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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe awesome Borobudur Temple which is considered the world’s largest Buddhist monument, is a very ancient religious site that has been widely considered as one of the Seven Wonders of this world.
The Borobudur Temple was constructed during the 9th century by the monarchs of the Syailendra dynasty who ruled central Java in Indonesia during that time.
Although the Borobudur Temple has several unique Indonesian aspects in its architectural style, however this temple also reflects Indian architectural resemblances pertaining to the Gupta architectural style.
As one of the most visited tourist attraction and also a famous cultural heritage of Indonesia, Borobudur is truly a marvel on stones that sits on a hilltop overlooking the lush, green fields and distant hills on Java Island.
EtymologyAlthough there are several etymological disputes about the origin of the name ‘Borobudur’, however according to most accepted references, the name Borobudur has possibly been derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Vihara Buddha Uhr’ which means “Buddhist Monastery on the Hill”.
The Sanskrit word ‘Vihara Buddha Uhr’, when it is pronounced in a corrupted, simplified, local Javanese dialect, its sounds more akin to “Biara Beduhur”.
HistoryAlthough there are no written records as to who started building this majestic temple, nor are there any clues about the intended purpose of building such a magnanimous edifice, however it has been estimated from the archaeological findings that this temple was constructed around 800 CE.
This was the time when the mighty Sailendra dynasty ruled Java (760-830CE) under the influence of the Srivijayan Empire.
According to historical records, the construction of this temple was completed during the reign of King Samaratungga in 825 CE.
It took around 75 years to complete the construction of this Buddhist monument in central Java.
Later on as King Mpu Sindok moved the capital city of the Medang Kingdom to East Java and owing to the decline of Buddhism in the Indonesian territories, Borobudur was abandoned soon after its completion and thereafter, this place lay forgotten for centuries, buried under layers of volcanic ash and dense tropical undergrowth.
It was in 1815 CE, when Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles governed Java that this historic site was cleared and people once again regained their knowledge about the historic ruins of Borobudur.
Thereafter, during the early 20th century, the Dutch began tackling the restoration of the Borobudur Temple complex. But over the passage of several centuries, the supporting hills around this temple had become waterlogged, the immense stone mass of this monument started subsiding and so, it took approximately $25 million USD to restore this historic edifice between 1973 and 1983.
Nevertheless, on January 21st 1985, another misfortune happened to this temple as bombs planted by the opponents of Soeharto exploded on the upper layers of this historic site.
Many stupas inside the temple complex were damaged by this felonious act which were also later on completely restored. This restoration demonstrated the structure’s timeless resilience, and in 1991 Borobudur gained the status of a World Heritage site.
,h2>Architecture and StyleThe Borobudur Temple complex covers an enormous area which measures 123 square meters. The inside of the monument is decorated with 504 Buddhist statues, most of which are headless and disfigured due to the ravages of time and 2,672 relief panels which depicts various stages of Gautama Buddha’s life.
This monument, which is a marvel of design, was built like a set of massive interlocking Lego blocks which were held together without the use of any kind of cement, mortar, or glue.
This monument is both a place for Buddhist pilgrimage and also a shrine to Lord Buddha.
The ten levels of this temple symbolizes the three divisions of the Buddhist cosmic system.
As a visitor making their way to the top of this monument, one must start their journey from the base of this temple and then walks through the three levels of Buddhist cosmology:
Although from the ground, the Borobudur monument resembles a giant stupa, but when seen from above, the structure replicates the form of a Buddhist mandala .
This great stupa sits 131 feet above the ground, and the main dome of this gigantic holy structure is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues, those that are seated inside the perforated stupas carved on this edifice.
Approximately 72,000 cubic yards of Andesite stones, which were transported from neighboring stone quarries, were used for the construction of this gigantic monument. The reliefs that were engraved upon the temple walls were created in-situ after the completion of this edifice.
The bas-relief in Borobudur depicts several scenes of the 8th-century daily life in ancient Java. These reliefs illustrates sculptured images of hermits in the forest, temples, various flora and fauna of this region, courtly palace life, images of kings, maritime activities, and others.
There are also reliefs which depicts images of several mythical spiritual beings such as the Gods: Asuras, Boddhisattvas, Gandharvas, Apsaras, and of the Jataka tales which represent the previous lives of Lord Buddha before he was born as Prince Siddhartha.
At the top of the Borobudur Temple, there is a vacant space which symbolizes the fact that this emptiness signifies completion.
Travelers, most often, spend some time resting and marveling at the magnificent view of the surrounding lush mountains once they reach this place.
Museums in BorobudurThere are two museums which are located within the Borobudur Temple complex that is also known as the Borobudur Archaeological Park. These museums are located just a few hundred meters to the north of the main temple complex and the tickets for entering these museums are included along with the Borobudur entrance fees.
The Karmawibhanga MuseumThis is one of the two museums that displays the restoration process, several archaeological findings as well as the photographs of Karmawibhanga relief which lays hidden near the foot of Borobudur.
The Samudraraksa MuseumLocated inside this historical park displays the actual size replica of the Borobudur Ship, and also the maritime technology that was used during the 8th century AD.
It also provides a plethora of information on the maritime trade of the Indian Ocean during this time, where these ships have been a part of the famous Cinnamon Route which linked Indonesia with Sri Lanka and also Africa, several centuries ago.
How to ReachBorobudur is just an hour’s drive from the Indonesian town, Yogyakarta . This city is both connected domestically and internationally with places like Kuala Lumpur and Singapore by air. The Adisucipto International Airport is located very near to the Yogyakartatown.
It costs around 200,000 IDR to reach Borobudur from Yogyakartaby by car.
Another option for reaching this famous temple from Yogyakarta is to avail a mini bus tour package which costs 75,000 IDR.
If one wishes to visit both Borobudur and the Prambanan temples, these mini bus tour packages often proves economical and it also ensures a comfortable journey.
The nearest rail station for visiting Borobudur is also in Yogyakarta, which is a major rail hub of Central Java. There are several frequent trains from Jakarta, Bandung, and Surabaya* which connects Yogyakarta with these cities.
Get AroundAlthough there is a toy train that runs between the museum and the temple gate and also around this monument for 5,000 IDR per ride, but the best way to explore Borobudur is on foot.
One can also rent a bicycle which are available for 30,000 IDR - 55,000 IDR per day and can be hired from most local hotels and guesthouses if you happen to stay in this area.
Entrance FeesNon-Indonesian adults needs to pay $ 20 USD (230,000 IDR) for entering this monument. However, if one has an ISIC proof, non-Indonesian registered students can visit this edifice for $ 10 USD .
Indonesian adults or even foreigners who holds an Indonesian work permit can enter this place for 30,000 IDR.
One can also buy a package ticket for visiting both the Borobudur and the Prambanan temples which costs $ 30 USD .
Opening HoursThis site remains open to the public from 6 AM until 5 PM.
Some of the hotels in this area, especially Manohara Hotel, runs a daily Borobudur Sunrise Tour, whereby they escort their guests to the temple gate at 4.30 AM and make them see the awesome sunrise from the temple site, which is well worth the money.
It generally costs approximately 380,000 IDR per head for the foreigners to enjoy the sunrise tour.
FestivalsThe elaborate and colorful Vesak Festival is the main festival that is held in this temple. During this festival, candle-lit processions are held which starts from Candi Mendut and ends at the temple of Borobudur.
Every year in the month of June, the Borobudur temple authorities also arranges a cultural programme which is known as Mahakarya Borobudur, a Javanese dance that tells the story of the conception and construction of the Borobudur.
The Mahakarya Borobudur festival is a lavish dance production that takes place at the Aksobya open theater complex against the backdrop of Borobudur and its cost 300,000 IDR to 850,000 IDR for entry to this dance performance which is well worth its value.
Where to StayMost of the travelers who come to visit Borobudur stays in Yogyakarta City or at Magelang.
However, it must be noted that spending a night at Borobudur is also a wise decision since it gives the visitors a chance to visit the temple the following morning before the crowd arrives- if one really wants to explore and understand this magnificent temple.
Some of the budget hotels in Borobudur are Pondok Tinggal, Rajasa Hotel, Lotus 1 Guest House, and others.
If one is looking for mid-range accommodations, one can stay back at Borobudur at Ning Tidar Hotel, Manohara Hotel, Saraswati Borobudu, and others.
For splurge accommodations, Rumah Boedi Private Residences Villa Borobudur, Plataran Borobudur is one of the best hotels in town.
SouvenirsThere are several peddlers in the Borobudur temple locality, those who claim to sell small statues of the temple and of Lord Buddha carved out of lava stone. However, be careful while buying them as most of them are made of cast-colored cement.
However, if one is interested about buying genuine products, one must visit Muntilan which is a small town that falls on the main route from Yogyakarta to Borobudur, and houses some of the most authentic manufacturing centers of stone-carved Borobudur replicas, stone Buddha heads, and wall relief of this temple.
Languages spokenAlthough Indonesian is the official language in this region, most of the tourist guides in Borobudur can understand and speak in English, French, German and also Dutch.
Places to visit nearbySome of the most famous tourist locations near Borobudur are Candi Mendut, Candi Pawo, Candi Ngawen, Candi Cangga and others.
The Hindu temples of Prambanan which is about an hour away by car, is another nice place to visit while traveling around Borobudur.
The Dieng Plateau is a volcanic area in the highlands of Central Java which houses the oldest standing temples in Indonesia, pre-dating Borobudur by some 100 years.
For adventure seeking tourists who wants to see a serious volcano, Mount Merapi is about a 2-hour drive to the east of Borobudur and is an excellent place for its scenic beauty and for relaxation.
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Author: SubhasishMitra. Last updated: Dec 22, 2014