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28 November 2011 / leggypeggy

Cleaning up the volcanic mess at Borobudur (10 photos)

Borobudur clean-up is all about attention to detail.

Borobudur, Indonesia’s most famous Buddhist temple and one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions, has been getting am unscheduled facelift over the last year.

While routine maintenance and cleaning are always being carried out at this important Javanese landmark, the latest effort was prompted by the October 2010 eruption of nearby Mount Merapi. The eruption blanketed Borobudur with a thick layer of white, acidic volcanic ash and even caused parts of the site to be closed for a while. Antiquities experts have worried that the ash will speed the decay of the temple’s stones, and they know it’s played havoc with the drainage system.

When we visited the temple about a week ago, the workmen were tackling the first level. They had started at the top—level 10—so they were almost done cleaning the ash out from under the flooring and restoring efficient drainage.

It was interesting to see the process. The horizontally set floor stones are supported on a foundation of larger stones, set vertically. Sheltered by tarpaulins to protect them from the elements, the workmen have lifted a section of horizontal stones at a time and set these aside—all carefully marked so they can be replaced correctly. They have then cleaned out around the foundations. When you think about it, it’s amazing that something built more than 1000 years ago has such a sophisticated drainage network.

Tourists are now able to visit all of the site and, as we did circuits of the temple, we saw various stages of the job, including a spot where work was recently completely. The workmen were having a rest and later we saw the tarpaulin was being removed. We were surprised to note that some of the tarpaulins were tied around statues of Buddha.

On the way to Borobudur, we saw some of the devastation Merapi had dished out to nearby villages and vegetation. Our tour guide told us that quite a few villages had to be abandoned.

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Leave a Comment
  1. Louise M Oliver / Nov 28 2011 8:50 am

    Hi Peggy,
    You’re quite right. It’s always interesting to visit sites that were constructed a very long time ago. The sophistication of much of the work is amazing and admirable. My friend, Barbara, and I discussed this when we saw Tutankhaman in Melbourne a couple of months ago.



  2. Sy S. / Nov 28 2011 11:53 am

    Hello LeggyPeggy,

    I am almost sure I have been to Borobudur…. it has been so many years ago (1971). If I recall it was the temple in which most of the sitting Buddha’s had heads missing…. stolen!

    Sy S.


    • leggypeggy / Nov 28 2011 7:11 pm

      You’re right Sy. I think only one head survives on the Buddhas.


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