Borobudur is an ancient Buddhist temple, a grandiose and complex structure in Indonesia, in the central part of the island of Java, 40 km. from the city of Yogyakart.
Borobudur – the pearl of the ancient world
The temple complex is an example of Indonesian medieval architecture, in 1991 it was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
A look through the ages
From sankrit “borobudur” is translated as “Buddhist temple on the mountain”, the exact date of the appearance of which scientists have not established. It is believed that the construction was erected 75-100 years – in 750-850 AD during the era of the powerful Silendra dynasty.
Thousands of workers, artisans and architects built the temple, but after 150 years the shrine was gradually abandoned. Borobudur, towering in the sacred valley of Kebu, was buried under volcanic ash, and the jungle of Java hid it from human eyes for hundreds of years.
Europeans found the abandoned temple at the beginning of the 19th century. In 1814, the British colonialists of Java, having landed on the island, discovered the stones of the upper terraces of Borobudur on a hill among the jungle .
On the instructions of the Governor of Java, 200 people cleared the upper tier of the temple in 2 months, cut down the trees and made a clearing to the top of the sacred hill, but there was not enough money for restoration: the whole building appeared in 1855.
Interesting! Numerous vandals, taking this opportunity, took away and plundered the temple.
The general restoration, sponsored by Germany and France, Cyprus and Belgium, Australia, began in 1973. The project involved 600 people. In the temple, 800 thousand stone blocks of the lower terraces were dismantled, the hill was fortified and the stone blocks were reassembled.
To replace the missing fragments, 5,000 new stone slabs were hewn out, and the drainage system was improved. $ 6.9 million was spent on the restoration of Borobudur, but today the temple looks the same as it did 1200 years ago.
The temple complex, covering an area of 1.5 hectares, was erected in the form of a huge stupa of two million stone blocks. The foundation of Borobudur is in the form of a square with a side of 118 meters.
The complex is built around a hill lined with stones. 55 thousand cubic meters of stone were laid without a bonding mixture, they are tightly and precisely fitted to each other. Temple in the form of a pyramid, towering 34 meters above the ground – without internal space
On the base there are 9 tiers : six square and three round. As the height above the ground increases, the area of the temple levels decreases.
Interesting! Each side of Borobudur is oriented to the cardinal points with a staircase and an entrance to the upper tiers.
The stairs pass under the arched gate, which is decorated with 32 sculptures of lions , which drive away evil spirits that prevent a person from ascending to enlightenment. In the upper part of each arch is the head of the goddess Kali, who brings death and gives life; on the sides – figurines of mythical sea monsters. The central entrance to the temple, located on the east side, is open only to Buddhist monks.
Excavations show that the temple complex was painted black and red, blue and gold over snow-white plaster. Torrential tropical rains washed away the paint and turned the temple into a dark gray heap of volcanic rock.
Borubudur – stone encyclopedia of Buddhism
Borobudur is called the temple of a thousand Buddhas. The walls of the galleries are lined with stone slabs, on which bas-reliefs are placed around the perimeter, telling about the life of Prince Siddhart Gautama (Buddha) .504 Buddha statues adorn the temple.
Making a ritual tour of the tiers of the temple, pilgrims get acquainted with the life of the Buddha and his teachings, which are set out on 2,672 bas-reliefs. Heading to the top, the pilgrims move along a system of stairs and corridors through three levels of the temple, symbolizing the Buddhist idea – the consistent development of the human soul from the lowest to the highest.
The lower level of the temple is a symbol of carnal pleasures, a sinful world full of passions, where a person is not aware of himself and lives according to the laws of karma. 160 stone carvings illustrate people’s sensual passions. There are 104 niches with Buddha statues.
The middle level tells about the wanderings of the Buddha, who, in search of the meaning of life, explores the world through overcoming his desires. 328 Buddha statues accompany the traveler on this level.
The highest level is a world without forms, so it is difficult to portray it. These are three round terraces. On the upper terrace there is a large central stupa with a diameter of 15 meters and a height of 8 meters.
A life-size symbol of eternity, the stupa is surrounded by 72 small bell-shaped stupas with diamond-shaped holes. Inside, behind carved fences, there are Buddha statues. There are no bas-reliefs at the top: here is the abode of the gods, a place where the soul gains immortality.
Each person can go this way and achieve enlightenment by realizing himself. The path is very attractive, but at the same time full of tricks and unexpected pitfalls.
At first glance, it seems as if all 504 Buddha statues look the same. The subtle difference between the two is the placement of the hands. The Buddhas sitting in the east have their hands touching the ground. This is a symbol of the correctness of Buddhist teachings.
The hands of the Buddhas sitting in the south are raised up, which means the fulfillment of all desires. Western Buddhas sit with their arms folded on their chest, this is a meditation posture. The Buddhas guarding the north side lowered their left hand to their knees, and raised their right hand in a pacified gesture, thereby inspiring the pilgrims to go further along the path of salvation.
Borobudur bas-reliefs – a book for pilgrims
Borobudur’s bas-reliefs are a reflection of the history of Buddhism. The narration is in the form of “stories” about the previous birth of the Buddha.
On a note! According to the story, Buddha was born 504 times in the guise of kings and scholars, princes and slaves, thieves and gamblers.
Many times he was born under the guise of animals: a lion and a deer, a monkey and a swan, a big turtle, a quail and a horse.
Thanks to the bas-reliefs, we learn about customs, food, animals and vehicles, musical instruments of the Javanese of that time.
The bas-reliefs show markets and field work scenes, examples of the architecture of the time. Stone carvings have captured kings and queens, courtiers and soldiers, servants and commoners, priests, dancers and hermits.
The bas-reliefs also depict mythical spiritual beings: these are asuras (lower deities), gods, kinnars (mythical creatures in the form of people with horse heads) and apsaras (celestial dancers). By studying stone images, historians learn about the architecture and weapons of the time, economics, fashion and trade, crafts and jewelry.
Borobudur delights with extraordinary silence and grandeur, monumentality and unearthly beauty, Borobudur immerses you in an atmosphere of mystery and Buddhist tranquility.