The magnificent Borobudur temple is the world’s biggest Buddhist monument, an ancient site widely considered to be one of the world’s seven wonders. 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. This awe inspiring monument is truly a marvel. After a visit here you will understand why it is Indonesia’s most visited tourist attraction and a famous icon of Indonesia’s cultural heritage.
Located on the island of Java, the temple sits majestically on a hilltop overlooking lush green fields and distant hills. It covers an enormous area, measuring 123 x 123 meters. The monument is a marvel of design, decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. The architecture and stonework of this temple has no equal. And it 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.
The temple has remained strong even through ten centuries of neglect. It was rediscovered in 1815, buried under volcanic ash. In the 1970’s 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 and the world’s most valuable treasures.
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.
This monument is both a shrine to the Lord Buddha and a place for Buddhist pilgrimage. The ten levels of the temple symbolize the three divisions of the religion’s cosmic system. As visitors begin their journey at the base of the temple, they make their way to the top of the monument through the three levels of Budhist cosmology, KÄmadhÄtu (the world of desire), Rupadhatu (the world of forms) and Arupadhatu (the world of formlessness). As visitors walk to the top the monument guides the pilgrims past 1,460 narrative relief panels on the wall and the balustrades.
The whole monument resembles a giant stupa, but seen from above it forms a mandala. The great stupa at the top of the temple sits 40 meters above the ground. This main dome is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues seated inside perforated stupa.
Historians suggest that the name of Borobudur comes from the Sanskrit ‘Vihara Buddha Uhr’ or the ‘Buddhist monastery on the hill’.
For a better understanding of the temple and its detailed stone displays, you can join a tour or hire a licensed tour guide.
When you reach the top of the temple, spend some time to rest and marvel at the magnificent view. At the top of Borobudur you will find vacant space which is symbolic of the fact that emptiness signifies completion.
As you take in the view of the surrounding lush mountain landscape, feel the wind blowing gently. You’re free to take as many photos as you like to capture the moment.
Local superstition says that if you climb this temple with one wish deep in your thoughts, reach your hand inside the bell-like stupa at the top of the temple, and successfully touch the Buddha’s figure inside, your wish will come true.
Take note of the stone carvings surrounding the temple. There are many stories in these stone displays. Make sure your guide recounts some of the stories reflected in these stones. If you’re a writer or a poet, these stories might inspire you.
Another interesting feature of Borobudur is the Menorah hill on its north. If you look at it carefully, the hills contour is shaped like a sleeping person. That makes Borobudur appear to stand tall beside a “sleeping person”.
The museum of Samudera Raksa will teach you about the merchants who traveled Indonesia and Africa in ancient times and modern attempts to recreate these voyages.
The Karmawibhangga Museum on the grounds of the temple is a great source of information for everything about this magnificent place.
Borobudur is only one hour’s drive from Yogyakarta. The easiest way to get there is by joining a tour or renting a car.
During your journey to Borobudur, enjoy the fresh cool air of Magelang city with its roads lined with big shady trees. Borobudur stands tall against the spectacular backdrop of the Menoreh mountain range that surrounds it.
Entering the temple compound is easy and most visitors choose to wander around on foot. Alternatively you can chart a cart (pulled by a horse) at a reasonable price.
The best way to explore this site is on foot. As you climb to the top of this magnificent temple you will marvel at the intricate detailed stone carvings displayed on the temples walls. You will certainly miss a great experience if you visit this enormous temple without learning about its history and importance which are captured on its many reliefs.
Guides are available for around fifty thousand rupiah. This is a wise investment as a guide will be able to walk you around the site and explain the history of the temple, beginning with its construction during the Syailendra dynasty. The stone carvings attached to the temple display legends and stories which have great philosophical significance.
For visitors with children, don’t miss the massive green grass area surrounding the Borobudur site.
You may choose to walk through Green Park from the entrance. Many vendors will offer you souvenirs and other knick knacks as you walk through this area, however there are regulations in place to prevent them from disturbing visitors.
- Held once a year during a full moon in May, the Vesak (Waisak) festival attracts many pilgrims and visitors. This is a Buddhist festival celebrating the birth, death and enlightenment of Buddha. If you’re interested in cultural festivals, this is an ideal time to visit Borobudur.
- Dress respectfully in light and comfortable clothes.
- Hire a licensed tour guide, so you’ll get better information.
- During a dry season, you should wear a hat or an umbrella to protect yourself from the sun or the occasional shower. You can rent one for around Rp.2,000 (about US $0.18)
Source: Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, Republic of Indonesia