Borobudur Temple Compounds


Brief Description

This famous Buddhist temple, dating from the 8th and 9th centuries, is located in central Java. It was built in three tiers: a pyramidal base with five concentric square terraces, the trunk of a cone with three circular platforms and, at the top, a monumental stupa. The walls and balustrades are decorated with fine low reliefs, covering a total surface area of 2,500 m2. Around the circular platforms are 72 openwork stupas, each containing a statue of the Buddha. The monument was restored with UNESCO's help in the 1970s.

Long Description
Borobudur is one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world. Founded by a king of the Saliendra dynasty, it was built to honour the glory of both the Buddha and its founder, a true king Bodhisattva. The name Borobudur is believed to have been derived from the Sanskrit words vihara Buddha uhr, meaning the Buddhist monastery on the hill. Borobudur temple is located in Muntilan, Magelang, and is about 42 km from Yogyakarta city.
This colossal temple was built between AD 750 and 842: 300 years before Cambodia's Angkor Wat, 400 years before work had begun on the great European cathedrals. Little is known about its early history except that a huge army of workers worked in the tropical heat to shift and carve the 60,000 m3 of stone. At the beginning of the 11th century AD, because of the political situation in Central Java, divine monuments in that area, including the Borobudur Temple became completely neglected and given over to decay. The Sanctuary was exposed to volcanic eruption and other ravages of nature. The temple was not rediscovered until the 19th century. A first restoration campaign, supervised by Theodor van Erp, was undertaken shortly after the turn of the century. A second one was led more recently (1973-82).
A harmonious marriage of stupas, temple-mountain and the ritual diagram, this temple complex was built on several levels around a hill which forms a natural centre. The first level above the base comprises five square terraces, graduated in size and forming the base of a pyramid. Above this level are three concentric circular platforms crowned by the main stupa. Stairways provide access to this monumental stupa. The base and the balustrades enclosing the square terraces are decorated in reliefs sculpted in the stone. They illustrate the different phases of the soul's progression towards redemption and episodes from the life of Buddha. The circular terraces are decorated with no fewer than 72 openwork stupas each containing a statue of Buddha.
Stylistically the art of Borobudur is a tributary of Indian influences (Gupta and post-Gupta styles). The walls of Borobudur are sculptured in bas-reliefs, extending over a total length of 6 km. It has been hailed as the largest and most complete ensemble of Buddhist reliefs in the world, unsurpassed in artistic merit, each scene an individual masterpiece. The narratives reliefs on the main walls read from the right to left, those on the balustrade from left to right. This was done for the purpose of the Pradaksina, the ritual circumambulation which the pilgrims make moving on the clockwise and keeping the sanctuary to the right.
The Karmawibangga reliefs on the hidden foot are devoted to the law of karma. The Lalitavistara series do not provide a complete biography of the Buddha, from the Hushita heaven and end his sermon in the Deer Park near the Benares. Jataka are stories about the Buddha before he was born as Prince Sidharta. Awadana are similar to Jataka, but the main figure is not the Boddhisatva, and the saintly deeds are attributed to other legendary persons.
The stories are compiled in the Dvijavadana (Glorious Heavenly Acts) and the Awadana Sataka (Hundred Awadanas). The first twenty panels in the lower series of the first gallery depict, the Sudhanakumaravadana. The series of reliefs covering the wall of the second gallery is devoted to Sudhana's tireless wanderings in search of the Highest Perfect Wisdom. The story is continued on the wall and balustrade of the third and fourth galleries. Its depiction in most of the 460 panels is based on the holy Nahayana text Gandavyuha, the concluding scenes being derived from another text, the Badracari.

Borobudur, the Biggest Buddhist Temple in the Ninth Century


Who does not know Borobudur? This Buddhist temple has 1460 relief panels and 504 Buddha effigies in its complex. Millions of people are eager to visit this building as one of the World Wonder Heritages. It is not surprising since architecturally and functionally, as the place for Buddhists to say their prayer, Borobudur is attractive.
Borobudur was built by King Samaratungga, one of the kings of Old Mataram Kingdom, the descendant of Sailendra dynasty. Based on Kayumwungan inscription, an Indonesian named Hudaya Kandahjaya revealed that Borobudur was a place for praying that was completed to be built on 26 May 824, almost one hundred years from the time the construction was begun. The name of Borobudur, as some people say, means a mountain having terraces (budhara), while other says that Borobudur means monastery on the high place.
Borobudur is constructed as a ten-terraces building. The height before being renovated was 42 meters and 34.5 meters after the renovation because the lowest level was used as supporting base. The first six terraces are in square form, two upper terraces are in circular form, and on top of them is the terrace where Buddha statue is located facing westward. Each terrace symbolizes the stage of human life. In line with of Buddha Mahayana, anyone who intends to reach the level of Buddha's must go through each of those life stages.
The base of Borobudur, called Kamadhatu, symbolizes human being that are still bound by lust. The upper four stories are called Rupadhatu symbolizing human beings that have set themselves free from lust but are still bound to appearance and shape. On this terrace, Buddha effigies are placed in open space; while the other upper three terraces where Buddha effigies are confined in domes with wholes are called Arupadhatu, symbolizing human beings that have been free from lust, appearance and shape. The top part that is called Arupa symbolizes nirvana, where Buddha is residing.
Each terrace has beautiful relief panels showing how skillful the sculptors were. In order to understand the sequence of the stories on the relief panels, you have to walk clockwise from the entrance of the temple. The relief panels tell the legendary story of Ramayana. Besides, there are relief panels describing the condition of the society by that time; for example, relief of farmers' activity reflecting the advance of agriculture system and relief of sailing boat representing the advance of navigation in Bergotta (Semarang).
All relief panels in Borobudur temple reflect Buddha's teachings. For the reason, this temple functions as educating medium for those who want to learn Buddhism. YogYES suggests that you walk through each narrow passage in Borobudur in order for you to know the philosophy of Buddhism. Atisha, a Buddhist from India in the tenth century once visited this temple that was built 3 centuries before Angkor Wat in Cambodia and 4 centuries before the Grand Cathedrals in Europe.
Thanks to visiting Borobudur and having supply of Buddha teaching script from Serlingpa (King of Sriwijaya), Atisha was able to improve Buddha's teachings after his return to India and he built a religion institution, Vikramasila Buddhism. Later he became the leader of Vikramasila monastery and taught Tibetans of practicing Dharma. Six scripts from Serlingpa were then summarized as the core of the teaching called "The Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment" or well known as Bodhipathapradipa.
A question about Borobudur that is still unanswered by far is how the condition around the temple was at the beginning of its foundation and why at the time of it's finding the temple was buried. Some hypotheses claim that Borobudur in its initial foundation was surrounded by swamps and it was buried because of Merapi explosion. It was based on Kalkutta inscription with the writing 'Amawa' that means sea of milk. The Sanskrit word was used to describe the occurrence of disaster. The sea of milk was then translated into Merapi lava. Some others say that Borobudur was buried by cold lava of Merapi Mountain.
With the existing greatness and mystery, it makes sense if many people put Borobudur in their agenda as a place worth visiting in their lives. Besides enjoying the temple, you may take a walk around the surrounding villages such as Karanganyar and Wanurejo. You can also get to the top of Kendil stone where you can enjoy Borobudur and the surrounding scenery. Please visit Borobudur temple right away...

Text: Yunanto Wiji Utomo