THE recent earthquake on Indonesia'sisland of Java badly damaged the famous Prambanan temple complex, sending intricate stone carvings crashing to the ground and destroying years of restoration work in less than a minute.
Recognised as a U.N. World Heritage site, the ninth century temple and the nearby Borobudur Buddhist complex are reminders of the rich Hindu and Buddhist past of what is now the world'smost populous Muslim nation.
Together they have about one million visitors a year.
The seventh century Buddhist complex, situated farther from the epicenter of recent 6.3-magnitude quake, appeared to have escaped harm. But the deadly quake caused extensive damage to Prambanan, one of the South-east Asia'slargest Hindu temple compounds.
This is the largest Hindu temple for Brahma in the world, just as the mandiram in Angkor Wat is the largest Vishnu mandiram in the world. It is the responsibility of every Hindu to support the efforts to rebuild this Brahma vana. The breath-taking pictures of this temple complex before the earthquake struck are on the web site. Every Hindu should help in the rehabilitation of the quake victims.
Large chunks of broken walls and carvings lay scattered at the foot of the eight main shrines. Pieces of small temples, or ?candis,? also had broken off.
?It will take months to identify the precise damage,? Agus Waluyo, head of the Yogyakarta Archaeological Conservation Agency, said.
He said the site would be closed to the public until archaeologists could determine whether the quake damaged the foundation or tilted the shrines.
Watching the sun set or rise from the compounds is often cited as an Indonesian vacation highlight, along with the beaches and nightlife of nearby Bali.
Not long after Javanese rulers constructed the Prambanan temple, it was abandoned for unknown reasons and began to deteriorate. Enveloped by thick jungle, it was discovered in the 18th century by the Dutch, Indonesia'scolonial rulers until the 20th century. Reconstruction of Prambanan began in 1918 and the work on the main shrine was completed in 1952, but work on the other shrines was still under way when the quake struck.
The closure of the complex will be a major blow to hundreds of people earning their bread by selling goods outside the gates of Prambanan.
?Everyone around here is shocked,? said Theresa, a coconut vendor, who like many Indonesians uses one name. ?This monument shows the greatness of Indonesia.?