Borobudur: The biggest Buddhist Temple in the World!


Borobudur-Temple-in-Central-Java-510x334

Borobudur, or Barabudur, is a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist Temple in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia. The monument consists of six square platforms topped by three circular platforms, and is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. A main dome, located at the center of the top platform, is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues seated inside a perforated stupa.

Built in the 9th century during the reign of the Sailendra Dynasty, the temple’s design in Gupta architecture reflects India’s influence on the region. It also depicts the gupta style from India and shows influence of Buddhism as well as Hinduism. The monument is both a shrine to the Lord Buddhaand a place for Buddhist pilgrimage. The journey for pilgrims begins at the base of the monument and follows a path around the monument and ascends to the top through three levels symbolic of Buddhist cosmology: Kāmadhātu (the world of desire), Rupadhatu (the world of forms) andArupadhatu (the world of formlessness). The monument guides pilgrims through an extensive system of stairways and corridors with 1,460 narrative relief panels on the walls and the balustrades.

Evidence suggest Borobudur was constructed in the 9th century and abandoned following the 14th century decline of Hindu kingdoms in Java, and theJavanese conversion to Islam. Worldwide knowledge of its existence was sparked in 1814 by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, then the British ruler of Java, who was advised of its location by native Indonesians. Borobudur has since been preserved through several restorations. The largest restoration project was undertaken between 1975 and 1982 by the Indonesian government and UNESCO, following which the monument was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Borobudur is still used for pilgrimage; once a year Buddhists in Indonesia celebrate Vesak at the monument, and Borobudur is Indonesia’s single most visited tourist attraction.

380px-Borobudur_Map_en.svg

Location

Approximately 40 kilometres (25 mi) northwest of Yogyakarta and 86 kilometres (53 mi) west of Surakarta, Borobudur is located in an elevated area between two twin volcanoes, Sundoro-Sumbing and Merbabu-Merapi, and two rivers, the Progoand the Elo. According to local myth, the area known as Kedu Plain is a Javanese ‘sacred’ place and has been dubbed ‘the garden of Java’ due to its high agricultural fertility. During the restoration in the early 20th century, it was discovered that three Buddhist temples in the region, Borobudur, Pawon and Mendut, are positioned along a straight line. A ritual relationship between the three temples must have existed, although the exact ritual process is unknown.

Borobudur was built on a bedrock hill, 265 m (869 ft) above sea level and 15 m (49 ft) above the floor of a dried-outpaleolake. The lake’s existence was the subject of intense discussion among archaeologists in the 20th century. In 1931, a Dutch artist and scholar of Hindu and Buddhist architecture, W.O.J. Nieuwenkamp, developed a theory that the Kedu Plain was once a lake and Borobudur initially represented a lotus flower floating on the lake.

Construction

220px-COLLECTIE_TROPENMUSEUM_Temperaschilderij_voorstellende_de_Borobudur_als_bedevaartsoord_TMnr_75-2

There is no written record of who built Borobudur or of its intended purpose. The construction time has been estimated by comparison betweencarved reliefs on the temple’s hidden foot and the inscriptions commonly used in royal charters during the 8th and 9th centuries. Borobudur was likely founded around 800 CE. This corresponds to the period between 760 and 830 CE, the peak of the Sailendra dynasty in central Java,[19] when it was under the influence of the Srivijayan Empire. The construction has been estimated to have taken 75 years and been completed during the reign ofSamaratungga in 825.

There is confusion between Hindu and Buddhist rulers in Java around that time. The Sailendras were known as ardent followers of Buddhism, though stone inscriptions found at Sojomerto suggest they may have been Hindus. It was during this time that many Hindu and Buddhist monuments were built on the plains and mountains around the Kedu Plain. The Buddhist monuments, including Borobudur, were erected around the same time as the Hindu Shiva Prambanan temple compound. In 732 CE, the Shivaite King Sanjaya commissioned a Shivalinga sanctuary to be built on the Wukir hill, only 10 km (6.2 mi) east of Borobudur.

Construction of Buddhist temples, including Borobudur, at that time was possible because Sanjaya’s immediate successor, Rakai Panangkaran, granted his permission to the Buddhist followers to build such temples. In fact, to show his respect, Panangkaran gave the village of Kalasan to the Buddhist community, as is written in the Kalasan Charter dated 778 CE. This has led some archaeologists to believe that there was never serious conflict concerning religion in Java as it was possible for a Hindu king to patronize the establishment of a Buddhist monument; or for a Buddhist king to act likewise. However, it is likely that there were two rival royal dynasties in Java at the time—the Buddhist Sailendra and the Saivite Sanjaya—in which the latter triumphed over their rival in the 856 battle on the Ratubaka plateau. This confusion also exists regarding the Lara Jonggrang temple at the Prambanan complex, which was believed that it was erected by the victor Rakai Pikatan as the Sanjaya dynasty’s reply to Borobudur, but others suggest that there was a climate of peaceful coexistence where Sailendra involvement exists in Lara Jonggrang.

History

Borobudur was built by King Samaratungga, one of the kings of Old Mataram Kingdom, the descendant of Sailendra dynasty. Based on Kayumwungan inscription, an Indonesian named Hudaya Kandahjaya revealed that Borobudur was a place for praying that was completed to be built on 26 May 824, almost one hundred years from the time the construction was begun. The name of Borobudur, as some people say, means a mountain having terraces (budhara), while other says that Borobudur means monastery on the high place.

Borobudur is constructed as a ten-terraces building. The height before being renovated was 42 meters and 34.5 meters after the renovation because the lowest level was used as supporting base. The first six terraces are in square form, two upper terraces are in circular form, and on top of them is the terrace where Buddha statue is located facing westward. Each terrace symbolizes the stage of human life. In line with of Buddha Mahayana, anyone who intends to reach the level of Buddha’s must go through each of those life stages.

The base of Borobudur, called Kamadhatu, symbolizes human being that are still bound by lust. The upper four stories are called Rupadhatu symbolizing human beings that have set themselves free from lust but are still bound to appearance and shape. On this terrace, Buddha effigies are placed in open space; while the other upper three terraces where Buddha effigies are confined in domes with wholes are called Arupadhatu, symbolizing human beings that have been free from lust, appearance and shape. The top part that is called Arupa symbolizes nirvana, where Buddha is residing.restore_borobudur (1)

Borobudur Temple was built by Sailendra dynasty between 750 and 842 AD. In terms of world wide religious structures, it was very early, it would be 300 years before Cambodia’s Angkor Wat was constructed, 400 years before work began on the great European cathedrals.

At this time the Saliendra dynasty built a great number of monuments, both Hindu and Buddhist, in the region there are even temples where the two religions combine, alternating symbolism.

Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles is credited with the re-discovery of Borobudur in 1814. Raffles, who is known as a great admirer of history and culture, alerted the rest of the world to its existence and commissioned a clear up of the site, removing the trees, undergrowth and earth that had built up.

1907 to 1911 saw significant restorations lead by Theo Van Erp.

UNESCO and Indonesian government undertook a complete overhaul of the monument in a big renovation project from 1975 to 1983.

Abandonment

borobudur_aerial

Borobudur lay hidden for centuries under layers of volcanic ash and jungle growth. The facts behind its abandonment remain a mystery. It is not known when active use of the monument and Buddhist pilgrimage to it ceased. Sometime between 928 and 1006, King Mpu Sindok moved the capital of theMedang Kingdom to the region of East Java after a series of volcanic eruptions; it is not certain whether this influenced the abandonment, but several sources mention this as the most likely period of abandonment. The monument is mentioned vaguely as late as ca. 1365, in Mpu Prapanca’sNagarakretagama written during Majapahit era and mentioning “the vihara in Budur”. Soekmono (1976) also mentions the popular belief that the temples were disbanded when the population converted to Islam in the 15th century.

The monument was not forgotten completely, though folk stories gradually shifted from its past glory into more superstitious beliefs associated with bad luck and misery. Two old Javanese chronicles (babad) from the 18th century mention cases of bad luck associated with the monument. According to the Babad Tanah Jawi (or the History of Java), the monument was a fatal factor for Mas Dana, a rebel who revolted against Pakubuwono I, the king ofMataram in 1709. It was mentioned that the “Redi Borobudur” hill was besieged and the insurgents were defeated and sentenced to death by the king. In the Babad Mataram (or the History of the Mataram Kingdom), the monument was associated with the misfortune of Prince Monconagoro, the crown prince of the Yogyakarta Sultanate in 1757. In spite of a taboo against visiting the monument, “he took what is written as the knight who was captured in a cage (a statue in one of the perforated stupas)”. Upon returning to his palace, he fell ill and died one day later.

Rediscovery

220px-Borobudur_photograph_by_van_kinsbergen

Following its capture, Java was under British administration from 1811 to 1816. The appointed governor was Lieutenant Governor-General Thomas Stamford Raffles, who took great interest in the history of Java. He collected Javanese antiques and made notes through contacts with local inhabitants during his tour throughout the island. On an inspection tour to Semarang in 1814, he was informed about a big monument deep in a jungle near the village of Bumisegoro. He was not able to make the discovery himself and sent H.C. Cornelius, a Dutch engineer, to investigate. In two months, Cornelius and his 200 men cut down trees, burned down vegetation and dug away the earth to reveal the monument. Due to the danger of collapse, he could not unearth all galleries. He reported his findings to Raffles including various drawings. Although the discovery is only mentioned by a few sentences, Raffles has been credited with the monument’s recovery, as one who had brought it to the world’s attention.

Hartmann, a Dutch administrator of the Kedu region, continued Cornelius’ work and in 1835 the whole complex was finally unearthed. His interest in Borobudur was more personal than official. Hartmann did not write any reports of his activities; in particular, the alleged story that he discovered the large statue of Buddha in the main stupa. In 1842, Hartmann investigated the main dome although what he discovered remains unknown as the main stupa remains empty.

The Dutch East Indies government then commissioned F.C. Wilsen, a Dutch engineering official, who studied the monument and drew hundreds of relief sketches. J.F.G. Brumund was also appointed to make a detailed study of the monument, which was completed in 1859. The government intended to publish an article based on Brumund study supplemented by Wilsen’s drawings, but Brumund refused to cooperate. The government then commissioned another scholar, C. Leemans, who compiled a monograph based on Brumund’s and Wilsen’s sources. In 1873, the first monograph of the detailed study of Borobudur was published, followed by its French translation a year later. The first photograph of the monument was taken in 1873 by a Dutch-Flemish engraver, Isidore van Kinsbergen.

Appreciation of the site developed slowly, and it served for some time largely as a source of souvenirs and income for “souvenir hunters” and thieves. In 1882, the chief inspector of cultural artifacts recommended that Borobudur be entirely disassembled with the relocation of reliefs into museums due to the unstable condition of the monument. As a result, the government appointed Groenveldt, an archeologist, to undertake a thorough investigation of the site and to assess the actual condition of the complex; his report found that these fears were unjustified and recommended it be left intact.

Borobudur was considered as the source of souvenirs and parts of its sculptures were looted, some even with colonial government consent. In 1896King Chulalongkorn of Siam visited Java and requested and was allowed to take home 8 cartloads of sculptures taken from Borobudur. These includes 30 pieces taken from a number of relief panels, five buddha images, two lions, one gargoyle, several kala motifs from the stairs and gateways, and a guardian statue (dvarapala). Several of these artifacts, most notably the lions, dvarapala, kala, makara and giant waterspouts are now on display in Java Art room in The National Museum in Bangkok.

Restoration

220px-Borobudur_restorationBorobudur attracted attention in 1885, when Yzerman, the Chairman of the Archaeological Society in Yogyakarta, made a discovery about the hidden foot. Photographs that reveal reliefs on the hidden foot were made in 1890–1891. The discovery led the Dutch East Indies government to take steps to safeguard the monument. In 1900, the government set up a commission consisting of three officials to assess the monument: Brandes, an art historian, Theodoor van Erp, a Dutch army engineer officer, and Van de Kamer, a construction engineer from the Department of Public Works. Borobudur attracted attention in 1885, when Yzerman, the Chairman of the Archaeological Society in Yogyakarta, made a discovery about the hidden foot. Photographs that reveal reliefs on the hidden foot were made in 1890–1891. The discovery led the Dutch East Indies government to take steps to safeguard the monument. In 1900, the government set up a commission consisting of three officials to assess the monument: Brandes, an art historian, Theodoor van Erp, a Dutch army engineer officer, and Van de Kamer, a construction engineer from the Department of Public Works. In 1902, the commission submitted a threefold plan of proposal to the government. First, the immediate dangers should be avoided by resetting the corners, removing stones that endangered the adjacent parts, strengthening the first balustrades and restoring several niches, archways, stupas and the main dome. Second, fencing off the courtyards, providing proper maintenance and improving drainage by restoring floors and spouts. Third, all loose stones should be removed, the monument cleared up to the first balustrades, disfigured stones removed and the main dome restored. The total cost was estimated at that time around 48,800 Dutch guilders.

The restoration then was carried out between 1907 and 1911, using the principles of anastylosis and led by Theodor van Erp. The first seven months of his restoration was occupied with excavating the grounds around the monument to find missing Buddha heads and panel stones. Van Erp dismantled and rebuilt the upper three circular platforms and stupas. Along the way, Van Erp discovered more things he could do to improve the monument; he submitted another proposal that was approved with the additional cost of 34,600 guilders. At first glance Borobudur had been restored to its old glory.

Due to the limited budget, the restoration had been primarily focused on cleaning the sculptures, and Van Erp did not solve the drainage problem. Within fifteen years, the gallery walls were sagging and the reliefs showed signs of new cracks and deterioration. Van Erp used concrete from whichalkali salts and calcium hydroxide leached and were transported into the rest of the construction. This caused some problems, so that a further thorough renovation was urgently needed.

Small restorations have been performed since then, but not sufficient for complete protection. In the late 1960s, the Indonesian government had requested from the international community a major renovation to protect the monument. In 1973, a master plan to restore Borobudur was created. The Indonesian government and UNESCOthen undertook the complete overhaul of the monument in a big restoration project between 1975 and 1982. The foundation was stabilized and all 1,460 panels were cleaned. The restoration involved the dismantling of the five square platforms and improved the drainage by embedding water channels into the monument. Both impermeable and filter layers were added. This colossal project involved around 600 people to restore the monument and cost a total of US$ 6,901,243. After the renovation was finished, UNESCO listed Borobudur as a World Heritage Site in 1991. It is listed under Cultural criteria (i) “to represent a masterpiece of human creative genius”, (ii) “to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design”, and (vi) “to be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance”.

Design

Borobudur_Mandala.svg

Borobudur is built as a single large stupa, and when viewed from above takes the form of a giant tantric Buddhist mandala, simultaneously representing the Buddhist cosmology and the nature of mind.[53] The foundation is a square, approximately 118 metres (387 ft) on each side. It has nine platforms, of which the lower six are square and the upper three are circular. The upper platform features seventy-two small stupas surrounding one large central stupa. Each stupa is bell-shaped and pierced by numerous decorative openings. Statues of the Buddha sit inside the pierced enclosures.  The design of Borobudur took the form of a step pyramid.

Previously the prehistoric Austronesian megalithic culture in Indonesia had constructed several earth mounds and stone step pyramid structures called punden berundak as discovered in Pangguyangan, Cisolok and Gunung Padang, West Java. The construction of stone pyramids is based on native beliefs that mountains and high places are the abode of ancestral spirits or hyangs. Thepunden berundak step pyramid is the basic design in Borobudur, believed to be the continuation of older megalithic tradition incorporated with Mahayana Buddhist ideas and symbolism. The monument’s three divisions symbolize the three “realms” of Buddhist cosmology, namely Kamadhatu (the world of desires), Rupadhatu (the world of forms), and finally Arupadhatu (the formless world). Ordinary sentient beings live out their lives on the lowest level, the realm of desire. Those who have burnt out all desire for continued existence leave the world of desire and live in the world on the level of form alone: they see forms but are not drawn to them. Finally, full Buddhas go beyond even form, and experience reality at its purest, most fundamental level, the formless ocean of nirvana.[55] The liberation from the cycle of Saṃsāra where the enlightened soul had no longer attached to worldly form corresponds to the concept of Śūnyatā, the complete voidness or the nonexistence of the self. Kāmadhātu is represented by the base, Rupadhatu by the five square platforms (the body), andArupadhatu by the three circular platforms and the large topmost stupa. The architectural features between three stages have metaphorical differences. For instance, square and detailed decorations in the Rupadhatu disappear into plain circular platforms in the Arupadhatu to represent how the world of forms—where men are still attached with forms and names—changes into the world of the formless.

Congregational worship in Borobudur is performed in a walking pilgrimage. Pilgrims are guided by the system of staircases and corridors ascending to the top platform. Each platform represents one stage of enlightenment. The path that guides pilgrims was designed to symbolize Buddhist cosmology.

In 1885, a hidden structure under the base was accidentally discovered. The “hidden footing” contains reliefs, 160 of which are narratives describing the real Kāmadhātu. The remaining reliefs are panels with short inscriptions that apparently provide instructions for the sculptors, illustrating the scenes to be carved. The real base is hidden by an encasement base, the purpose of which remains a mystery. It was first thought that the real base had to be covered to prevent a disastrous subsidence of the monument into the hill. There is another theory that the encasement base was added because the original hidden footing was incorrectly designed, according to Vastu Shastra, the Indian ancient book about architecture and town planning. Regardless of why it was commissioned, the encasement base was built with detailed and meticulous design and with aesthetic and religious consideration.

Building structure

300px-Borobudur_Cross_Section_en.svg

Approximately 55,000 cubic metres (72,000 cu yd) of andesite stones were taken from neighbouring stone quarries to build the monument. The stone was cut to size, transported to the site and laid without mortar. Knobs, indentations and dovetails were used to form joints between stones. Reliefs were created in situ after the building had been completed.

The monument is equipped with a good drainage system to cater for the area’s high stormwaterrun-off. To prevent flooding, 100 spouts are installed at each corner, each with a unique carvedgargoyle in the shape of a giant or makara.

Borobudur differs markedly from the general design of other structures built for this purpose. Instead of being built on a flat surface, Borobudur is built on a natural hill. However, construction technique is similar to other temples in Java. Without the inner spaces seen in other temples, and with a general design similar to the shape of pyramid, Borobudur was first thought more likely to have served as a stupa, instead of a temple. A stupa is intended as ashrine for the Buddha. Sometimes stupas were built only as devotional symbols of Buddhism. A temple, on the other hand, is used as a house of worship. The meticulous complexity of the monument’s design suggests that Borobudur is in fact a temple.

Little is known about Gunadharma, the architect of the complex. His name is recounted from Javanese folk tales rather than from written inscriptions. The basic unit of measurement used during construction was the tala, defined as the length of a human face from the forehead’s hairline to the tip of the chin or the distance from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the middle finger when both fingers are stretched at their maximum distance. The unit is thus relative from one individual to the next, but the monument has exact measurements. A survey conducted in 1977 revealed frequent findings of a ratio of 4:6:9 around the monument. The architect had used the formula to lay out the precise dimensions of the fractal and self-similar geometry in Borobudur’s design. This ratio is also found in the designs of Pawon and Mendut, nearby Buddhist temples. Archeologists have conjectured that the 4:6:9 ratio and the tala have calendrical, astronomical and cosmological significance, as is the case with the temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

The main structure can be divided into three components: base, body, and top. The base is 123×123 m (403.5 × 403.5 ft) in size with 4 metres (13 ft) walls. The body is composed of five square platforms, each of diminishing height. The first terrace is set back 7 metres (23 ft) from the edge of the base. Each subsequent terrace is set back 2 metres (6.6 ft), leaving a narrow corridor at each stage. The top consists of three circular platforms, with each stage supporting a row of perforated stupas, arranged in concentric circles. There is one main dome at the center; the top of which is the highest point of the monument, 35 metres (115 ft) above ground level. Stairways at the center of each of four sides give access to the top, with a number of arched gates overlooked by 32 lion statues. The gates are adorned with Kala’s head carved on top of each and Makaras projecting from each side. This Kala-Makara motif is commonly found on the gates of Javanese temples. The main entrance is on the eastern side, the location of the first narrative reliefs. Stairways on the slopes of the hill also link the monument to the low-lying plain.

-interesting facts about Borobudur Temple- 
 
  1. Borobudur temple was built between 8th century and 9th century, 300 years before Angkor Wat in Cambodia and 400 years before the great cathedrals in Europe.
  2. Borobudur temple occupies 123×123 m2 and is decorated with 504 Buddha statues, 72 perforated stupas and 1 main stupa. UNESCO acknowledges it as one of the biggest Buddhist monuments in the world.
  3. Borobudur temple comprises 2672 relief panels, and if they are arranged in parallel, the length will reach 6 kilometers! UNESCO recognize it as the biggest and most complete Buddhist relief ensemble in the world which is unequaled in terms of art value in which each single scene is an intact masterpiece.
  4. Borobudur temple was made of 60,000 m3 of volcanic stones from Elo and Progo river which are located about 2 km east of the temple.
  5. Borobudur temple has 100 water gutters in form of makara (elephant headed fish statue) as drainage channels as well as to beautify the temple decoration. In the past, the rainwater ran through makara would be likely as a fountain.
  6. Borobudur temple is a giant puzzle composed by two million volcanic stone cubes which are carved in such a way to interlock each other.
  7. Back at the time when the metric system had not yet discovered, the length measurement unit applied to build Borobudur temple was by extending the thumb and middle finger or by measuring the length of hair from the forehead to the chin.
  8. Borobudur temple was build for 75 years under the supervision of an architect named Gunadharma, of course with no computer assistance at all.
  9. From the mid of 9th century until the beginning of 11th century, Borobudur temple became a Buddhist pilgrimage destination of people from China, India, Tibet and Cambodia.
  10. On the lower rectangular levels, stone carved panels tell the story of the Buddhist Sutras, in total there are 1,460 intricate scenes.
  11. 504 Buddha statues sit, facing out to nature, demonstrating a range of hand positions.
  12. Abandoned at around 1100AD when the power shifted from central to western Java, ash from the local volcanoes covered Borobudur and the vivacious jungle then grew up around and over it.

100_6363 DSC01633

Come, See and Enjoy 🙂

Advertisements

6 responses to “Borobudur: The biggest Buddhist Temple in the World!

  1. warm welcome 🙂 when i came to Indonesia , first of all, i went to Yogjakarta to see one of the standing wonders of the world with my naked eyes… i am telling you it was really awesome and at that time i have started collecting info about Borobudur

    Like

  2. Pingback: Leaving Indonesia | Joe Blogs

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s