Sewu Temple :
Sewu is an eighth century Mahayana Buddhist temple located 800 meters north of Prambanan in Central Java, Indonesia. The word for a Hindu or Buddhist temple in Indonesian is “candi,” hence the common name is “Candi Sewu.” Candi Sewu is the second largest Buddhist temple complex in Indonesia; Borobudur is the largest. Sewu predates nearby “Loro Jonggrang” temple at Prambanan. Although the complex consists of 249 temples, this Javanese name translates to ‘a thousand temples,’ which originated from popular local folklore (The Legend of Loro Jonggrang). Archaeologists believe the original name for the temple compound to be Manjusrigrha.
Sewu Temple is located in Bener Hamlet, Bugisan Village, Prambanan Subdistrict, Klaten Regency, Central Java. It is around 17 km from Yogyakarta en route to Solo. Sewu Temple is a temple complex located nearby Prambanan Temple, approximately 800 meters to the south of Rara Jongrang statue.
Sewu (Bahasa: Thousand) Temple is situated next to Prambanan Temple, making it part of Prambanan Temple tourism area. The area also has Lumbung Temple and Bubrah Temple. Not far from the area, there are several other temples, namely Gana Temple, around 300 m to the east, Kulon Temple, 300 m to the west, and Lor Temple, around 200 m to the north. Sewu Temple, the second biggest Buddhist temple after Borobudur, and Prambanan temple, which is a Hindu temple, indicate that during the period Hindu and Buddhist communities had lived a harmonious coexisting life.
Excavation Of Sewu Temple :
Although buried deep beneath the volcanic debris around Mount Merapi, the temple ruins were not completely forgotten by the local Javanese inhabitants. However, the origins of the temple were a mystery. Over the centuries, tales and legends infused with myths of giants and a cursed princess were recounted by villagers. Prambanan and Sewu were purport to be of supernatural origin, and in the legend of Loro Jonggrang they were said to have been created by a multitude of demons under the order of Bandung Bondowoso. Such tales are most likely the reason the temples were preserved through the centuries prior to the Java War (1825–1830). The local villagers dared not remove any of the temple stones, believing the ruins to be haunted by supernatural beings.
The Sewu and Prambanan temples attracted international attention in the early 19th century during the colonial Dutch East Indies era. In 1807 the first lithograph of Candi Sewu’s main temple and Perwara temple was created by H.C. Cornelius. And in 1817, during Britain’s short-lived rule of the Dutch East Indies, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles included Cornelius’ image of Candi Sewu in his book The History of Java. Although Sir Thomas subsequently commissioned a full survey of the ruins, they remained neglected for decades. In 1825 Auguste Payen created a series of Candi Sewu images.
During the Java War (1825–1830) some of the temple stones were carted away and used in fortifications. In the years that followed the temples suffered from looting. Many of the Buddha statues were decapitated and the heads stolen. Some Dutch colonists stole sculptures and used them as garden ornaments, and native villagers used the foundation stones as construction material. Some of the temple’s best preserved bas-reliefs, Buddha’s head, and some ornaments were carried away from the site and ended up in museums and private collections abroad.
In 1867 Van Kinsbergen photographed the ruins of Candi Sewu after an earthquake had caused the dome in main temple to collapse. In 1885 J. W. Ijzerman, revising some plans of the temple complex made earlier by Cornelius, made notes regarding the temple’s condition. He noted that several Buddha heads were missing. By 1978 none of the Buddha heads had survived, all of them having been looted from the site completely.
In 1901 a new set of photographs was taken, sponsored by Leydie Melville. In 1908 Van Erp initiated the clearing and reconstruction of the main temple, and in 1915 H. Maclaine Pont drew the reconstruction of a temples of the second row. It was de Haan who reconstructed the Perwara temples with the aid of Van Kinsbergen’s photographs. Subsequently, the temple became a subject of study among archaeologists such as W.F. Stutterheim and J. Krom in 1923. In 1950 J.G. de Casparis also studied the temple. Most of the archaeologists concurred that the temple was built in the first half of ninth century. However, in 1960 an inscription discovered in Perwara temple number 202 dated the year 792, meaning that the temple was constructed earlier, in late eighth century. Later in 1981, Jacques Dumarçay conducted a thorough research of the temple.
Since the early 20th century the temple has been slowly and carefully reconstructed, yet it has not been completely restored. There are hundreds of temple ruins, and many stones are missing. The main temple reconstruction and two of the apit temples on the east side were completed in 1993 and inaugurated by President Soeharto on 20 February 1993.
The temple was severely damaged during the 2006 Yogyakarta earthquake. The structural damage was significant, and the central temple suffered the worst. Large pieces of debris were scattered about on the grounds, and cracks between stone blocks were detected. To prevent the central temple from collapsing, metal frame structures were erected on the four corners and attached to support the main temple. Although some weeks later in 2006 the site was reopened for visitors, the main temple remained closed for safety reasons. Today the metal frame has been removed, and visitors may visit and enter the main temple.
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