Borobudur is a massive Buddhist monument, the largest in the world, located in Central Java, Indonesia. Borobudur Temple is 42 km northwest of Yogyakarta. The structure of the temple is influenced by Gupta and post-Gupta style of Indian art. The monument was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.
History of Borobudur
The largest Buddhist temple in the world was built between 778 and 850 CE during the reign of the Shailendra dynasty. For years after 1000 CE, the temple was buried under volcanic ash and forests grew above it. In 1814, a chance discovery by English Lieutenant Governor Thomas Stamford Raffles revealed the site of the temple. Recognizing the historical significance of the temple, archaeologists began excavations in 1907 and by 1911 had successfully restored the site. In 1983, another round of restoration activities was also carried out.
Borobudur temple architecture
Borobudur temple is shaped like a stepped pyramid with three main levels. The levels include a square base, a middle level with 5 square terraces and an upper level that comes with 3 circular terraces. In total there are 9 levels, large and small, a number associated with the sacred in Buddhism. The entire temple is built with 2,000,000 cubic feet of gray volcanic stone. At the center of this structure is a single large stupa located at a height of 115 feet above the base of the temple.
What does the architecture of the temple symbolize?
The three main levels of the Borobudur temple represent the major stages of life to be passed before reaching the ideal of enlightenment or bodhisattva. A pilgrim to the temple should start climbing starting from the east staircase and then move clockwise around the 9 levels of the monument. The summit can be reached by walking a distance of 5 km or 9 miles. The lowest level displays hundreds of reliefs of earthly desires which represent “the realm of feeling”. It is these earthly desires that must be overcome in order to reach the higher levels of life. The next major level represents the “realm of form” through a series of reliefs illustrating the life of the Buddha and scenes from the Jatakas. “The formless realm” is symbolized by the highest level because it lacks much decoration and is quite simple in appearance. However, the terraces of this level are lined with 72 bell-shaped stupas many of which house a Buddha statue inside partially visible through the perforated masonry.