John and Jane in Thailand

J and J have escaped the hurly-burly of life in the USA.

Posts Tagged ‘Borobudur


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We traveled to Java, Indonesia for the express purpose of visiting Borobudur Temple in Central Java, a mountainous region of many volcanos one of which erupted this past February. Borobudur, built approximately from 790 to 860CE, is the world’s largest Buddhist temple: the base is 403.5ft x 403.5ft and the highest point is 115ft above ground level. I won’t weigh you down with the specifics of the architectural design but if you are interested, Wikipedia covers the subject quite comprehensively. What is important is that Borobudur is an amazing ancient monument and I feel privileged to have spent time on this wonderful temple.
We arrived to check in with the Manohara Centre For Borobudur Study at 4:30AM to be part of the sunrise experience; it was definitely worth waking up at 4 o’clock. We were each given a flashlight and sent off through the pitch black to find our own way to the temple. As we approached, the whole of the structure only appeared as a dark mass. It wasn’t giving up any secrets artificially; we would have to wait for daylight. By the glow of our flashlights, we climbed and climbed some more until we reached the top level. We waited in the dark as more and more flashlights ascended. Most people settle down facing East to await the sun – I went exploring. I feel like I got to know the temple from the inside-out as the forms and then the details were gradually revealed with the coming of the light.

The clouds weren’t cooperating to produce the perfect sun rising from the horizon but many who got up so early were determined to see the disc itself so they waited patiently until the sun broke out of the clouds.

Each of the 72 “openwork” stupas contains a seated Buddha.  As you can see, one of the stupas was left open for educational purposes during the last major restoration. The Indonesian government and UNESCO began a complete overhaul of Borobudur in 1975; upon completion, UNESCO listed the monument as a World Heritage Site in 1991.  This was not the first attempt at restoration.  Sometime between 928-1006CE, the capitol was moved to East Java, perhaps because of frequent volcano eruptions, subsequently the temple was left unattended and eventually forgotten as it was covered in volcanic ash and reclaimed by the jungle.  While under British administration, Thomas Stamford Raffles heard about a monument in the jungle and “recovered” Borobudur in 1814 and the modern interest began. Following the 1975 UNESCO renovation Borobudur is once again used as a place of worship and pilgrimage.

In total there are 504 Buddha statues; they are in stupas, in niches, and lining walls.  There are remarkable relief sculptures too – 2672 panels!

One of the pleasures of coming to Borobudur so early in the day is watching the surrounding countryside gradually appear in the mists of morning.

As we descend we see the monument become bigger and bigger around us and we watch the ground level “rising” as we make our way to the base. Remember, we saw none of this on our way up; it is interesting to discover this remarkable place in reverse.


(don’t forget to enlarge the images, these are just thumbnails)

Panorama B


Written by Jane Estes

October 4, 2014 at 5:12 pm