Saturday, November 2, 2013


The Buddhist site of Borobudur is Indonesia's most-visited tourist attraction, so even though many of the tourists are domestic, it's pretty well known.

Prambanan is a temple complex, but Borobudur is basically a single enormous stone construction shaped roughly like a mountain.

Six increasingly smaller square stone platforms are topped by three circular ones, and then crowned with 72 stupas (each originally holding a Buddha statue) grouped around a central large stupa.

The whole thing is a representation of the Buddhist cosmos: the first two represent the human sphere, the next four the transitional sphere where humans are released from worldly matter, and the last three the sphere of the gods. From the air, the whole thing is in the shape of a mandala (which represents the universe).

It was built in the 9th Century and abandoned during the 14th Century, to be mostly forgotten until 1814, when it was rediscovered by a Dutch engineer at the behest of Sir Stamford Raffles (the founder of Singapore and ubiquitous in SE Asian history).
Buddhas guarding the approach to the monument
While you can take stairs directly up to the top, the most thorough way to see it is to walk around each level.
First level
Walls covered in carvings
Stairs up: they are really steep!
Each level is basically a wide walkway
The transition between the symbolic world of humans and the world of the gods
I love Borobudur!
Uppermost levels, with central stupa (it is empty)

View from the top
This way you can admire the beautiful and highly detailed reliefs which cover most of the monument. They depict daily life in eighth-century Java, the life of Buddha, Buddhist theology, the life of Buddhist saints, local animal life, among other things.
I liked how well the stones still fit together, even after a millennium
 The setting of Borobudur is quite lovely, as it's surrounded by mountains (some of which are volcanic).
I visited for the second time at sunset and watching the stone change colors with the setting sun was a really magical experience.

 Borobudur is a fabulous place and a must-see attraction if you are in Southeast Asia. Highly recommended!
All the stupas contain Buddhas but it's difficult to see them due to the stone covering (which has been removed from this one). Love the peaceful expression on his face.

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