Borobudur

Entrance to Borobudur

Entrance to Borobudur

Borobudur is a famous 9th century Buddhist temple which was brought to world-wide attention by Sir Thomas Raffles in the 1800s. It was abandoned in the 14th century, and covered in volcanic ash and jungle growth. But, this ironically helped preserve much of the site from thievery. This is more than just a temple – it is a gallery of bas-relief sculptures which tell stories about Buddha and the philosophies of Buddhism. The highly detailed “pictures” reveal all kinds of interesting details about the way of life, clothing, animals, foods, society, and more about the times. You can read much more interesting details about the site at the Borobudur Wikipedia.

At first I was not overwhelmed by the appearance of the temple. It seems a jumble of stonework and not an architectural delight. But, when you get close to it and as you ascend you are amazed at the detail of the sculptures, and are more and more impressed. At the top are the stupas – bell-shaped Buddhist symbols – with life-sized statues of Buddha in each one. In the center is a very large stupa – which is reportedly empty (we didn’t get to go to the top due to restoration efforts).

Buddha statues

Buddha statues

There are many Buddha statues all around the temple. The statues look very similar, but they have subtle differences in the positions of the hands. In each of the four directions the statues have a different hand position representing different philosophies – follow the link above for more info.

Statue and Merapi

Statue and Merapi

I took a picture of one of the statues looking toward Mount Merapi – the volcano to the east. This same volcano erupted in 2010 and covered Borobudur (and Prambanan) in over 2 cm of ash, and closed the temple for a month. Many of the Buddha statues have missing heads or faces. They were taken by vandals, erroded, or defaced intentionally.

Borobudur bas-relief

Borobudur bas-relief

In my opinion, the most valuable part of the temple are the bas-relief sculptures. You could spend hours just taking pictures of the sculptures, much less trying to study and understand each one. This must have been like watching TV for the visitors centuries ago. Make sure to view more pictures of these in the slideshow of Borobudur below. Or follow the Wikipedia link for more information.

Borobudur Stupas

Borobudur Stupas

Still, the final impression is of the large stupa at the top of the temple. They are very impressive and popular with tourists. One of the stupa has had its top removed showing a pristine Buddha statue inside. Many of the statues inside the stupa are broken and missing heads. But, it is a very impressive site to walk around.

Please look at the slideshow below to see more photos of our experience at Borobudur. Definitely a site not to miss if you go to Indonesia! Here it is:


View full-screen slideshow

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