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Borobudur Temple, Magelang, Central Java


imageBorobudur Temple is located in Magelang Regency, around 15 km to the Southwest of Yogyakarta. The Indonesia’s biggest Buddhist temple has been registered in world heritage list number 348, which was changed into number 592 in 1991. This temple is laid out on a small hill surrounded by Menoreh Hill, Merapi Volcano, and Mount Merbabu to the northeast and Mount Sumbing and Sindoro to the northwest. Until today scholars have yet to come to an agreement in regard of the name Borobudur Negarakertagama (1365 AD) mentions “Budur”, a Buddhis shrine of Vajradhara. According to Casparis, Sri Kahulunan stone inscription (842 AD) mentions “Kawulan i Bhumi Sambhara”. He argues based on the inscription that Barabudhur is a place of worship. Bumi Shambara is the name of certain part in Barabudhur temple. According to Poerbatjaraka, Barabudhur means Budur Monastery, while Raffles stated that ‘boro’ means “big” and ‘budur’ is the Javanese term for Buddha. Based on inscriptions found on several stones in Barabudhur Temple, scholars conclude that this temple was built around the year 780 AD under kings of Sanjaya Dynasty. The construction took tens of years and it was completed only 830 AD, during the reigns of King Samaratungga of Syailendra dynasty. This grand temple is said to be built by an architect named Gunadharma, although no written evidence is found to about this man. In 950 AD Barabudhur was buried by lava from Merapi eruption, and it was rediscovered after a thousand year in 1814. The rediscovery was on the merit of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. When Raffles paid a visit to Semarang, he was informed that there was piles of stones with relief. In 1814, a group of people visited an area in Kedu residency to find out further about a legend linked with a hill near Boro village. Making their way through shrubs and after digging and removing the mound of volcanic ashes, they found a large number of stone blocks carved in strange pictures. Raffles gave order to Cornelius, a Dutch, to clean them. Further cleaning of the stones and the vicinity was continued by Hartman, then Kedu resident. Barabudhur stands on a hill extending east to west. This temple is made of blocks of andesite 47,500 m3 in volume, which are arranged in precision without adhesives and coated with vajralepa, like the one applied on Kalasan and Sari temples. The ancient structure of Barabudhur is square with four stairways on the four sides, i.e. on the east, south, west, and north. It is said that an uphill path was found on below the temple base on the east. It becomes a basis for an assumption that the temple and the temple’s main entrance face the east. The bottom of each stairway holds a statue of dragon head with open mouth with a lion sitting inside. The assumption that Borobudur faces the east is founded on the fact that Pradaksina sculptures should be read beginning from the east and ending in the east as well. Apart from that, the biggest lion statue is also located on this side. Originally this ancient building stood 42 m high, but now it is only 34.5 m high after restoration. The temple’s square base is 123 x 123 m in dimension, with porches on each side. The entire edifice consists of 10 stories on an area of 15.13 m2. The first seven terraces are square, and the upper three are circular. Each stairway that leads to the upper terraces has a beautifully adorned gate, with kalamakara without its lower jaws attached above the it. — Borobudur has no interiors for worshipping, as this temple was intended to be a pilgrimage destination and a place to gain more in-depth knowledge about Buddhism. The entire walls are 1500 m2, adorned with 1460 panels, each of which is 2 m wide. There are 504 Buddha statues, including those already damaged. The statues represent the Buddha in a range of postures. On the east side are statues of Dhyani Buddha Aksobhya, i.e. Buddha sitting cross-legged with hands touching the ground or in Bhumiparsyamudra position. On the south side are statues of Dhyani Buddha Ratnasambhawa, i.e. Buddha sitting cross-legged with hands in blessing or Varamudra position. On the west side are statues of Dhyani Buddha Amitabha, i.e. Buddha sitting cross-legged with hands in Dhyanamudra meditating position. On the north side are statues of Dhyani Buddha Amogasidhi, i.e. Buddha sitting cross-legged with hands in soothing or Abhayamudra position. On top of the temple are statues of Dhyani Buddha Vairosyana, i.e. Buddha sitting cross-legged with hand in teaching or Vitarkamudra position (thumb and forefinger touching, and the other three fingers rising). On the circular terraces are statues of Dhyani Buddha Vairosyana, i.e. Buddha sitting cross-legged with hands in a position of giving religious teachings or Dharmacakramudra. – Barabudhur represents the three stages of human life. The base is called Kamadhatu, representing the profane world full of desires and passions (kama). The walls of the temple base are adorned with 160 relief panels illustrating Karmawibangga. Today we cannot see the panels because they are buried under soil mound. While temple construction was underway, the incomplete structure sank into the earth, forcing the architect to bury the temple’s base. It was done for, in addition to preventing the structure from collapsing, aesthetic and ethic purposes. The temple’s body consists of 5 terraces in ever-decreasing size laid out on a square plan. Each terrace has a walkway encircling the body. Richly sculptured walls flank the walkway. The body is called Rupadhatu, which means the material world. In this world, human beings are still bond by worldly living, although they have already attempted to control their desires and passions. The upper wall of the first terrace carries sculptures telling stories adapted from Lalitawistara, describing the life of the Buddha since His descent from Tusita heaven to the earth, when He received teachings at Rusa Garden near Benares, until his ultimate perfection. The lower wall is adorned with Jatakamala sculptures, narrating the life of Jataka and Avadana, who are manifested as Bodhisattva due to their decent past life. The other parts of Jatakamala book embellish the upper and lower sections along the walkways on the first and second terraces. The second terrace’s walls, and also the walls and fence on the third and fourth terraces, are adorned with sculptures adapted from Gandawyuha book. The story tells about Sudhana in his efforts to seek knowledge and the truth, who eventually meets Gandawyuha who teaches him the wisdom to attain perfection in life. The temple’s three-layered roof is called Arupadhatu, meaning immaterial world. At this level of life, human beings have been free from desires and passions. The roof consists of three layers of stone blocks on a circular plan with stupas containing Buddha statues. There are 32 stupas in the first circular layer and 24 on the second, with diamond-shaped holes. The diamond-shape holes symbolize the passions that still linger. The third layer has 16 stupas with square holes. These square holes symbolize passions that have already gone without a trace. The roof top is a huge stupa. It is believed that the stupa had originally contained the statue Adhi Buddha, the highest Dhyani Buddha in Mahayana Buddhism. Barabudhur has gone through a series of restoration works. The first was done under Dutch colonial administration between 1907 and 1911 by Van Erp. This project prioritized restoring the three layers of temple roof and the top stupa. The second restoration was conducted in ten years from 1973 to 1983. In this project the temple was taken apart; its foundation and walls were strengthened by reinforced concretes; and the blocks of stone were analyzed, cleaned, and applied with water-resistant coating before they were restored to their original arrangement.

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