Borobudur, an inspirational temple in Yogyakarta

Exploring archaeological sites is the highlight of a trip to Yogjakarta, Indonesia, and should be at the top of every visitor’s itinerary.
There are many ancient temples that will fascinate and amaze you with their intricate architecture, but the most notable of these is the Buddhist temple called Borobudur.  
I was hugely impressed when I recently visited this vast temple, whose architectural beauty and complexity represents the importance of Buddhism.
I was one of a group of visitors as part of a “Familiarisation Trip” in August, organised by the Embassy of the Republic Indonesia to Laos.

Buddha statue sits inside a dome at the top of the temple.

Even though my visit was a while ago, the temple remains embedded in my memory and everyone who can should share in this inspirational experience.  
The magnificent Borobudur temple is the world’s biggest Buddhist monument. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991 and is considered to be one of the world’s seven wonders.
The temple sits majestically on a hilltop overlooking lush green fields and distant hills, situated to the northwest of Yogyakarta in Java Island.
Entry to the temple costs 365,000 rupiah for adults and 218,000 rupiah (about 128,000 kip) for children.  
Our group was taken on a tour of the site by an entertaining and very knowledgeable guide. He shared stories of Borobudur and showed us where to get take the best photos and where to sit in order to get the best view.
“Borobudur was built in the 9th century during the reign of the Syailendra dynasty. The temple’s design in Gupta architecture reflects India’s influence on the region, yet there are enough indigenous scenes and elements incorporated to make Borobudur uniquely Indonesian,” our guide told us.
“The architecture and stonework have no equal. The temple was built without using any kind of cement or mortar. The structure is like a set of massive interlocking Lego blocks held together without any glue,” he explained.
The temple has remained strong even through 10 centuries of neglect. It was rediscovered in 1815, buried under volcanic ash.
In the 1970s the Indonesian government and UNESCO worked together to restore Borobudur to its former majesty. The restoration took eight years to complete and today Borobudur is one of Indonesia’s and the world’s most valuable treasures.
It covers an enormous area, measuring 123 x 123 metres. The monument is a marvel of design, decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues.
Borobudur temple is built to represent the many layers of Buddhist theory, and according to this Buddhist cosmology, the universe is divided into three major zones.
The first section is called “Kamadhatu” which describes humans that are able to control desires and is considered to be the foundation section.
The second section is called “Rupadhatu” and portrays humans that are able to control desires yet are still bound by forms.
The third section is called “Arupadhatu” which portrays the nirvana and sunyata worlds, described by three terraces in the form of circles.
The temple is decorated with stone carvings in bas-relief, representing images from the life of Buddha. Commentators claim that this is the largest and most complete ensemble of Buddhist reliefs in the world, unsurpassed in artistic merit.
As our guide led us through the stunning entrance gate, the various zones of the ancient temple could be seen with their Buddha images and impressive stone bridges.
This was without doubt the experience of a lifetime and a chance to visit this awe-inspiring temple must not be turned down. And it’s important to learn about its history and the significance of the images carved in the many stone reliefs.
When we reached the top of the temple we saw a central dome or stupa that was bigger than the other domes.
A guide suggested that we walk around the stupa three times as a gesture of humility and pray to the Buddha.
After we finished worshipping we enjoyed the spectacular panoramic view surrounding the temple, and naturally everyone took numerous photos.
As we walked down from the temple along a pedestrian-only street to our bus, we saw many souvenir stalls selling row upon row of local products, with vendors clamouring for our custom.
“If you’re not interested you can say no and walk away quickly,” our guide advised us.
Borobudur and nearby temples are just one hour’s drive from Yogyakarta. The easiest way to get there is by joining a tour or renting a car, or for more information see www.borobudurpark.com.
We also visited Prambanan, Lumbang and Sewu temples and the Kraton Sultan Palace, and watched the sunset at Parangtritis Beach.
There are many other wonderful places that we didn’t have time to see so I really hope I get the chance to return one day and discover more of Indonesia’s treasures.

 

By Lamphone Pasanthong
(Latest Update December 6, 2018)

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