Saturday, 17 January 2009

Majapahit, the bitterness approach of reviving glory

Good intention is not always going the right way. Majapahit, the name came from the bitterness of the fruit named Maja. Yet, the good intention to revive the glorious achievement of Majapahit came through the wrong path.

It is nice to have the internet storing articles from the past edition. I found this article dated back from 2005.

Deserted historical site of past glories

The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Sat, 08/27/2005 10:31 AM | Life

Evi Mariani, The Jakarta Post/Mojokerto, East Java

Archeologists dream of turning Indonesia's biggest excavation site in Trowulan, East Java, into an education center and tourist destination as interesting as Borobudur and Prambanan.

Believed to be the center of the Majapahit kingdom from the 13th century to 15th century, the site reveals not only the past glory of Majapahit's ancient terra-cotta art, culture and political system, but also the roots of Javanese trade and agricultural history.

In 1985, a number of archeologists completed a book containing a master plan for the 99 square kilometer site.

Over the last 20 years some progress has been made at the site. However, the government has failed to play a major role in the project, leaving the site largely undeveloped. Although the government did form an agency to salvage the site, the agency was unable to accomplish much because of a severe lack of funding.

Research from 18th century

Research and restoration work at the Trowulan site dates back to the 18th century. The results of the first research were published in Raffles' History of Java in 1817.

History shows that the first work at the site was initiated by A.A Kromojoyo Adinegoro, the Mojokerto regent who in 1914 found the remnants of Candi Tikus (Tikus Temple).

Adinegoro also pioneered the development of a museum to house the Majapahit artifacts found in Trowulan. The museum, located in the town of Trowulan, has more than 84,000 pieces from all over East Java.

Another important figure in the Trowulan restoration was Henri Maclaine Pont, an architect who in the 1920s found a large pond that is believed to have been a reservoir in a Majapahit irrigation system. The pond is now known as Segaran Pond.

In a 1926 book written in Dutch, Pont gathered information on the ancient irrigation system in Trowulan, which he found had canals.

French historian Denys Lombard wrote in his tome about Java that although the Trowulan pond was not as large as the water reservoir in Angkor, Cambodia, it showed that the Javanese were using hydraulic systems for agriculture since as early as the 9th century.

Pont also led an excavation project in the mid-1920s, finding a number of artifacts now housed in Trowulan Museum.

The restoration has continued slowly over the years. Of more than a dozen structures -- temples, gates, tombs -- only five have been restored completely.

The five are the water reservoir, Kolam Segaran, a spring temple, Candi Tikus, the Candi Brahu cremation temple, Candi Bajang Ratu gate and the gate to Candi Wringin Lawang.

Slow pace of restoration

There are at least three buildings, Candi Gentong, Candi Minak Jinggo and Candi Kedaton, that are in the process of being restored. However, a lack of funds has slowed the work.

The excavation for Candi Kedaton's restoration has been stopped for about a decade, while the excavation for Candi Gentong is going on, but at a snail's pace.

Other sites also have gone through some restoration. Sadly, the work, although paved with good intentions, has removed the historical value of some of the sites.

For example, a place called Pendopo Agung is believed to be the former main hall of the palace. But a newly built structure glorifying the East Java Brawijaya Military Command now covers the place.

There is no trace of the former palace. Instead, the walls of the modern hall is filled with pictures of Brawijaya military commanders.

Separately, the ancient tomb Sitihinggil was ""restored"" in the 1960s, when some donors helped locals construct a new, modern building right on top of the terra-cotta brick foundation.

Sitihinggil has been for decades one of the main destinations for spiritual visits to Trowulan. Another destination is the tomb of Cempo Princess.

Locals say these two places can get crowded at night, when people gather to pray.

They come from around Java to ask for blessings, good luck or love.

Indeed, while very few tourists visiting Trowulan for its archeological treasures, a reasonable number of visitors come to Trowulan for religious or spiritual reasons.

One of the main destinations for religious tours is Troloyo Tomb, an early Islamic tomb from the Majapahit period.

Due to the number of visitors the local administration, once again with good intentions, constructed a large complex with little resemblance to the Majapahit architectural style.

Indonesian archeologists, once upon a time, had a dream, a faded and deserted dream, as lonely as the town and the museum.

Then a president and a minister would like to come as the one who revived the glory. The Majapahit Exhibition in the National Museum was very nice, but they would like people to come to visit the site...

I don't know the process of making this dream come true...but suddenly...

Govt ruined Majapahit artifacts

The Jakarta Post , JAKARTA | Thu, 01/15/2009 3:29 PM | Headlines

The government admitted Wednesday the construction of Majapahit Park in Trowulan, East Javaa project initiated by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono - has ruined ancient artifacts buried beneath the site, and announced a plan to relocate the park immediately.

Bowing to mounting public pressure, Minister for Culture and Tourism Jero Wacik told reporters in Jakarta that the decision had been reached after he and several senior archeologists and architects had spoken about the damages to artifacts of the ancient Majapahit kingdom on the site. "I swear, I never meant to destroy Indonesia's heritage by constructing the Majapahit Park. I just wanted to follow the presidential instruction to revive the civilization of the Majapahit Kingdom as our heritage and to introduce it to young people," he said.

The project, initiated by Yudhoyono in November 2008 to establish a public cultural center dedicated to the ancient Majapahit kingdom, which was at the height of its powers in the 13th century, is located on a 2,200 square-meter plot just north of the center of what was once Trowulanthe largest city in the kingdom.

A number of archeologists have said the park construction, which sunk support pillars into the ground, had destroyed ancient stones, walls and artifacts.

understand why the archeologists are mad at me. I'm also angry at the situation. This is human error and we have to fix it rather than blaming one another," Jero said.

"We have decided to relocate Majapahit Park to another area to prevent further damage to the artifacts."

Arya Abieta, a member of the team appointed to evaluate the damage, said the archeologists and architects working in the area had recommended that the park instead be developed on the edges of the historical site.

can use the area that has been heavily looted by locals. It will be safer than building on top of the remaining artifacts," Arya said.

The Trowulan site, located in Mojokerto, 70 kilometers southwest of Surabaya, East Java, was the site of tradition full-moon rituals during the golden era of the Majapahit Kingdom.

Long after the decline of the kingdom in 14th century, locals began to loot the palace and religious buildings, including Tikus Temple. Many artifacts have been stolen or destroyed.

"No one seemed to care much about this old city before the Majapahit Park project began. Now, every one seems to care, and this is good because we have to protect the Majapahit artifacts," Jero said. (naf)

As an architect my first reaction was asking "Weren't they doing the AMDAL procedure?", as they do need to go through AMDAL to start building on a site like Trowulan. The destruction is too precious if it is only to take public attention. The money spent should be quite a big sum already...why it is happened?

First of all, it is miscommunication. The owner of the project did not really know what they would like to present to the public. Then the architect chosen for this project worked as a drafter designing building without asking site inspection...or did a site inspection without getting the information on how precious an archeological site is...

Pusat Informasi Majapahit(PIM) was actually founded in 2007 according to this article from Mojokerto. Yet, between the two years of development into a very big leap of "the grandeur of Majapahit" in the form of a big project of "destruction".

The comment from the IAI Jabar mentioned in an article in is also worth noted, sometimes the project owner in Indonesia did not really respect the architect. It's the mentality of "I've got the money...and you should provide the drawing I need a.s.a.p..."

If there is one thing that I really hate here in Indonesia, then it is the reason "human error". Airplane crash, car accidents...all blamed to the human error, and now this project... There are human errors, but unprofessional error. The real owner of that project should be the archeologists and the local government of Mojokerto. The investor could be the Ministry for Culture and Tourism, and as the investor they should know why they are investing in that site...and how to get their investment worthwhile: by keeping its function!

Then come the unprofessional approach towards the project. Instead of digging into its function, those who involved in that project prefer to remake the grandeur of Majapahit by making a new grand building on the top of its spirit.

We don't want to blame anybody, and it is sad that the person who leaks this story should be removed from his post. But we should learn not to make a silly human error...

I was fascinated to see those bricks taken from Trowulan in the Majapahit Exhibition (unfortunately my photos are gone...perhaps it was gone when the virus came into my computer)...they were intact! Big sizes, and solid, not one of the red bricks we are seeing these days.

Perhaps it is just like what Christina Kreps,an American museum curator, said about Indonesian museums. Sometimes we do not value our artifacts as we think that they are common things, we do have it at home...use it, so it is not that "precious". I think that would be another story if we are talking about gold, perhaps that is why Rudy Badil talk about gold in daily Kompas.

Another reading: (bahasa Indonesia)


Anonymous said...

Hi Retty

Am very much interested in travelling to trowulan and documenting some of the acheivements of the Majapahit era and perhaps write a book as well on the golden age. Are there many historical materials written on that era and where can ifind them.
Also is there a soceity or association that is committed to preserving the rich cultural heritage of Majapahit. I understand there is a Majapahit Gotrah Wilwatikta that is formed to do so. How can i contact them.

Thank you and u have an interesting blog.

Tony S

Retty N. Hakim said...

Indonesian Heritage Society has published a book on Majapahit. It's quite comprehensive. You can also find other publications as well. The Indonesian Heritage Society has a library in the office building of Plaza Senayan. If you are in Jakarta you can visit it.

I don't know about Majapahit Gotrah Wilwatikta. If I know something I'll write it here.

My other posting is here: