Candi Borobudur, Borobudur, Magelang, Jawa Tengah, Indonesia
GPS: -7.6076222717204, 110.20400506206
Built from the 8th century onwards by the Javanese kings of the Sailendra Dynasty, Borobudur is a holy place dedicated to Buddhism. It is located in the heart of Central Java, 40 kilometres north-west of the city of Yogyakarta. This archaeological site is one of the world’s largest shrine dedicated to the Buddha. It is a pilgrimage place that radiates throughout Southeast Asia and is one of the best preserved ancient monuments in Indonesia. Borobudur is a blend of the worship practised by ancient Indonesian civilizations and a monumental representation of the Buddhist path to nirvana.
The use of stūpas, small domed stone monuments, in the architectural style of Borobudur is stunning. There are 72 stūpas in total, each of which houses a statue of Buddha. The structure of the site represents a 35-metre-high step pyramid with 4 floors of ornate galleries on 9 levels. More than 500 different Buddha statues and sculptures can be found throughout the monument, which also has magnificent frescoes and bas-reliefs at its base, stretching over nearly 3 kilometres of walls. This frieze is composed of nearly 1,500 different bas-reliefs evoking sutras (collections of teachings) of Mahāyāna Buddhism. The Borobudur complex is said to symbolise the resting place of its founder, a Sailendra, to join Buddha after his death. The clockwise ascent of the monument leads pilgrims to attain enlightenment in Buddhist cosmology (it is a ritual circumambulation following the movement of the stars). The three levels of the monument embody the stages of the spheres of existence. They consist of a square base at the lowest level (Kāmadhātu, the world of desire governed by the law of cause and effect in which humans live), galleries in the middle section (Rūpadhātu, the realm of forms where the gods live) and three circular terraces at the top (Arūpadhātu, the formless space within which beings dissolve to attain nirvana in Buddhism). These successive levels of meditation by the faithful are reflected in the architecture of Borobudur complex and are presented as a spiritual journey. At the upper level of the monument, it is possible to enjoy a magnificent view of the region, rich in lush vegetation dotted with volcanoes, rice fields and palm trees.
The structure of Borobudur is composed of 2 million blocks of stone perfectly assembled with grey andesite, a volcanic stone very present on the island of Java. After a probable series of eruptions, the site declines from the 12th century. It remained buried for several hundred years under thick layers of volcanic ash before being hidden by the local jungle. Borobudur suffered several rounds of looting and many of its treasures disappeared. Heavily damaged, it was first restored at the beginning of the 20th century before undergoing a major rehabilitation programme between the 1970s and 1980s with the support of Unesco: one million stones were numbered, extracted, cleaned and then reassembled to raise the sanctuary from the ashes.