked. Before long, a reddish beam shone from the east where they burnt the hay. Some of them then began to pound the rice which was something people usually did in the morning. There was a faint smell of flowers and the rooster started crowing.
The genies were taken aback to realize that the sun was about to rise. “Oh, no. we have to go back into hiding or we will get burnt!” one of the genies shouted to the others. So they hurried away, leaving the last temple unfinished. “Hey! Where are you going? It isn’t morning yet!” shouted Bandawasa. But the genies had already disappeared. Left alone, Bandawasa tried to build the last temple himself but failed as dawn really broke before he had managed to finish it. He realised that the princess had cheated him for a second time and was so furious that he turned her into a very beautiful statue. So she became a feature of the final temple, completing its construction and fulfilling the condition for their marriage. Bandawasa was so sad to have lost his beautiful princess that he spent the rest of his life living in the final temple and cursed the girls who had helped Rara Jonggrang so that they would never be able to marry either.