Sunday, July 26, 2009

Discovery to Restoration

After Borobudur was abandoned in ancient times it was mentioned twice in two historical Javanese texts Babad Tanah Jawi (1704) and Babad Mataram (1754). But the temple, for the most part, remained neglected and in ruins until the English took interest in restoring the temple 1814. A complete restoration did not take place however until 1907, under the guidance of a Dutchman, Theodorus Van Erp. He worked on the project until 1911.

During British administration in Indonesia between 1811-1815, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles found Candi Borobudur (Borobudur temple) from its slumber for almost 1 millennium. Raffles, motivated with the temple mystery, started the groundwork for actual archeological survey and research works in 1814 right after its discovery. He commissioned H.C. Cornelius, an officer of the Royal Engineers, to institute further investigations. Later, in 1835, the structure and basic dimension of Borobudur were first investigated by Hartmann, and a German artist, A. Shaefer, made the first daguerreotype photos. Afterward, between 1849 to 1853, F.C. Wilsen together with Schonberg Mulder was given the task by Dutch government to make drawings of all relief.

Leemans, as director of Leyden Museum of Antiquities, created first monographs of Borobudur temple in 1873, in cooperation with J.F.G. Brumund and Isidore van Kinsbergen. An important aspect of Borobudur relief hidden in the base of Candi was discovered by J.W. Ijzerman in 1885. In 1890 the concealed relief’s was entirely revealed and photographed by Indonesian Kasijan Cephas for documentary purposes. Later on, in 1900, J.L.A. Brandes formed a committee together with Theodoor van Erp, a Dutch army engineer officer, to restore the deteriorated conditions of this great monument. Actual renovation began in 1907 with 50,000 Dutch guilder of cost, which took 4 years of hard work until 1911 (Erp, 1931).

This 1907-1911 restoration was established to primarily focus on cleaning the sculptures, and excavating the grounds around the monument to find missing Buddha heads and hidden panel stones. The restoration project did not address and solve the drainage problem. Within few decades, the gallery walls were sagging and the relief showed signs of new cracks and deterioration. Theodoor van Erp used concrete from which alkali salts and calcium hydroxide are leached and transported into the rest of the construction. This has caused some problems that a further thorough renovation is urgently needed (Soekmono, 1973).

UNESCO and Indonesian government undertook a complete overhaul of the monument in a big renovation project from 1975 to 1983. Under the chairmanship of R. Roseno and Soekmono, Indonesian engineer and archeologist, the northern and western balustrades were partly dismantled and restored. Many UN experts and archeologist in the field of stone preservation were also invited to solve the serious problem of damage to these relief and statues. The overall foundation was stabilized and all 1,460 panels were cleaned. The restoration involved the dismantling of the five square platforms/galleries and improved the drainage by embedding water channels into the monument (Parmono, 1988). Preservation of Borobudur temple became national and international attentions in order to protect them from further natural destructions.

UNESCO International Safeguarding Campaign for Borobudur

In 1967 the government of Indonesia asked UNESCO for technical assistance, particularly in connection with Borobudur temple. A similar appeal was made at the XXVII th International Congress of Orientals in Ann Arbor, Michigan USA. The response was prompt. From 1968, the expert from several countries came in turn to carry out the survey and on-site studies, in close cooperation with archeological institute and the various government agencies involved.

The international character of the project now being ensured by a National Executive agency, a UNESCO Coordinator and an International Consultative Committees, the government and UNESCO signed a formal agreement in January 1973 in Paris. In August 1973 the start of the project was announced by President Republic of Indonesia, inspite of the fact that the international fundraising campaign had only just been started.

UNESCO five years of extensive research (1968-1973), (2) Ten years of restoration works (1973-1983), (3) There are 27 Countries joined hands, including private sector, US$ 6.5Million provided to Indonesia of total project cost US$ 25 Million, (4) More than 1 million blocks moved!. The significance of Borobudur Temples has an outstanding universal value and UNESCO world cultural heritage inscribed the temple and its surrounding in the World Heritage List in 1991 no. C 592.

The gigantic project was completed, and the new Borobudur was officially inaugurated by the President of the Republic of Indonesia in the presence of the Director General of UNESCO, ambassadors of donating and friendly countries and of many more high officials

[Source: Masanori Nagaoka, Effective Management for Borobudur Temple Compounds, Discussion and Expert Meeting in Borobudur, UNESCO: 2008; Borobudur Prayer in Stone, Archipelago Press, Singapore: 1999]