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In Indonesian , ancient temples are referred to as candi ; thus locals refer to "Borobudur Temple" as Candi Borobudur. The term candi also loosely describes ancient structures, for example gates and baths. The origins of the name Borobudur, however, are unclear,  although the original names of most ancient Indonesian temples are no longer known.
Most candi are named after a nearby village. If it followed Javanese language conventions and was named after the nearby village of Bore , the monument should have been named "BudurBoro". Raffles thought that Budur might correspond to the modern Javanese word Buda "ancient" —i. He also suggested that the name might derive from boro , meaning "great" or "honourable" and Budur for Buddha. Another possible etymology by Dutch archaeologist A. The term Buddha-Uhr could mean "the city of Buddhas", while another possible term Beduhur is probably an Old Javanese term, still survived today in Balinese vocabulary , which means "a high place", constructed from the stem word dhuhur or luhur high.
This suggests that Borobudur means vihara of Buddha located on a high place or on a hill.
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The construction and inauguration of a sacred Buddhist building—possibly a reference to Borobudur—was mentioned in two inscriptions, both discovered in Kedu, Temanggung Regency. The Karangtengah inscription , dated , mentioned a sacred building named Jinalaya the realm of those who have conquered worldly desire and reached enlightenment , inaugurated by Pramodhawardhani , daughter of Samaratungga. According to local myth, the area known as Kedu Plain is a Javanese " sacred" place and has been dubbed "the garden of Java" due to its high agricultural fertility. Speculation about a surrounding lake's existence was the subject of intense discussion among archaeologists in the 20th century.
In , a Dutch artist and scholar of Hindu and Buddhist architecture, W. Nieuwenkamp , developed a hypothesis that the Kedu Plain was once a lake and Borobudur initially represented a lotus flower floating on the lake. These samples were later analysed by Thanikaimoni, who examined their pollen and spore content to identify the type of vegetation that had grown in the area around the time of Borobudur's construction.
They were unable to discover any pollen or spore samples that were characteristic of any vegetation known to grow in an aquatic environment such as a lake, pond or marsh. The area surrounding Borobudur appears to have been surrounded by agricultural land and palm trees at the time of the monument's construction, as is still the case today.
Nossin in —86 field studies re-examined the Borobudur lake hypothesis and confirmed the absence of a lake around Borobudur at the time of its construction and active use as a sanctuary. There are no known records of construction or the intended purpose of Borobudur. Borobudur was likely founded around AD. There is uncertainty about Hindu and Buddhist rulers in Java around that time.
The Sailendras were known as ardent followers of Buddhism, though stone inscriptions found at Sojomerto also suggest they may have been Hindus. The Buddhist monuments, including Borobudur, were erected around the same period as the Hindu Shiva Prambanan temple compound. Construction of Buddhist temples, including Borobudur, at that time was possible because Sanjaya's immediate successor, Rakai Panangkaran , granted his permission to the Buddhist followers to build such temples. Borobudur lay hidden for centuries under layers of volcanic ash and jungle growth.
The facts behind its abandonment remain a mystery. It is not known when active use of the monument and Buddhist pilgrimage to it ceased.
Sometime between and , King Mpu Sindok moved the capital of the Medang Kingdom to the region of East Java after a series of volcanic eruptions; it is not certain whether this influenced the abandonment, but several sources mention this as the most likely period of abandonment. The monument was not forgotten completely, though folk stories gradually shifted from its past glory into more superstitious beliefs associated with bad luck and misery.
Two old Javanese chronicles babad from the 18th century mention cases of bad luck associated with the monument. In the Babad Mataram or the History of the Mataram Kingdom , the monument was associated with the misfortune of Prince Monconagoro, the crown prince of the Yogyakarta Sultanate in Upon returning to his palace, he fell ill and died one day later. Following its capture , Java was under British administration from to He collected Javanese antiques and made notes through contacts with local inhabitants during his tour throughout the island. On an inspection tour to Semarang in , he was informed about a big monument deep in a jungle near the village of Bumisegoro.
In two months, Cornelius and his men cut down trees, burned down vegetation and dug away the earth to reveal the monument. Due to the danger of collapse, he could not unearth all galleries. He reported his findings to Raffles, including various drawings.
Although Raffles mentioned the discovery and hard work by Cornelius and his men in only a few sentences, he has been credited with the monument's rediscovery, as the one who had brought it to the world's attention. Christiaan Lodewijk Hartmann, the Resident of the Kedu region , continued Cornelius's work, and in , the whole complex was finally unearthed. His interest in Borobudur was more personal than official. Hartmann did not write any reports of his activities, in particular, the alleged story that he discovered the large statue of Buddha in the main stupa. The Dutch East Indies government then commissioned Frans Carel Wilsen, a Dutch engineering official, who studied the monument and drew hundreds of relief sketches.
Jan Frederik Gerrit Brumund was also appointed to make a detailed study of the monument, which was completed in The government intended to publish an article based on Brumund's study supplemented by Wilsen's drawings, but Brumund refused to cooperate. The government then commissioned another scholar, Conradus Leemans , who compiled a monograph based on Brumund's and Wilsen's sources.
In , the first monograph of the detailed study of Borobudur was published, followed by its French translation a year later.
Monumental Bali: Introduction to Balinese Archaeology and Guide to the Monuments | Semantic Scholar
Appreciation of the site developed slowly, and it served for some time largely as a source of souvenirs and income for "souvenir hunters" and thieves. In , the chief inspector of cultural artifacts recommended that Borobudur be entirely disassembled with the relocation of reliefs into museums due to the unstable condition of the monument. Borobudur was considered as the source of souvenirs, and parts of its sculptures were looted, some even with colonial-government consent.
In King Chulalongkorn of Siam visited Java and requested and was allowed to take home eight cartloads of sculptures taken from Borobudur. These include thirty pieces taken from a number of relief panels, five buddha images, two lions, one gargoyle, several kala motifs from the stairs and gateways, and a guardian statue dvarapala. Several of these artifacts, most notably the lions, dvarapala, kala, makara and giant waterspouts are now on display in the Java Art room in The National Museum in Bangkok.
In , the commission submitted a threefold plan of proposal to the government.
First, the immediate dangers should be avoided by resetting the corners, removing stones that endangered the adjacent parts, strengthening the first balustrades and restoring several niches, archways, stupas and the main dome. Second, after fencing off the courtyards, proper maintenance should be provided and drainage should be improved by restoring floors and spouts. Third, all loose stones should be removed, the monument cleared up to the first balustrades, disfigured stones removed and the main dome restored.
The total cost was estimated at that time around 48, Dutch guilders.
The restoration then was carried out between and , using the principles of anastylosis and led by Theodor van Erp. Van Erp dismantled and rebuilt the upper three circular platforms and stupas. Along the way, Van Erp discovered more things he could do to improve the monument; he submitted another proposal, which was approved with the additional cost of 34, guilders. At first glance, Borobudur had been restored to its old glory.
Van Erp went further by carefully reconstructing the chattra three-tiered parasol pinnacle on top of the main stupa. However, he later dismantled the chattra , citing that there were not enough original stones used in reconstructing the pinnacle, which means that the original design of Borobudur's pinnacle is actually unknown. The dismantled chattra now is stored in Karmawibhangga Museum , a few hundred meters north from Borobudur.
Due to the limited budget, the restoration had been primarily focused on cleaning the sculptures, and Van Erp did not solve the drainage problem.
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Within fifteen years, the gallery walls were sagging, and the reliefs showed signs of new cracks and deterioration. This caused some problems, so that a further thorough renovation was urgently needed. Small restorations had been performed since then, but not sufficient for complete protection. The monument suffered further from the weather and drainage problems, which caused the earth core inside the temple to expand, pushing the stone structure and tilting the walls.
By s some parts of Borobudur were facing imminent danger of collapsing. In Professor Soekmono, then head of the Archeological Service of Indonesia, launched his "Save Borobudur" campaign, in an effort to organize a massive restoration project. In the late s, the Indonesian government had requested from the international community a major renovation to protect the monument.
In , a master plan to restore Borobudur was created. Over one million stones were dismantled and removed during the restoration, and set aside like pieces of a massive jig-saw puzzle to be individually identified, catalogued, cleaned and treated for preservation. Borobudur became a testing ground for new conservation techniques, including new procedures to battle the microorganisms attacking the stone. The restoration involved the dismantling of the five square platforms and the improvement of drainage by embedding water channels into the monument.
Both impermeable and filter layers were added.
Monumental Bali: Introduction to Balinese Archaeology and Guide to the Monuments
In December , the idea to reinstall chattra on top of Borobudur main stupa's yasthi has been revisited. However, expert said a thorough study is needed on restoring the umbrella-shaped pinnacle. By early , the chattra restoration has not yet commenced. Vesak is an official national holiday in Indonesia,  and the ceremony is centered at the three Buddhist temples by walking from Mendut to Pawon and ending at Borobudur.
The monument is the single most visited tourist attraction in Indonesia. In , , tourists, of whom 36, were foreigners, visited the monument. UNESCO identified three specific areas of concern under the present state of conservation: i vandalism by visitors; ii soil erosion in the south-eastern part of the site; and iii analysis and restoration of missing elements. Earthquakes are by far the most important contributing factors, since not only do stones fall down and arches crumble, but the earth itself can move in waves, further destroying the structure.
Despite warning signs on all levels not to touch anything, the regular transmission of warnings over loudspeakers and the presence of guards, vandalism on reliefs and statues is a common occurrence and problem, leading to further deterioration. As of , there is no system in place to limit the number of visitors allowed per day or to introduce mandatory guided tours only.
In August , the Conservation Authority of Borobudur reported some severe abrasion of the stone stairs caused by the scraping of visitors' footwear.