Article written by: Edwin Solahuddin
ASEAN-Korea blog correspondent, Indonesia
Indonesia is home to many magnificent religious structures. Among them is an ancient Buddhist temple, famously known as Borobudur.
Borobudur is undoubtedly one of the greatest and loveliest Buddhist monuments in the world. This huge temple is located in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia, around 42 km away from the city of Yogyakarta. Borobudur was built around the latter half of the eight century and the first half of the ninth century by King Samaratungga of the Sailendra dynasty, and was completed in 824 under the same king. According to Casparis, the name of Borobudur was derived from Bhūmi Sambhāra Bhudhāra, which in Sanskrit means “The mountain of combined virtues of the ten stages of Boddhisattvahood.”
This Mahayana Buddhist shrine, which is 123×123 square meters in size and has an area volume of 60,000 cubic meters, was built on several levels around a hill which according to some geologists was the center of an ancient lake. The first level above the base consists of five square terraces and forming the base of a pyramid. Above this level are three concentric circular platforms crowned by the main stupa. The walls of Borobudur are sculptured covered with 2,672 bas-relief panels carved into stone, extending over a total length of 6 km.
In its early years, the temple of Borobudur, which took the form of a mandala, became the center of the kingdom’s religious life. The temple is both a shrine to Buddha as well as a place for Buddhist pilgrimage. The journey for pilgrims begins at the base of the monument and follows a path around the monument and ascends to the top through three levels symbolic of Buddhist cosmology: Kamadhatu, Rupadhatu and Arupadhatu.
At the beginning of the elevent century, because of change in political situation as well as volcanic eruption, Borobudur became neglected. From the 15th century onwards, after the Javanese conversion to Islam, the temple of Borobudur was almost completely forgotten. It was not until the 19th century that the temple was rediscovered and restored thanks to Thomas Stamford Raffless, then the British Governor of Java, who ordered the excavation of the lost temple. Since then, this great temple has underwent several renovations and restorations, the largest of which occurred from 1975 to 1982 when the Indonesian government and the United Nations, through the UNESCO, launched a massive restoration that completely dismantled and reconstructed the lower terraces of the monument.
Over one million stones and thirteen hundred carved panels were moved and cleaned during the course of restoration. Professionals in archaelogy, engineering, chemistry and biology from twenty eight counties worked together to restore the Buddist temple
Today, Borobudur has become a major tourist attraction in Indonesia where more than 2.5 million tourists visited the shrine every year. In 1991, Borobudur was named by the Unesco a World Heritage Site. More recently, on June 27, 2012, the Guinness Book of World Records has declared Borobudur as the world’s largest Buddhist archaelogical site.