Home Travel UNESCO World Heritage Site in Central Java, Borobudur Temple

UNESCO World Heritage Site in Central Java, Borobudur Temple

by Tom Rider

The most popular tourist attraction in Indonesia, the royal Borobudur temple in Central Java, is also the largest Buddhist monument in the world. The colossal pyramid-shaped architecture was developed from the 8th and stone blocks 9th centuries out of thousands of enormous stone blocks and is organized in ascending platforms. The first five terraces are square, along with the upper three-round. The entire temple is crowned by a large central stupa (bell-shaped shrine) that will help Borobudur its distinctive silhouette.

The walls and balustrades of the lower degrees are adorned with richly carved stone reliefs that tell the story of Buddha’s enlightenment and provide a feast for the eyes in addition to a holy path for pilgrims who walk around the terraces in a clockwise fashion. When you reach the upper three levels, you leave behind the ‘earthly’ atmosphere of these panelled terraces and input a calm space dominated by hundreds of openwork rock stupas along with Buddha statues.

Over the centuries, Borobudur has been included at the Seven Wonders of the World several times. A wholesale renovation of the temple under the advice of UNESCO was finished in 1983. Also, together with the nearby Mendut and Pawon temples, it’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Hiring among those knowledgeable, multilingual guides in the Visitor Assistance Centre is key to understanding the tales associated with the rock carvings. As you climb to the summit and look out across the surrounding hills and rice fields, you’ll be able to feel the background and spiritual symbolism of the magical time that is still honored by local people of all religions.

The History

This was roughly three centuries ahead of the construction of Cambodia’s famed Angkor Wat temple complex. After energy shifted to east Java from the 10th century, Borobudur dropped into neglect and eventually became covered in volcanic ash and dropped into the jungle. The temple remained forgotten mainly before the British Army of Java, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, learned its presence in 1814 and arranged it sporadically.

Sadly, once uncovered, local and overseas plunderers destroyed many statues and reliefs, and the porous stone was eroded by the warm sun and constant rain. In the early 20th century, Dutch specialists conducted a partial recovery. But, it was not until 1983, once the thorough eight-year renovation project undertaken by UNESCO and the Indonesian authorities was completed, that Borobudur had been returned to its former glory.

The Characteristic

An enormous pyramid that climbs to a height of 34.5 yards and covers an area of 123 x 123 meters, Borobudur is the world’s largest Buddhist temple. Unusually, there’s no inner chamber, with all decorative and devotional adornments appearing on the temple’s exterior.

The monument stands on a mountain and comprises five square terraces, each adorned with carved rock wall panels, mostly depicting Buddha’s previous lives and enlightenment. You will find 1,460 narrative panels and 1,212 decorative panels. These are just three circular platforms with 504 bell-shaped stupas, a few of which include Buddha statues. In contrast with the lower terraces, the upper levels exude a calm, peaceful atmosphere that reflects the higher consciousness achieved by meticulous Buddhists. In the above, the complex is shaped like a Mandala.

The central stupa sits at the peak of the temple. Its two chambers are vacant but may have housed figurines initially. The first square terrace was concealed underground and stays partly buried. Its 160 panels show scenes of crime and punishment, superior deeds and benefits, heaven and hell, and everyday life. The reliefs over the four terraces are arranged from right to left (on the walls) and left to right (on the balustrades), in agreement with the clockwise circulation done by pilgrims.

Before you plan a trip to Borobudur, be sure to read more about Borobudur and Indonesia by visiting Wonderful Indonesia.