Restoration and excavation

By the end of the nineteenth century, archaeological research in the Netherlands Indies had professionalized considerably under the aegis of the Batavian Society. An essential step was taken in 1901, with the creation of the Committee for Archaeological Research in Java and Madura (Commissie in Nederlandsch-Indië voor Oudheidkundig Onderzoek op Java en Madoera), presided over by J.L.A. Brandes. Between 1901 and 1905 the Committee devoted considerable time and energy to archaeological research at Singosari.

Candi Singosari

The temple was cleared of vegetation and its foundations, buried for centuries, were unearthed. An inventory of the sculptures and architectural fragments was made and a survey of the neighbourhood was carried out. The survey revealed that much of the southern temples had, unfortunately, vanished. The work around the main temple, however, brought new finds to light. A terrace was discovered a few metres to the south of Candi Singosari, and the head of the sculpture of Agastya – the only statue from the temple still at the site - was found, enabling its restoration. Photographs were taken, plans and other architectural drawings were made, and trial reconstructions of the upper parts of the temple took place, using the stones found at the site and in the neighbouring villages. These trials allowed H.L. Leydie Melville to propose a reconstruction of the temple on paper.

The work of the Committee culminated in the posthumous publication by J.L.A. Brandes, in 1909, of Beschrijving van Tjandi Singosari (A description of Candi Singosari), the second volume in the series of monographs initiated by the Committee.

Photograph from the monograph A description of Candi Singosari by Brandes

In the tropics, heritage preservation is a constant struggle against heavy rain and invasive vegetation. In 1914, the assessment by the Archaeological Service (Oudheidkundige Dienst in Nederlandsch-Indië), which had replaced the Committee in 1912, was clear: the temple was overgrown, its stones were crumbling, and artefacts had been thrown one upon the other without care. In 1915, the temple was cleared, the site fenced and a warden appointed, but an earthquake made these efforts pointless. In 1916, following the advice of the engineer, P.J. Perquin, a system of braces and anchors was set up to ensure the stability of the upper parts of the temple. Thus, the structural problems seemed resolved and the focus could return to research once again.

First excavations and restoration

The first real archaeological excavations at Singosari took place between 1926 and 1929. The aim was to find the vestiges of the southern temples described by the nineteenth-century visitors and drawn by Bik on his map, but the work was difficult because the site had become densely inhabited.

The archaeologists had to work between houses, and some villagers were reluctant to see their land excavated to a depth of up to 3 metres. Only the first foundation layers of the structures, previously seen by Bik, were uncovered. The research nevertheless yielded dozens of new artefacts, including sculptures, inscriptions and architectural elements dating from the ninth to fourteenth centuries.

By 1933 the crack running through the building had become so large that it was decided to construct a buttress in order to prevent the temple from collapsing. A complete restoration could no longer be avoided. Between 1934 and 1937 the temple was restored using the method of anastylosis. An inscription reading ‘Restauratie OD 1937’ (Restoration Archaeological Service 1937), carved on the south-western corner of the temple base, commemorates the restoration.

Recent excavations

The temple has not known any other major restoration since then. Its maintenance is now under the jurisdiction of the Centre for the Preservation of Archaeological Heritage (Balai Pelestarian Peninggalan Purbakala). In 2002 excavations were carried out not far from the temple, in the village of Pagentan (Singosari subdistrict, Malang district), by the National Centre for Archaeological Research and Development (Pusat Penelitian dan Pengembangan Arkeologi Nasional) in cooperation with other institutions. However, the excavations were discontinued due to a lack of funding. The site yielded Chinese ceramics from the twelfth to fourteenth centuries and the remains of brick structures.

It was suggested that this area could have formed the living quarters of the capital of the Singhasari kingdom. The excavations resumed in 2008 and the further evidence uncovered seems to support this idea. In October 2010 excavations were also carried out at two other locations to the west of the temple: near the temple guardian at Jl. Kertanegara Barat, and at the cemetery at Jl. Kadipaten, both in Desa Candirenggo, Kecamatan Singosari, Malang. The first did not yield any artefacts, but the second yielded similar material to that found at the earlier excavation at Desa Pagentan, including Chinese ceramics datable to the tenth to thirteenth centuries.

Further information on these excavations can be found at: