Borobudur, Prambanan & Ratu Boko
LOOKING FOR SOMETHING?
 

SIMPLY THE BEST

A truly magical way to see Borobudur is at sunrise

Using a torch you rise up through the levels of the temple whilst it is still dark, and then can watch as the sun rises up, behind Mount Merapi in the distance. With the surrounding valleys undulating in mist, the experience is extraordinary as the complexity and scale of Borobudur comes to light.

Many comment that they feel incredibly honoured to be able to experience the temple with so few others.

It is also both the quietest and coolest time of day to visit the temple.

A special ticket is purchased from the Manohara Centre For Borobudur Study close to the base of the temple. Contact our helpful Visitor Assistance Centre for more on the time you will need to be there (this changes with the time of year), and the cost of the tickets.

 


Guiding the way

For a richer cultural experience, hook up with a local guide to fill you in on a wide range of historical, artistic and religious intricacies.

You also get great insight on how the local people understand religion and its place in contemporary Javan life. It is fascinating stuff. Inexpensive and worthwhile, it is also a great way to support the local community. Our Visitor Assistance Centre can help you book a local guide.

 



LAYER UP

Borobudur temple is built to represent many layers of Buddhist theory. From a birds eye view, the temple is in the shape of a traditional Buddhist mandala. A mandala is central to a great deal of Buddhist and Hindu art, the basic form of most Hindu and Buddhist mandalas is a square with four entry points, and a circular centre point. Working from the exterior to the interior, three zones of consciousness are represented, with the central sphere representing unconsciousness or Nirvana.

According to this Buddhist cosmology, the universe is divided in to three major zones. The Borobudur temple represents these zones in its rising layers.

Zone 1  Kamadhatu
The phenomenal world, the world inhabited by common people.

This base level of Borobudur has been covered by a supporting foundation, so is hidden from view. During an investigation by
JW Yzerman in 1885 the original foot was discovered. Borobudur’s hidden Kamadhatu level consists of 160 reliefs depicting scenes of Karmawibhangga Sutra, the law of cause and effect. Illustrating the human behaviour of desire, the reliefs depict robbing, killing, rape, torture and defamation.

Evidence suggests that the additional base was added during the original construction of the temple. The reason for adding the base is not 100% certain, but likely to be either for stability of the structure, to prevent the base from moving, or for religious reasons - to cover up the more salacious content. The added base is 3.6m in height and 6.5m wide.

A corner of the covering base has been permanently removed to allow visitors to see the hidden foot, and some of the reliefs. See image to the right.

Photography of the entire collection of 160 reliefs is displayed at the Borobudur Museum which is within the Borobudur Archeological Park.

Zone 2 Rapadhatu
The transitional sphere, in which humans are released from worldly matters.

The four square levels of Rapadhatu contain galleries of carved stone reliefs, as well as a chain of niches containing statues of Buddha. In total there are 328 Buddhas on these balustraded levels which also have a great deal of purely ornate reliefs .

The Sanskrit manuscripts that are depicted on this level over 1 300 reliefs are Gandhawyuha, Lalitawistara, Jataka and Awadana. They stretch for 2.5km. In addition there are 1 212 decorative panels.


Zone 3 Arupadhatu
The highest sphere, the abode of the gods.

The three circular terraces leading to a central dome or stupa represent the rising above the world, and these terraces are a great deal less ornate, the purity of form is paramount.

The terraces contain circles of perforated stupas, an inverted bell shape, containing sculptures of Buddha, who face outward from the temple. There are 72 of these stupas in total. The impressive central stupa is currently not as high as the original version, which rose 42m above ground level, the base is 9.9m in diameter. Unlike the stupas surrounding it, the central stupa is empty and conflicting reports suggest that the central void contained relics, and other reports suggest it has always been empty.



HAND OUT

The total of 504 Buddhas are in meditative pose, and the 6 different hand positions represented throughout the temple, often according to the direction the Buddha faces.

These ‘mudra’ symbolise concepts such as charity, reasoning and fearlessness, it is said they tell a story that Buddha’s serene face does not.



 



RESTORATION
Borobudur was left to the ravages of nature in the 8th Century when the power of Java shifted to the East of the island. The reason for this shift is unknown, but it is often speculated that there was a volcanic eruption and people moved to be away from it.
 
There are manuscripts that relate stories of Javanese re-visiting the site in the 18th Century. But it was the ‘re-discovery’ by the British Sir Stamford Raffles in 1814 that led to greater recognition and also preservation efforts.

In 1815 Raffles commissioned an initial clean up, where 200 labourers spent 45 days felling trees and moving earth from the remains. Many areas of the temple were sagging.

Activities continued with documentation and interpretation of the reliefs. It was during the work of Ijzerman in 1885 that the hidden reliefs at the base of the temple were discovered. It was these hidden reliefs that also revealed some Sanskrit instructions left for the carver, with lettering that was so distinctive that the
construction of the temple was able to be dated, to the middle of the 9th century, during the time of the Saliendra dynasty reign.
A few scenes had been left unfinished, with instructions to the stone carver inscribed in Sanskrit, and the style of lettering is so distinctive that it can be dated specifically to the middle of the 9th century.
In 1907 a large scale restoration was carried out under Dutchman Van Erp that finished in 1911. The work was significant and definitely safeguarded the temple for some time. However, many of the pieces were not put back in their original positions during the restoration.
 
In 1956 another assessment of the temple was made by a Belgian expert who was sent by UNESCO. His assessment concluded that water damage was significant, and would need to be stemmed if the temple was to have a long term future. The hill below the temple was eroding, the foundations were being weakened and also the reliefs were being eroded.

Preparatory work began in 1963, which amongst other things discovered that the hill was not a natural hill as had always been assumed, but areas of it were loamy soil, mixed with stones and stone chips. The initial work assessed the scale of a restoration to be gigantic, and the Indonesian Government then submitted a proposal to UNESCO in 1968 outlining the works needed.
 
UNESCO gave full support and commenced work to raise funds for the restoration. From 1968 to 1983, research through to restoration took place under UNESCO. Specialists from the world over came to assist in the dismantling, and re-engineering of the site. A great deal of work was also done to develop procedures to prevent the microorganisms eating away the stone.

The UNESCO world heritage listing of Borobudur Temple was inscribed in 1991.
 


THE TEMPLE CORRIDOR

Accurately in line with Borobudur are two smaller temples, Pawon and Mendut. Given the time in which these temples were built, the accurate positioning achieved remains a mystery. Pawon is 1.15km, and Mendut 3km from Borobudur.

The three temples are used to form a route for the Waisak day festival each
year. Held each year on the day of the full moon in April or May the festival commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death of Gautama Buddha.
This important day in the Buddhist calendar sees many local and international pilgrims walk in procession from Mendut, through to Pawon and then on to Borobudur. It is a colourful and festive occasion supported by the Indonesian government.

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