The Temple of Borobudur of Indonesia

In the heart of Java's jungle, the TEMPLE OF BOROBUDUR is the largest temple in South-East Asia, measuring more than a kilometre in circumference. However, it is a baffling place to be. Why was such a magnificent Buddhist temple constructed in such a remote and inaccessible location?

The Temple of Borobudur.
Enormous stupas and colossal figures of Buddha are found everywhere on the step pyramid of the Temple of Borobudur.
What might this massive temple be used for in central Java, one of the most inaccessible areas in all of South-east Asia, and what could it possibly be used for? Many questions have still to be answered. For millennia, the Temple of Borobudur lay dormant in the jungle, like Sleeping Beauty, encircled by trees and wrapped in vines like a sleeping beauty. The Temple of Boro-budur, which was just rediscovered in the nineteenth century, is now a popular tourist destination for both Buddhist pilgrims and tourists alike. Those who visit this sacred Buddhist location report feeling a distinct sense of serenity and satisfaction, almost as if they can nearly sense the breath of Buddha himself.

According to historical records, the temple complex was built during the Salilendra dynasty (750-850), most likely around the year 800-900. There are only a few records, and the information isn't very specific. The "Thousand Sculpture Mountain" was built here by disciples of Buddha on top of solid foundations, and it is still standing today. But why was the Temple of Borobudur constructed in the first place? Interestingly, even the experts are divided on this subject. In fact, we know for definite that its construction was completed in 830 and that it served as the centre of Buddhism on Java until 919, when it was gradually abandoned by the local population. It goes without saying that when a location like this is abandoned, its deterioration and destruction are bound to occur, as was the case with Borobudur. 

Bas reliefs decorate the walls that climb along the rising galleries. The total length of the reliefs is over 5 KM.
Bas reliefs decorate the walls that climb along the rising galleries. The total length of the reliefs is over 5 KM.
Volcanic eruptions severely damaged the structure, and what was left after the natural disaster was quickly overgrown by the creeping green carpet of the jungle that covered the area. It was during an expedition led by the governor of Java, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, that the temple hill in the jungle was rediscovered in 1814, and it was Raffles who officially placed the temple on the map. The first part of the complex would only be cleared in 1835, as archaeologists and other experts, realising that a great treasure lay buried beneath the mounds of volcanic debris, trees, and thick overgrowth, became increasingly attracted to the site as the discovery of the treasure became more widely known. 

They advocated for the total exposure of the ruins and fought to ensure that they would be preserved. However, it was not until 1955, after years of diplomatic negotiations, that the Indonesian government, working in collaboration with UNESCO, reached an agreement allowing for the excavation and restoration of the temple. The construction work was ultimately started in 1973. Borobudur was completed in 1983, and it radiated with all of its ancient splendour. The presence of the Buddha's spirit was once again felt. Borobudur appears to be a stepped pyramid when viewed from a distance. The structure itself is composed of nine levels, with a nearly square plan and a total floor area of approximately 15,000 m'. On top of this are six galleries that are nearly square in shape and get smaller in size as they rise, followed by three circular terraces with seventy-two stupas each. 

Over 500 Buddha statues adorn the temple.
Over 500 Buddha statues adorn the temple.

The main stupa, a pagoda with a diameter of nearly 11 metres, is located at the very top of the structure. Buddha's life and work are depicted in figural reliefs in the six square galleries, which are divided into three sections. Their combined length exceeds 5 kilometres. The Temple of Borobudur embodies the most fundamental and ultimate truth of Buddhism: the very nature of the universe. The universe is divided into three divisions according to Buddhist cosmology. The realm of Kamadhatu, which is inhabited by humans, is a world of wishes and desires. Rupadhatu is a transitory world in which people are liberated from their physical bodies as well as their attachments to material possessions. 

Finally, there is Arupadhatu, the world of the gods, which is a perfect universe where everyone has achieved complete enlightenment and bliss. Borobudur is being constructed in accordance with this view of the world. Every component of the temple complex is dedicated to one of these three realms of existence, and every part of the temple complex is dedicated to all three. Officials are making every effort to ensure that this important Buddhist pilgrimage destination will be around for generations to come. It has been in existence since 1995, and it is intended to keep this cultural treasure of incalculable value protected for another thousand years by imposing restrictions on the hordes of visitors that come to see it.

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