Borobudur temple is the world’s biggest Buddhist monument, an ancient site widely considered to be one of the world’s seven wonders.
Located on the central of Java, the Borobudur temple sits majestically on a hilltop overlooking lush green fields and distant hills. 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..
The temple itself is made of some 60,000 square meters of stone, all of which had to be quarried elsewhere, shaped, and carved under the scorching tropical sun. A huge number of laborers must have worked on the colossal building, which consists of six square platform layers topped by three circular platform layers. Borobudur is decorated with 504 Buddha statues and 2,670 beautifully-carved relief panels, with 72 stupas on top.
The carvings confirm Gupta India’s strong influence on Java at the time; the higher beings are depicted mostly in the tribhanga pose typical of contemporary Indian statuary, in which the figure stands on one bent leg with the other foot propped in front, and gracefully bends its neck and waist so that the body forms a gentle ‘S’ shape.
There is no written record of when Borobudur was built, but based on the carving style, it most likely dates to between 750 and 850 CE
At some point, the people of central Java abandoned Borobudur Temple and other nearby religious sites. Most experts believe that this was due to volcanic eruptions in the area during the 10th and 11th centuries CE – a plausible theory, given that when the temple was “rediscovered,” it was covered with meters of ash. Some sources state that the temple was not fully abandoned until the 15th century CE, when the majority of the people of Java converted from Buddhism and Hinduism to Islam, under the influence of Muslim traders on the Indian Ocean trade routes. Naturally, local people did not forget that Borobudur existed, but as time went on, the buried temple became a place of superstitious dread that was best avoided. Legend tells of the crown prince of the Yogyakarta Sultanate, Prince Monconagoro, for example, who stole one of the Buddha images housed within the small cut-stone stupas that stand on top of the temple.
The prince became ill from the taboo and died the very next day..
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 Rp 50,000. 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.
How to get there
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 itself 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. Alternatively, cruise passengers who disembark at Semarang can take a day tour driving through Wonosobo to Borobudur.