Introducing Borobudur Temple
Posted on : 30 November 2012
Categories : Culture and Heritage
Borobudur temple is a Buddhist temple in central Java. It was built around the end of eighth century but it took three generations to finish it. During my two weeks trip in Indonesia, I had a chance to visit Borobudur temple at sunrise.
World’s Largest Buddhist Temple
By Guinness World Records, “The largest Buddhist temple in the world is Borobudur, near Yogyakarta, central Java, Indonesia, built between AD 750 and 842. The 60,000 m ( 2,118,880 ft ) stone structure is 34.5 m (113 ft) tall and its base measures 123 x 123 m (403 x 403 ft).”
If you see Borobudur temple in the air, it looks like a lotus flower; the symbol of purity in Buddhism. The Borobudur temple represents the three zones of the universe. Zone 1, the base level is called Kamadhatu, representing the phenomenal world, the world inhabited by common people. Zone 2 is Rapadhatu, representing the transitional sphere, in which humans are released from worldly matters. Zone 3 is Arupadhatu, representing the highest sphere. The main stupa, or main dome is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues seated inside a stupa.
The total of 504 Buddha statues in Borobudur temple are representing six different meditative pose with their hand positions. Some of them are facing different directions. The most visible ones at the top level, around the main stupa are representing Dharmachakra Mudra: turning the wheels of dharma (what goes around comes around).
The whole temple was built as one giant stupa, and the biggest one in the middle is surrounded by 72 stupas on the top level. The unique shape of the stupa is representing four possessions of Buddha: walking stick, lotus flower, plate and cup. Some people say it’s representing walking stick, lotus flower and a bowl.
Borobudur contains approximately 2,670 individual bas reliefs, which cover the faades and balustrades. The total relief surface is 2,500 square metres and they are distributed at the hidden foot and the five square platforms.
Reliefs at Borobudur temple
The reliefs are showing diverse subjects: the daily life of Javanese people, mythical spiritual beings, the life of Buddha and so on. There are different stories in each level. The first four terrace walls are showcases for bas-relief sculptures. These are exquisite, considered to be the most elegant and graceful in the ancient Buddhist world. The ground level has hidden reliefs behind the wall, but you can see the part of them in the museum.
Abandonment and rediscovery
Borobudur temple was abandoned and destroyed for centuries when the center of Javanese life shifted to the East and Islam arrived on the island in the 13th and 14th centuries. It was also hidden under the volcanic ash and vegetation during the time. It was rediscovered by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, British governor of Java at that moment in 1814. Fortunately, the restoration continued. The decline of Borobudur was arrested by tighter regulations and one of the most ambitious international preservation projects ever attempted. The “Save Borobudur” campaign was launched in 1968 through the government of Indonesia and UNESCO.