Prior to the creation of Sewu Temple in Prambanan, legend has it, there lived a man called Bandung Bondowoso, who, with his supernatural powers, created 1,000 temples overnight.
If Bandung Bondowoso were alive today, the damage done to the hundreds of historical sites by the tectonic quake measuring 5.9 on the Richter scale on May 27 would not have saddened Laretna T. Adhisakti so much.
“I’m really sad,” said Laretna, of the Yogjakarta Heritage Society, of the damaged historical site.
The damage is not too hard to notice.
Take a look at the destroyed Brahmana Temple in the Prambanan compound. Slabs of stone are scattered everywhere. Next to it is the Siwa Temple, which appears to have sustained damage to its foundation. The Wisnu Temple was not spared either.
Sojiwan Temple, also located in the part of the Prambanan compound that belongs to Central Java province, is in an even worse condition. The body of the temple, which was actually undergoing reconstruction, has collapsed.
“In fact, the temple stones had been collected since 1950 and the renovation of the temple had been going on since 1992,” said Guritno of the Central Java Center for Archaeological Conservation and Heritage (BP3).
In Central Java, other temples that have been damaged are Sewu, Plaosan Lor, Plaosan Kidul and Lumbung. Golo Mosque and an old tomb in Bayat, Klaten, were also damaged in the quake.
There are more damaged buildings in Yogyakarta than in Central Java. The Yogyakarta Palace, which Sultan Hamengku Buwono I built in 1755, was damaged in several places.
The Trajumas Hall, a building with a traditional Javanese roof known as a Joglo, where the gamelan, a royal sedan chair and other property for the Tedak Siti rite are kept, completely collapsed. The other halls, such as Srimanganti, Pagelaran and Sitihinggil, have also cracks in a number of places.
Various historical buildings around the palace such as the Hamengku Buwono IX Museum, the Grand Mosque, the Golden Carriage Museum, the houses of high-ranking nobility such as Dalem Wironegaran, Pugeran, Yudonegaran, Pujokusuman, Condroningratan and Prabeyo have also been damaged.
Baluwerti fortress that surrounds Yogyakarta Palace has cracks in the wall in several parts.
The quake, that claimed thousands of lives in Yogyakarta and Klaten, has also damaged Taman Sari, a historical building that has been named as one of the world’s endangered sites. At least 10 areas in the compound were damaged.
One of these is the ornamental engraving on the upper part of Gapura Agung (Grand Gate), the main gateway to Taman Sari. Part of the wall of Cemeti Island on this site collapsed in the quake, killing two locals.
“They were a mother and her child,” said Siswohartono, who lives in the Taman Sari compound.
Outside the palace, historical buildings such as the royal tombs in Imogiri, Bantul, Panggung Krapyak, where the Javanese kings used to hunt deer, the Paku Alam Palace, Tarumartani cigar factory, the traditional joglo Javanese houses in Kota Gede, and houses built in the Dutch Indies architectural style in various parts of Yogyakarta have also been damaged.
It is really tragic because within just 57 seconds all these historical buildings were brought to the verge of collapse and may well vanish into the abyss of history if nothing is done to fix the damage.
Aside from damaging tourist sites, the quake has also discouraged tourists from visiting Yogyakarta.
Prambanan Temple, usually the main attraction for tourists visiting Yogyakarta, is now deserted. Although it sustained some damage, the temple is open to visitors.
“I believe the post-quake Prambanan Temple can be a special attraction for tourists,” said Wagiman Subiarso, director of PT Taman Wisata Candi Borobodur, Prambananan and Ratu Boko, a company managing the three temples, without elaborating.
There may be some truth in Wagiman’s words. However, restoring all these historical buildings must be given priority.
To this end, BP3 of Central Java has recorded all the damage and is now ready to renovate the site. A budget of some Rp 9.7 billion (around US$1.05 million) has been set aside for this purpose.
Meanwhile, the Center for the Conservation of Borobudur Heritage is now analyzing the damage sustained by Prambanan Temple.
“Using a laser scanning device, we are now examining in detail the extent of the inclination, collapse and parting of the stones that made up the temple structure,” said Iwan Kurnianto of the Center for Conservation of Borobudur Heritage.
With the assistance of various parties such as ICOMOS Indonesia, the Architectural and Planning Department of Gajah Mada University and many other institutions, Laretna is now doing everything possible to renovate the various historical buildings that the quake has damaged.
She has contacted various parties in the global community concerned with the renovation of historical buildings in Yogyakarta. Aside from reconstructing historical buildings, Laretna also reminds people of the need to rebuild the intangible historical legacy such as the community of traditional batik makers in Imogiri, Bantul, ceramic makers in Kasongan (Yogyakarta) and Bayat (Klaten).
“We are preparing a special place for the batik makers from Imogiri so that they can soon start making batik again,” Laretna said.
The legend of Bandung Bondowoso describes how he went into meditation to communicate with the spirits and ask them for help to build a thousand temples overnight to meet a condition set by his prospective wife, Roro Jonggrang.
Today, a modern Bandung Bondowoso is needed, not to mobilize supernatural spirits, but to mobilize thoughts, funds and technological capability to renovate Prambanan Temple, Sewu Temple and the many other significant historical sites.
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