Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Jigsaw Puzzle at Prambanan

Along with the Buddhist Borobudur temple nearby, the Hindu complex of Prambanan competes for the distinction of most important site on Indonesian Java. Both have deservedly earned the distinction of being a UNESCO World Heritage site. Borobudur is the world's largest Buddhist temple and Prambanan is the largest Hindu complex in Indonesia and one of the largest in Southeast Asia. 
Just as the Borobudur temple struggled with natural calamities, the 9th century Hindu Prambanan complex faced a devastating earthquake and volcanic destruction already in the early 11th century. Combined with the shift of political power at this time, Prambanan was largely abandoned. A subsequent major earthquake in the 16th century caused further collapse, at which time the temple became swallowed up by the jungle. In the 17th century, a British surveyor rediscovered the site, but it wasn't until the 1930s that proper restoration really began. An earthquake in 2006 caused severe damage to the temple and the surrounding area, including the destruction of 300,000 homes and the loss of over 6,000 lives. 

Efforts have been made to rebuild some of the 240 temples within Prambanan, but it is unlikely that all can or ever will be restored. Some of the blocks were taken by locals for construction materials and many of the statues were stolen. Financial support is always a need.
The tour guide I had within the complex also had worked on the restoration effort. He described how each block was numbered, moved, and regrouped. Restorers utilized the traditional interlocking method for reconstruction. Concrete was also used to strengthen the structure. In the quest for authenticity and accuracy, it will take some time to complete the individual projects.  

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