The base level of the temple plays an important role in illustrating the first of the three zones of consciousness. Apart from one corner which has been ‘revealed’ for visitors, it is not possible to see the remaining reliefs remain hidden below the supporting foundation. The hidden base of the Borobudur temple was dissembled and the reliefs were photographed by Casijan Chepas in 1890.
It is these photographs that are displayed in the dedicated museum building within the Borobudur Archaeological Park.
This series of reliefs is known as the Mahakarmawibhangga and represents the world of desire.
The depiction of theft, murder, rape and torture appear amongst other immoral acts. The direct or indirect result of these acts is shown to be a tortuous afterlife. The depiction of hell includes the cutting up of bodies with a saw, burning bodies, and bondage with hot chains.
The reliefs also depict more harmonious topics including working together, agricultural methods, and planned parenthood.
Some of the panels have inscriptions which are believed to have been instructions to the carvers. Some panels remain unfinished, and this gives rise to the theory that the additional base was added before the temple had been completed.