Borobudur (#49)

The single largest Buddhist structure on earth lies in the heart of the Kedu Valley in Central Java, Indonesia. Borobudur Temple. Built in the 8th and 9th centuries and set against the backdrop of active volcanoes, those who visit cannot fail to be in awe by Borobudur’s sheer size and the remarkable attention to detail that went into its construction. This temple used to be the spiritual centre of Buddhism in Java, before being lost to the world – hidden under layers of volcanic ash and jungle growth for hundreds of years. It was only re-discovered in the early 19th century by the British governor, Thomas Stamford Raffles (the founder of Singapore) and designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.

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The entire lava rock structure is in the form of a lotus, the sacred flower of Buddha. The different levels of the monument symbolises the different levels of wisdom we have to go through during life until attaining enlightenment, symbolised by the spectacular upper terraces.

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Each of the 72 openwork stupas in Borobodur Temple contains a statue of Buddha.

The base of the temple represents kamadhatu, the ‘realm of desire’ which is the state of mind lacking of morality. The middle level of five square terraces represents rupadhatu where man gets wiser and more virtuous, has some control over his negative impulses but is still chained to earthly and materialistic pursuits. The three circular platforms as well as the monumental stupa at the summit represent arupadhatu, therealm of formlessness’ where man understands that the visible world is just an illusion and the real meaning of life is found inside oneself.

The walls and balustrades are decorated with fine low reliefs

The temple gardens are green and spacious with the occasional elephant plying the well-kept grounds.

There are two other smaller temples that are located nearby to Borobudur, Mendut and Pawon temples.

Mendut Temple 

During Vesak Day, the auspicious day that marks the birth, Enlightenment and death of Buddha, Buddhist devotees make their first stop at Mendut temple to prepare themselves spiritually, before continuing on foot up the 3 kilometre ascend to Borobudur. There is a gigantic tree outside Mendut temple that you cannot fail to notice. It is actually two trees, one growing on the other and extending its roots downwards from the heights of the branches to reach the ground.

Pawon Temple 

On the way to Borobudur, there is the smallest of the three temples – Pawon temple. It boasts of beautiful architectures and exquisite sculpture around its walls.

It may be interesting to note that Mendut temple and Pawon temple were constructed before Borobudur. Both these temples lie on a straight line with Borobudur, suggesting a symbolic connection that got lost over time.

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9 thoughts on “Borobudur (#49)

  1. The carving in the stone is really impressive, you have to study it for a while before you see all the details that has gone into it. Love the kids climing up the tree!

  2. You said the temples were found buried in volcanic ash & jungle growth? I wonder if nature actually preserved the buildings? They are amazing. Definitely on my ‘to see in person’ list.

    1. I am not sure if the volcanic ash has preservative qualities but a lot of digging was done to unearth Borobudur. Glad to know that it is in your ‘must see’ list and don’t forget to visit an even more magnificent structure nearby Borobudur, the iconic Prambanan Temple which is also a World Heritage site. Just Google it and you will know what I mean. 🙂

    1. It was indeed amazing. When I saw Borobudur, I told myself that it couldn’t have been built by humans. Everything is massive and perfectly symmetrical. I was out of breath just climbing the steep and uneven steps. Just boggles my mind as to how the builders constructed this, given the technology at that time. Even more amazing is how such a huge structure could have gotten lost for centuries. Sounds like something from a Hollywood movie! But this is the real thing!

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