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Borobudur

Listed under Sacred Spaces in Magelang, Indonesia.

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Sometime before the 5th century AD Hinduism and Buddhism spread from Southeast Asia to the islands of the Indonesian archipelago. The first stone temples, Hindu shrines of the 8th century, are found on the Dieng plateau of Java. The greatest concentration of Javanese sacred architecture however, lies near the city of Yogyakarta. Here stand the Hindu temple complex of Prambanam and the Hindu/Buddhist temple of Borobudur.

Borobudur is commonly considered a Buddhist structure, yet its first and second terraces were Hindu constructions begun in 775 AD. From 790 to 835 AD, the Buddhist Sailendra dynasty completed the great stupa. Soon thereafter, the Hindu Sanjaya dynasty took over the Buddhist monuments of the Sailendra. Although the Sanjaya were Hindu, they ruled over a Buddhist majority and Borobudur remained a Buddhist site. During the 10th and 11th centuries the great stupa fell into decline and lay forgotten, buried under volcanic ash and jungle growth. Europeans cleared the site in 1815, the Dutch began its restoration in the early 1900’s, and a US project begun in 1973 completed the work.

Borobudur is a massive, symmetrical monument, 200 square meters in size, sitting upon a low hill. The stupa represents a Buddhist cosmological model of the universe organized around the axis of mythical Mt. Meru. Beginning at the eastern gateway, pilgrims circumambulate the stupa in a clockwise direction. Walking through five kilometers of open air corridors while ascending six square terraces and three circular ones, the pilgrim symbolically spirals upward from the everyday world to the Nirvanic state of absolute nothingness. The first six terraces are decorated with panels showing Buddhist doctrines and a panorama of 9th century Javanese life. Upon the upper three terraces are 72 smaller stupas, each of which once contained a statue of the Buddha. Crowning the entire structure is a great central stupa. Representing Nirvana, it is empty.

Borobudur Information on Sacred Sites.

Written by  Martin Gray.

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Written by press. UNESCO

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

Borobudur

Borobudur is a Buddhist Mahayana monument dating from the ninth century. It is a large stone structure built of six square platforms of reducing sizes like the pyramids, topped with three circular platforms and decorated with more than 2,000 carved stone panels and 504 statues of Buddha.

The monument is shrine to Buddha and a place for Buddhist pilgrimage. Pilgrims start at the base of the monument and follow a path leading upwards through a system of stairways and corridors, symbolising the ascension through the three levels of the Buddhist cosmology.

Borobudur was abandoned during the 14th century and was rediscovered in 1814. Since then it has been restored several times. It is now listed as a World Heritage site and is still a place of pilgrimage.

The Buddhist Spiritual Centre of Java

The imposing Temple of Borobudur was the Buddhist spiritual centre of Java at the end of the 1st Century. It is built entirely of volcanic rock layered to form a six-stepped pyramid, peaked by three statue-encircled terraces and a central stupa.

Each of the ten levels represents a step towards complete personal enlightenment, and they include 92 different meditating Buddha statues and stone relief depictions of the Buddha's previous lives. The whole structure forms the shape of the sacred lotus flower, and rests at the peak of a green foothill beneath four volcanoes, overlooking a garden of palm trees and serene rice fields.

Stupa at Borobudur Buddhist Temple

Mounds known as stupas are common structures to find at sacred Buddhist sites. They are decorated and formed in a symbolic manner intended to venerate Buddha and promote his teachings. The largest and most detailed stupa in the world, as well as the planet’s biggest Buddhist monument in general, is found in Borobudur, Indonesia. Built in the 8th century, it is a World Heritage Site laid out in symbolic a representation of the universe.

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