Ursula Suzanna’s Journey through Candi Sewu Post-Javanese War Turmoil

Ursula Suzanna's Journey through Candi Sewu Post-Javanese War Turmoil

javaprivatetour.com – Have you ever heard of the Java War? It was a major conflict between the Dutch East Indies and the Javanese people that lasted from 1825 to 1830. The war was a time of great upheaval for the island of Java, and many historical sites were damaged or destroyed.

One such site is Candi Sewu, a Buddhist temple complex located in Central Java. In 1834, a Dutch woman named Ursula Suzanna Baud visited Candi Sewu just a few years after the war had ended. She wrote about her experience in her diary, providing a rare glimpse into the condition of the temple at that time.

Colored lithograph titled 'Ruins of ancient Javanese temples with a distant volcano,' 1852. Print created by Cornelis Springer, published by C.W. Mieling.
Colored lithograph titled ‘Ruins of ancient Javanese temples with a distant volcano,’ 1852. Print created by Cornelis Springer, published by C.W. Mieling.

In the midst of May 1827, the rhythmic beats of hooves and swirling dust on the road between Klaten and Yogyakarta alerted a gathering of about a thousand people donned in pristine white attire. Together, they intercepted a convoy of carriages pulled by around 600 horses, laden with Dutch rice and currency.

These ambushes were commonplace near the temple complex of Prambanan, not far from Candi Sewu. The mastermind behind these attacks was none other than Prince Dipanagara, who had established strongholds in the hills south of Prambanan. At that time, the Javanese War was merely two years old.

In the subsequent months, Lieutenant Governor General Hendrik Merkus de Kock erected defensive forts amidst the ruins of Candi Ratu Boko to suppress Dipanagara’s actions.

During the Java War of 1825-1830, Candi Sewu endured its share of turmoil. Its condition deteriorated further, as the military fortifications surrounding Prambanan extensively utilized stones from the temple.

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Fast forward to the scorching afternoon of 1834, a group of travelers made a stopover at Candi Sewu. Among them was Ursula Suzanna Baud-van Braam (1801-1884), the wife of Governor General Jean Chrétien Baron Baud. Ursula, born on April 6, 1801, in Batavia, East Indies, had tied the knot with Jean in 1833.

Painting of Governor General Jean Chrétien Baron Baud
Painting of Governor General Jean Chrétien Baron Baud (1789 – 1859) by Raden Saleh, 1835. He succeeded Johannes van den Bosch, governing from 1834 – 1836. He continued the oppressive Cultuurstelsel in the Dutch East Indies.

Candi Sewu, an 8th-century Buddhist temple complex north of Prambanan, hosted the visitors. Despite its name, which means “a thousand,” the complex comprises only 249 structures.

As Ursula’s entourage explored Candi Sewu, it appeared that noble families from Surakarta were also on a leisurely outing. They graciously loaned their horses to escort Suzanna’s party around.

“We ascended to the second level,” Suzanna recounted in her diary. “The journey was not without challenges as certain pathways were obstructed by stone debris.” Despite the apparent damage to the temple’s body, Suzanna marveled at the “hieroglyph carvings,” revealing intricate reliefs on the temple walls.

Masterpiece painting by Raden Saleh depicting the capture of Prince Dipanagara
Masterpiece painting by Raden Saleh depicting the capture of Prince Dipanagara

Why was the local community referring to this Buddhist site as Candi Sewu? Suzanna offered her insight, “because there were two rows of small domes or towers encircling the main temple, each once housing statues.”

“All constructed from variously shaped stones and interlocked without cement,” she explained. Suzanna also drew parallels between Candi Sewu and Borobudur. However, she noted that its condition at the time was not as pristine as Borobudur.

“All these ancient structures suffered due to war,” Suzanna lamented. “Javanese forts were built using stones taken from the temples, and the statues were carted away by amateur antique hunters.”

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Ursula Suzzana passed away on August 31, 1884, in The Hague, Netherlands, at the age of 83. Together with Jean, they were blessed with five children: their first child’s name remains unknown, Jacob Andries Ambrosius Baud, Willem Vincent Karel Baud, Willem Vincent Reinier Karel Baud, and Jeanne Eugénie Baud.

Regrettably, the structures damaged during the Javanese War worsened some 30 years later due to earthquakes. At that time, neglect and theft ran rampant. Today, not a single original statue head remains in its original place.

Discover Candi Sewu and Beyond with Java Private Tour!

Discover Candi Sewu and Beyond with Java Private Tour

In the footsteps of Ursula Suzanna, explorers today can embark on a journey through the rich history of Candi Sewu with Java Private Tour. Why choose us? Our English-speaking guides are not only proficient but also friendly and knowledgeable. We offer flexibility in schedules, tailoring experiences to your preferences. With certified local guides and a fleet of private vehicles ranging from sedans to tourist buses, Java Private Tour ensures a seamless exploration. Trusted by embassies and recommended by satisfied visitors, make Java Private Tour your reference, barometer, and recommendation for your first-time visit to Java, Indonesia.

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