Borobudur Temple Compounds – In-depth Guide

by Conor
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Borobudur

The renowned Borobudur Temple, a Buddhist sanctuary from the 8th and 9th centuries, is situated in the heart of Central Java. Constructed on a grand scale, it features a three-tiered design: starting with a pyramidal base that consists of five concentric square terraces, ascending to a middle tier shaped like a cone’s trunk with three circular platforms, and culminating in a magnificent stupa at its summit. The temple’s walls and balustrades are intricately adorned with exquisite low relief carvings that span over 2,500 square meters. Encircling the circular platforms, there are 72 lattice stupas, each enshrining a Buddha statue. In the 1970s, this iconic monument underwent a significant restoration, supported by UNESCO.

The Borobudur Temple Compounds, acclaimed as one of the world’s most significant Buddhist monuments, were erected in the 8th and 9th centuries AD during the reign of the Syailendra Dynasty. This extraordinary site is situated in the Kedu Valley in the southern part of Central Java, at the center of the island of Java, Indonesia.

At its core, the main temple of Borobudur is a stupa constructed in a three-tiered format. This begins with a pyramidal base comprising five concentric square terraces, advances to a mid-section resembling the trunk of a cone with three circular platforms, and culminates in a monumental stupa at the summit. The temple’s walls and balustrades are intricately adorned with fine low reliefs, covering a total surface area of 2,520 m². Encircling the circular platforms, there are 72 openwork stupas, each enshrining a Buddha statue.

The architectural design of the Borobudur Temple insightfully represents the three spheres of the Buddhist cosmology: the kamadhatu (the world of desires), rupadhatu (the world of forms), and arupadhatu (the formless world). The base signifies the kamadhatu, the five square terraces embody the rupadhatu, and the arupadhatu is represented by the three circular platforms and the large stupa. This structure is a remarkable fusion of ancestor worship’s ancestral terraced mountain idea and the Buddhist path to Nirvana.

The Borobudur Temple also serves as a notable monument reflecting the legacy of the Syailendra Dynasty, which ruled Java for about five centuries until the 10th century.

Comprising the Borobudur Temple Compounds are three monuments: the primary Borobudur Temple and two smaller temples situated to the east in direct alignment with Borobudur. These are the Mendut Temple, home to an imposing Buddha monolith flanked by two Bodhisattvas, and the Pawon Temple, a more diminutive temple where the worshipped deity remains unidentified. These three monuments collectively symbolize the stages in the attainment of Nirvana.

Originally utilised as a Buddhist temple from its construction until it was abandoned sometime between the 10th and 15th centuries, the Borobudur Temple was later rediscovered in the 19th century. The 20th century saw its restoration, reestablishing it as a prominent Buddhist archaeological site.

Criterion (i): The Borobudur Temple Compounds, with its unique architectural design featuring a stepped, open-air pyramid of ten overlaid terraces, topped by a large bell-shaped dome, represents an exquisite fusion of stupas, temples, and a mountain-like structure. This site is celebrated as an architectural and artistic masterpiece in Buddhist tradition.

Criterion (ii): As a prime example of Indonesian art and architecture from the early 8th to late 9th centuries, the Borobudur Temple Compounds had a significant influence on the resurgence of architectural styles and techniques from the mid-13th to early 16th centuries.

Criterion (vi): Designed in the shape of a lotus, the sacred symbol in Buddhism, the Borobudur Temple Compounds symbolizes a unique convergence of indigenous ancestral worship and the Buddhist journey towards Nirvana. The structure’s ten ascending terraces represent the stages a Bodhisattva must traverse to achieve Buddhahood.

Integrity:

The defined boundaries of the site encompass the three temples, including the notional axis connecting them. Although direct visual connections are no longer present, the functional interplay among the three monuments – Borobudur Temple, Mendut Temple, and Pawon Temple – remains intact.

The main threat to this ensemble arises from developmental activities that could disrupt the extraordinary relationship between the main monument and its surroundings, potentially impacting the site’s Outstanding Universal Value. The approach to the site has been somewhat affected by lax development regulations.

Tourism also places significant stress on the site and its surrounding area.

There is an increasing rate of deterioration in the building stones, the causes of which require further investigation. Additionally, some damage has been caused by unregulated visitor activities.

The eruptions of Mount Merapi pose a potential threat, especially considering the deposit of acidic ash, as occurred in 2010.

Authenticity:

The temple was reconstructed in two phases in the 20th century, first after the turn of the century and then more comprehensively between 1973 and 1983, using predominantly original materials. Some additions were made to strengthen the structure and improve drainage, but these have not significantly impacted the site’s value. Although the current state of the Borobudur Temple is a result of restoration efforts, it retained sufficient original material upon rediscovery to enable an accurate reconstruction.

Presently, the site serves as a Buddhist pilgrimage destination. However, its overall ambience is somewhat diminished by unregulated commercial activities and the pressures of inadequate tourism management strategies.

Protection and management must do’s

The safeguarding of the Borobudur Temple Compounds is governed by Indonesian Law No. 11/2010, which focuses on Cultural Heritage. This protection extends to its surrounding cultural landscape. The site is designated as a National Strategic Area and is subject to the Spatial Management Plan outlined by the Ministry of Public Works, in line with Law No. 26/2007 and Governmental Regulation No. 26/2008 on National Spatial Planning. Further reinforcement is anticipated through a forthcoming presidential regulation regarding the Management of the Borobudur National Strategic Area, currently in development by the Ministry of Public Works.

The framework for managing the property effectively is set by Presidential Decree Number 1 of 1992. Various zones within the World Heritage property fall under the jurisdiction of the Borobudur Heritage Conservation Office under the Ministry of Education and Culture, PT. Taman Wisata Candi Borobudur (a state-owned entity) under the Ministry of Enterprises, and local government bodies, including Magelang Regency and Central Java Province. An integrated management study for Borobudur Temple Compounds has been undertaken, encompassing ecosystem, social and cultural aspects, ecotourism, public-private partnerships, and organizational feasibility. This study serves as the foundation for a visitor management strategy still in development.

To align the 1992 Presidential Decree with the 1972 JICA Master Plan and to enhance development regulations, a new Presidential Regulation is being drafted. This effort involves a Coordinating Board of 14 Ministries, local authorities, community representatives, and the proposed Management Board for broader zoning aspects. Additionally, regular national budget contributions have been allocated to ensure the property’s protection.

Monitoring programs are actively tracking the deterioration of building stone and visitor-related damages. Research to assess the long-term effects of acidic ash from Mount Merapi’s eruptions is underway, informing further protective and conservation measures. A risk preparedness plan is also set to be developed in 2012.

The Borobudur Heritage Conservation Office has initiated community development programs, particularly targeting youth to increase awareness. Training initiatives have been implemented to enhance local community skills, especially in guiding visitors around the Borobudur Temple Compounds. Economic development efforts, such as supporting small enterprises in traditional handicrafts and culinary arts, are being pursued by the municipalities of Magelang Regency and Central Java Province.

Unveiling the Mysteries of Borobudur Temple: A Deep Dive into its Elements, History, and Architecture

The Borobudur Temple, a marvel of Buddhist architecture and spirituality, captivates visitors and historians alike. Let’s explore this ancient wonder through ten insightful questions and answers.

1. What are the Elements of Borobudur Temple?

The Borobudur Temple is comprised of several key elements:

  • A pyramidal base with five concentric square terraces.
  • A mid-section consisting of three circular platforms.
  • A grand central stupa crowning the top.
  • The temple is embellished with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues, with 72 openwork stupas on the circular platforms, each housing a Buddha statue.

2. What is Found at Borobudur?

At Borobudur, visitors discover:

  • Series of beautifully carved terraces.
  • Numerous Buddha statues in various poses.
  • Extensive relief panels that narrate Buddhist teachings and stories.
  • The temple structure symbolizes Buddhist cosmology.

3. What Materials were Used to Build the Borobudur Temple?

The Borobudur Temple was primarily constructed using:

  • Andesite stone, a type of volcanic rock, for the main structure.
  • This choice of material contributes to the temple’s durability and intricate carvings.

4. What Stone is Borobudur Made Of?

Borobudur is predominantly made of:

  • Andesite stone, a robust and easily carved volcanic rock, ideal for the temple’s detailed reliefs and statues.

5. What are the Unique Features of Borobudur Temple?

Borobudur’s unique features include:

  • Its massive size and layered design representing the Buddhist cosmological model.
  • The extensive and detailed relief panels illustrating Buddhist teachings.
  • The numerous Buddha statues, each with a unique pose and expression.
  • The stunning openwork stupas on the uppermost terraces.

6. Who Built the Borobudur Temple Compounds?

The Borobudur Temple compounds were built by:

  • The Sailendra Dynasty, a dominant power in Central Java during the 8th and 9th centuries.

7. What is the History of Borobudur Temple Compounds?

The history of Borobudur Temple compounds is fascinating:

  • Constructed in the 8th and 9th centuries under the Sailendra Dynasty.
  • It served as a significant Buddhist pilgrimage site for centuries.
  • Abandoned and rediscovered in the 19th century, it underwent major restorations.
  • Today, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and a symbol of Indonesia’s cultural heritage.

8. What are the Three Layers of the Borobudur?

The three layers of Borobudur represent the three realms of Buddhist cosmology:

  • Kamadhatu (the world of desires) at the base.
  • Rupadhatu (the world of forms) in the middle terraces.
  • Arupadhatu (the formless world) in the circular platforms and the central stupa.

9. What is the Architecture Style of Borobudur?

The architecture style of Borobudur is:

  • A unique blend of Indonesian indigenous ancestor worship and Buddhist concepts.
  • It showcases Javanese Buddhist architecture with a pyramid-like structure and stupa design.

10. Is Borobudur 7 Wonders of the World?

While Borobudur is not officially listed as one of the “Seven Wonders of the World,” it is:

  • Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • Considered one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world.

Borobudur Temple stands not just as an architectural masterpiece but as a spiritual beacon, inviting us to explore its depths and marvel at its historical and cultural significance.

11. What is the Symbolization of Borobudur Structure?

The Borobudur structure symbolizes the Buddhist conception of the universe:

  • The base represents Kamadhatu, the realm of desire.
  • The square terraces symbolize Rupadhatu, the realm of forms.
  • The circular platforms and the main stupa depict Arupadhatu, the formless realm.
  • This layout mirrors the Buddhist path from the worldly to the spiritual and ultimately to enlightenment.

12. Was Borobudur a Mandala?

Yes, Borobudur is considered a mandala, which is a spiritual and ritual symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism:

  • It represents the universe and is a guide for various spiritual practices.
  • Borobudur’s design follows a mandala layout, reflecting cosmic harmony and the journey towards enlightenment.

13. What is the Theory of the Borobudur Temple?

The theory behind Borobudur Temple encompasses:

  • A representation of Buddhist cosmology and the journey to enlightenment.
  • The design as a three-dimensional mandala and a visual representation of Buddhist teachings.
  • The structure as a pilgrimage site, with the journey through the temple symbolizing the path to enlightenment.

14. What is the Significance of the Buddha Head in Borobudur?

The significance of the Buddha head in Borobudur lies in:

  • Symbolizing the enlightened state of the Buddha.
  • Each head’s unique expression and direction signify different aspects of the Buddha’s teachings and wisdom.

15. How Old is Borobudur?

Borobudur is approximately:

  • Constructed in the late 8th and early 9th centuries, making it over 1,200 years old.

16. How do You Pronounce Borobudur?

Borobudur is pronounced as:

  • Boh-roh-boo-dur, with emphasis on the first syllable.

17. What is the Largest Buddhist Temple in the World?

The largest Buddhist temple in the world is:

  • The Borobudur Temple itself, both in size and the volume of Buddhist narrative reliefs.

18. How do You Pronounce Jogja?

Jogja, short for Yogyakarta, is pronounced as:

  • Johg-jah, with a soft “j” sound.

19. How do You Pronounce the Name Deja?

The name Deja is typically pronounced as:

  • Day-zhah, with an emphasis on the first syllable.

20. How to Pronounce дела?

The Russian word “дела” is pronounced as:

  • Dyeh-lah, with emphasis on the first syllable.

The Borobudur Temple, with its intricate design and profound symbolic meanings, continues to be a subject of fascination and reverence, revealing the depth and richness of Buddhist philosophy and art.

21. How do You Pronounce the Word Bali?

Bali is pronounced as:

  • Bah-lee, with emphasis on the first syllable.

22. How do You Pronounce Jakarta?

Jakarta is pronounced as:

  • Juh-kar-tah, with a soft “J” and emphasis on the second syllable.

23. Is Borobudur Still Standing?

Yes, Borobudur is still standing:

  • It has undergone several restorations and is well-maintained, remaining one of the most significant Buddhist sites in the world.

24. Was Borobudur Painted?

There is no definitive evidence that Borobudur was painted:

  • The temple was primarily constructed from grey andesite stone, and while some theorize that it may have been painted or plastered, this has not been conclusively proven.

25. Is Borobudur Closed on Monday?

Borobudur’s opening schedule can vary:

  • It’s advisable to check the latest information or contact local tourism authorities for current visiting hours and any specific closing days.

26. Can I Wear Shorts to Borobudur?

Wearing shorts to Borobudur:

  • Is generally allowed, but visitors are encouraged to dress respectfully as it is a religious site. Sarongs might be provided or required in certain areas.

27. Is Borobudur Closed in 2023?

As of my last update in April 2023:

  • There was no specific information about Borobudur being closed in 2023. However, it’s always best to check current travel advisories or official sites for the latest updates.

28. Can You Climb to the Top of Borobudur?

Visitors can climb to the top of Borobudur:

  • The site is designed for pilgrims to walk up to the top, following the path that symbolizes the journey to enlightenment.

29. Is Borobudur Fully Open?

The status of Borobudur’s openness:

  • Can vary based on restoration work, special events, or other factors. It’s recommended to check current conditions before planning a visit.

30. Can You do Borobudur and Prambanan in One Day?

Visiting Borobudur and Prambanan in one day:

  • Is possible as they are about 1.5 to 2 hours apart by car. However, it would be a full day trip and might require efficient time management.

31. What Should I Wear to Borobudur?

When visiting Borobudur, it’s recommended to wear:

  • Comfortable, modest clothing, considering the religious and cultural significance of the site. Light, breathable fabrics are ideal due to the tropical climate.

32. How Much is the Entrance Fee to Borobudur?

The entrance fee to Borobudur:

  • Varies for domestic and international visitors and can change. It’s best to check the official Borobudur website or contact local tourism offices for the most recent pricing.

33. What is the Best Time to Visit Borobudur Indonesia?

The best time to visit Borobudur is:

  • During the dry season, from April to October, with early morning visits recommended for cooler temperatures and fewer crowds.

34. Is Borobudur Worth It?

Whether Borobudur is worth visiting:

  • Most visitors find Borobudur an enriching experience, offering a unique blend of historical, cultural, and spiritual insights, set against a backdrop of stunning natural beauty.

Borobudur remains a fascinating destination, rich in history and culture, offering a unique window into the past and an opportunity for spiritual and aesthetic appreciation.

Let’s continue exploring more about Borobudur with these additional questions, offering a deeper understanding of what to expect when visiting this magnificent site.

35. How Long Does it Take to Climb Borobudur?

Climbing Borobudur:

  • Typically takes about 10 to 15 minutes to reach the top, depending on one’s pace and the crowd.

36. How Long Does it Take to See Borobudur?

Visiting Borobudur:

  • Generally, a visit can take between 1 to 3 hours, allowing time to appreciate the carvings, architecture, and the view from the top.

37. What is the Closest City to Borobudur?

The closest city to Borobudur is:

  • Yogyakarta, about 40 kilometers away, offering convenient access to the temple.

38. Is Sunrise at Borobudur Worth It?

Sunrise at Borobudur:

  • Is often considered a must-see for its breathtaking beauty and serene atmosphere, making the early wake-up call worthwhile for many visitors.

39. Is Borobudur Crowded?

Crowds at Borobudur:

  • Can vary, with weekends, holidays, and sunrise being typically more crowded. Visiting during weekdays or off-peak hours can be quieter.

40. How Many Stairs are There in Borobudur?

The number of stairs in Borobudur:

  • The temple has around 500 stairs spread over its multiple levels.

41. What is on Top of Borobudur?

On top of Borobudur:

  • There is a large central stupa surrounded by 72 smaller, bell-shaped stupas, each housing a Buddha statue.

42. Is There a Dress Code for Borobudur?

Dress code for Borobudur:

  • Visitors are encouraged to dress modestly out of respect for the site’s cultural and religious significance. Sarongs are provided or required in certain areas.

43. What Can We Do in Borobudur?

Activities in Borobudur include:

  • Exploring the temple’s terraces and reliefs.
  • Enjoying panoramic views from the top.
  • Attending sunrise or sunset viewings.
  • Participating in cultural and meditation programs.

44. Is Prambanan Same as Borobudur?

Prambanan and Borobudur:

  • Are two different temples. Borobudur is Buddhist, while Prambanan is Hindu.

45. What is the Difference Between Borobudur and Prambanan Temple?

Differences between Borobudur and Prambanan:

  • Borobudur is a massive Buddhist temple with a pyramid-like structure and numerous Buddha statues, whereas Prambanan is a collection of tall, slender Hindu temples with intricate carvings of Hindu deities.

46. How to See Sunrise at Borobudur?

To see sunrise at Borobudur:

  • Visitors can book a sunrise tour, which often includes early access to the temple before regular opening hours.

47. Do You Need a Sarong for Borobudur?

Sarongs at Borobudur:

  • While not always required, sarongs are provided for visitors to wear in certain areas as a sign of respect.

48. Where Can I See the Sunset in Borobudur?

Sunset in Borobudur:

  • Can be viewed from the temple itself or nearby hills, like Punthuk Setumbu, which offers a panoramic view of Borobudur against the backdrop of the setting sun.

49. What Time the Borobudur Gate was Closed?

Closing time of Borobudur gate:

  • The closing time can vary, but it’s typically around 5:00 PM. It’s advisable to check current visiting hours before planning a visit.

Visiting Borobudur offers a blend of cultural enrichment, spiritual insight, and a chance to witness architectural brilliance. Whether you’re climbing to the top for a panoramic view, attending a sunrise session, or exploring the intricate carvings, Borobudur promises an unforgettable experience.

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