Location: Magelang, Central Java Map

Inhabited: 9th- 14th century


Borobudur is ancient religious complex situated in Magelang, Central Java island of Indonesia. Borobudur was constructed in 9th- 14th century.


Borobudur was erected as a huge stupa, made in the form of a mandala. The foundation of the stupa is square, with a side of 118 m. The stupa has eight tiers: the five lower ones are square and the three upper ones are round. The form of the mandala is a diagram of the universe in accordance with Buddhist ideas (see Abhidharma). On the upper tier there are 72 small stupas around a large central one. Each stupa is in the shape of a bell. Inside the stupas are 504 Buddha statues and 1460 religious bas-reliefs.

Borobudur is still a place of pilgrimage and prayer. Pilgrims walk seven times clockwise at each level. Touching each Buddha from the stupas in the upper tier, according to beliefs, brings happiness.

The entire volume of the entire structure is approximately 55,000 m³. The stupa was built of 2,000,000 stone blocks. Until now, scientists have not been able to determine the exact date and duration of the construction of this temple - they suggest that the temple was erected in the 7th-9th centuries.

Site selection
In 1940, the Dutch artist Nivenkamp hypothesized that Borobudur was built in the form of a Buddha on a lotus flower, and for this reason the complex was likely to be located on the lake. In 1949, geologists found deposits that were interpreted as the bottom of the lake. It was hypothesized that the lake was formed as a result of the eruption of the volcano Merapi in 1006 or much earlier. It is not clear whether the lake was drained to build a stupa or whether it was a natural disaster.

Further studies showed that the lake existed in the XII-XIV centuries, confirming that the temple symbolized the lotus.

According to researchers, the building can be considered as a huge book for pilgrims. As the ritual tour of each tier is completed, the pilgrims get acquainted with the life of the Buddha and with the elements of his teachings.

Three levels symbolize the three spheres of residence - Kamadhatu (sphere of passions), Rupadhatu (sphere of forms) and Arupadhatu (sphere without forms).

The Kamadhatu level was closed later, probably for the stability of the structure. According to an early manuscript authored by the Buddhist saint Karmavibhangga, 160 relief panels were installed on the first level. They described the world of passions or the world of the sensual, and the development of the manifestation of sensuality in accordance with the laws of karma. The first 117 panels show different actions leading to the same result, and the remaining 43 panels show how the same effect leads to 43 different results. Several panels remained in the southeast corner of the complex.

The reliefs at the Rupadhatu level illustrate the classic works of Lalitavistar, Jatak-Avadan and Gandavyuh.

120 panels based on Lalitavistara tell stories from the life of Buddha Gautama.
Some panels tell stories from classic jatak about previous Buddha lives in folk form. In this case, the Buddha is portrayed by a god, a king, an ordinary person or even an animal - a lion, a deer, a monkey, a swan, a turtle. In every rebirth, the Buddha shows nobility and compassion. These stories, in popular form, reveal Buddhist principles.
Some panels speak of Sudhana wandering in search of wisdom.

The highest level corresponding to Arupadhat (a sphere without forms) is represented by three round terraces at the top. There are no reliefs or boards; during the construction period, life-size Buddha statues were placed here, usually inside stupas or niches in the wall. Many of them were not preserved or damaged.


Discovery and History Nowadays
For hundreds of years, Borobudur lay covered with volcanic ash and overgrown with jungle. How this unique monument was forgotten and abandoned is not yet clear. In the middle of the 20th century, it was suggested that after the eruption of the volcano Merapi, misfortunes forced residents to leave their land and look for other habitats. The eruption occurred in 1006, but many scientists believe that the center of the Javanese civilization moved to the Brantas Valley as early as 928. One way or another, why people left Borobudur remains a mystery.

In the 18th century, the upper terraces were only partially visible. Dutch colonial expeditions found other monuments, but did not mention Borobudur. Only in 1814, Lieutenant Governor Stamford Ruffles discovered the monument during the British occupation of the island during the Anglo-Dutch war. When he arrived in Semarang, he received a message that he discovered a hill with a lot of carved stones. The Dutchman Cornelius organized an expedition, he gathered a detachment of 200 people and cleaned the monument for a month and a half. His work was continued by others between 1817 and 1822. Since 1835, the upper part of the monument has been cleared and the whole complex has become well visible. In 1849-1853, the artist Vilsen carried out work on sketching reliefs. His works were in the Museum of Antiquity in Leiden. In 1873, the complex was photographed. Then the structure of the complex was completely unclear, and in 1882 the inspector for culture offered to completely dismantle the monument and place it in the museum.

Meanwhile, the monument was stolen, reliefs, sculptures, and ornaments were taken away by merchants of souvenirs. The King of Siam, who visited the governor in 1886, took with him eight bull teams with statues and ornamental elements and took away the sculpture of the only surviving guardian of the temple.

In 1907-1911, Theodore van Erp undertook the first major restoration of the complex. Since 1900, the young officer was a member of the Borobudur Commission in Magelang. The restoration was a great success, and the complex acquired a solemn and impressive appearance.

Due to the limited budget, work was first done to improve drainage and restore the overall structure. Long-term restoration required a lot of extra work. In addition, Borobudur is built on a hill, and work is needed to protect the monument from erosion of the soil, failure, corrosion and damage from the vegetation of the jungle.

The only solution would be to completely dismantle the structure, strengthen the hill and complete restoration. This huge work was carried out in 1973-1984 under the auspices of UNESCO. The famous Indonesian archaeologist Bukhari, M., took part in the development of the restoration project. Now Borobudur complex is one of the World Heritage sites.

Recent events
September 21, 1985 the temple was slightly damaged by bombings of Muslim extremists.

The development of mass tourism caused controversy and scandals. Park authorities have been criticized.

On May 27, 2006, an earthquake occurred in the south of Central Java, which caused severe damage in the vicinity of the city of Yogyakarta. However, the Borobudur complex, located at some distance from the epicenter, was not damaged.