ancient temple found after landslide in Purworejo, Central Java

Initial estimates suggest the temple is older and larger than nearby Borobudur, which is the world's largest Buddhist temple.

Victoria Tunggono   16 August 2016 19:25 - Indonesia is home to many natural phenomena, but with its beauty comes the curse of natural disasters. 

On June 19, Central Java suffered a series of floods and landslides due to an unusual period of heavy rain in the dry season. At least 46 people were killed and dozens are injured and missing. Sixteen districts were affected. The province is especially vulnerable due to its mountainous topography, which leaves hillside villages vulnerable. 

Five villages in Purworejo district alone were hit. One of them was Sidomulyo. 

Extraordinary discovery

If you have ever been to Central Java you find a land with mountains and fields mixed into modernity. But the constant stream is ancient temples, both Hindu and Buddhist that dot the landscape. They really are everywhere and some of the larger complexes and monuments are staple tourist attractions. Dieng Plateau. Prambanan. 

One name rises above all others though: Borobudur. This 9th-Century Mahayana temple is the largest single Buddhist temple in the world and a Unesco Word Heritage site. The site and monument itself defies adequate explanation. It is by far the biggest tourist attraction in Java and people come from all over the world to see it. 

After the situation settled in Sidomulyo, people started to search for the missing, and found something incredible.

Underneath what had been the surface layer of a hill known as Bukit Pajangan (bukit means ‘hill’ and pajangan means ‘display’), a stone structure 200 meters wide and over 100 meters tall had emerged.

Nearby, residents also found terraced pathways and what appeared to be an ancient bath. Once news reached regional officials, 1.5-meter building blocks of the volcanic rock andesite were identified. 

Eko Riyanto, the antiquities chief for Purworejo, related his amazement to the press but declined to identify the stones as historical items without further clarification.

A team of 10 geologists from the Indonesian Islam University (UII) of Yogyakarta came shortly afterwards to conduct more research.

Bigger than Borobudur? 

That team is led by Ir. Harsoyo who confirmed temporary findings to Bagelen Channel that the piles of stone do indeed form a temple, but he’s unsure of which era it was built in. At a guess, he said between 8th to 10th century, which is the same era Borobudur was built in.

One thing he’s sure of is that the temple is much larger – up to a hectare in total – and older than Borobudur, the world-famous temple discovered in 1814 by Thomas Stamford Raffles.

Either way, the find has massive implications for the history of Central Java. 



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