Fascinating Tales and Facts About Borobudur Temple of Indonesia

According to the Buddhist belief, when you are closer to Heaven, you are closer to God. This may be the reason why the Borobudur Temple was built in the Kedu Valley, the center of Java Island of Indonesia between eight and nine centuries ago.

Borobudur Temple of Indonesia
Borobudur Temple of Indonesia | Bigstock Photos

In 1991, UNESCO officially proclaimed the temple as one of the World Heritage Site. It is also regarded as one of Seven Wonders of the World, a masterpiece that boasts of magnificent structure and intricate details. But more than everything else, Borobudur Temple is a symbol of a lost dynasty and the largest monument of Buddhism.

A Glimpse of History

Borobudur Temple was constructed during the Dynasty of Sailendra (Lord of the Mountain) under the reign of King Samaratungga. A Kayumwungan inscription revealed that it was completed on May 26, 824, after almost one hundred years of construction. The massive stone temple used approximately 2 million volcanic interlocking-blocks, the ancient locking pattern system.

However, after a decade of glorious influence and propagating the Mahayana Buddhism in the region, the temple was abandoned when the kingdom’s capital was moved from Central Java to East Java.

The Rediscovery of the Lost Architectural Gem

Amidst the lush vegetation of the jungle and thick volcanic ash, the lost temple was rediscovered in 1814 by an English Governor, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. It was during the time when Java was under the control of Britain. After hearing a lot of stories about the abandoned temple, Raffles sent 200 men to find it. After two months of cutting trees, burning vegetation, and digging, they unearthed the celestial structure.

In an instant, the attention of the world was captured by its unique architecture which is a mix of Buddhist and Javanese principles of worship. It is constructed in three tiers which represent the Buddhist’s three realms of cosmology. The pyramid-like base which features five concentric square terraces is the embodiment of Kamadhatu (the world of desires). The second tier with three circular platforms has a trunk of a cone design, representing the Rupadhatu (the world of forms). The top tier is a monumental Stupa of Buddha, manifesting the Arupadhatu (the formless world) and representing Nirvana, the highest level of inner peace.

The temple looks like a three-dimensional mandala or a cosmos for meditation when viewed from above. Seeing it up close reveals the stunning intricate wall carvings in the 2, 520 square meter complex.

The Restoration of the Temple

One hundred sixty years after the rediscovery, the Indonesian government and UNESCO worked together in 1975 to restore the former glory of Borobudur Temple. The project was also funded by five other nations and took almost 8 years to dismantle, catalog, clean, and put back the original stones in their places.

After the renovation, the temple height was reduced from 42 meters to 34.5 meters because the lowest level was reconstructed as a barrier. Everything else was preserved, including the 72 openwork stupas, each with a statue of Buddha.

The Pilgrim’s Journey to the Top

Today, the Borobudur Temple is one of the most-visited pilgrimage sites and favorite destinations of tourists. Pilgrims follow the passageways around the temple in a clockwise direction to ascend the elevated platforms. The walls have 1,460 narrative relief panels, each displaying the tales and teachings of Buddhism.

If you are planning to visit Indonesia, include it in your itinerary and experience a mini-enlightenment journey to the top. You can also choose not to do the pilgrimage walk and ascend right to reach the upper deck where you will be delighted with the breathtaking sight of 72 Buddhas seating on the Stupas and view the two twin mountains- the Merbabu-Merapi and Sundoro-Sumbing.

Another spectacular experience you shouldn’t miss in Borobudur is to watch the sunrise as it gently illuminates every part of the temple and the whole horizon. To catch this astounding view, be there before 5:26 A.M.

How to get to Borobudur Temple

The cheapest way is to take a public bus from Jombor Terminal (north of Yogyakarta). The 90-minute ride costs Rp30, 000 (US$2. 10).

Another budget-friendly way is to find local travel agencies offering minivan ride to Borobudur. You need to shell out around Rp75, 000 (US$5. 50) for the return trip. It is the best ride to reach the temple before sunrise.

The third way is to hire a driver who can be your guide, too. It is the most expensive, but the most convenient if you want to maximize your visit to Borobudur.

Friendly Reminders

  • The best days to visit the temple are weekdays if you want to avoid a lot of tourists.
  • Respect the monument. Do not sit or climb the Stupas if you want to take a photo.
  • Bring a sarong and scarf for a cover-up.
  • During a chilly morning, wear a jacket, coat, or parka.
  • Bring a hat, the sun is scorching hot after 8:00 A.M.
  • Do not litter and do not vandalize.


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