Yogyakarta: The beautiful Indonesian city of Yogyakarta, bustling with cultural centres, is famed for its two historical temples- Borobudur and Prambanan- both on the recommended must-see places for visitors.
While the two temples now witness tourist inflows in thousands, what one may not know about these UNESCO World Heritage Sites is that they were once covered in volcanic ash and abandoned with minimal scope for restoration.
Built in the 8th Century in Central Java province, the Borobudur temple contains three parts – a pyramidal base with five square terraces, the trunk of a cone with three circular platforms and a monumental stupa at the top.
Around the circular platforms are 72 open stupas, each containing a statue of Lord Buddha.
When initially discovered, the structure was in a dilapidated state covered with bushes. It took the effort of over 200 locals over a span of two months to clean and restore the sanctity of this temple. The first major restoration, however, took place between 1973 and 1983, in a joint effort by the Indonesian government and UNESCO.
An eruption of Mount Merapi, the country’s second most active volcano, caused large scale destruction in the city in the year 2010. It is believed that ash up to 2.5cm fell on the structure, causing deterioration of the monument.
The UNESCO, with the help of local volunteers, undertook several programs to restore the structure. However, locals fear that given the influx of tourists and wear and tear of the age-old structure, there looms a fear of damage to the monument.
A similar case is that of Prambanan temple, built in the 9th Century, with temples for Lords Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, among others. An earthquake in 2006 that jolted Yogyakarta caused cracks in the structure, while the central courtyard of the temple was filled with stones and boulders from over 200 temples the premises contained that had fallen from the temple as a result of the quake.
Archaeologists, officials from UNESCO as well as the government are still conducting a series of restoration measures in order to bring the structure back to its original form. It is believed that Prambanan is still reeling under the impact of the earthquake and partly the 2010 eruption of Merapi.
When asked about the present situation of the two heritage sites, an official from the country’s Ministry of Tourism said talks are being held in order to limit the number of tourist entries at a time and create slots for
visitors so that the temple complex can be preserved from excessive deterioration.
A local tour guide, on the other hand, is of the view that a lot more needs to be done by the Indonesian government with regards to the temples and spreading awareness on the same, as the two monuments possess immense potential for tourism to flourish.