The world’s largest Buddhist temple, Borobudur, sits on the Indonesian island of Java. It’s interesting to note some similarities Borobudur shares with other significant sites around the world. Borobudur was constructed around 750 AD — about the same time Tikal was at the height of its power as a kingdom of the Mayans in what we know today as Guatemala. Similar to Machu Picchu in Peru, Borobudur was abandoned at some point and lay hidden by jungle and volcanic ash until uncovered centuries later. Thomas Stamford Raffles, ruling governor of Java in 1814, sent an expedition to investigate Borobudur after being informed of its existence. Raffles has since been credited with its rediscovery.
Borobudur was completed in approximately 825 AD and sits on top of a hill, as you can see from the approach. It includes a base, body and top with nine levels. It’s a massive site — difficult to capture in a single frame while standing at the base. Steep steps at each side of the square-shaped foundation lead to the various levels, each level adorned with intricate reliefs (more than 2,600) depicting people and scenes of life. They reminded me of reliefs at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, even though Borobudur predates Angkor Wat by several centuries.
More than 500 Buddha statues sit around Borobudur, many without heads. The large bell-shaped stupas near the top level hold an additional 72 Buddhas within their interiors — you have to peek inside the holes to see them. The site is surrounded by lush jungle and distant hills — a beautiful setting muted by the excruciating midday heat that helped chase the crowds away, but go early or late to capture the Buddhas in their best light. They’ll be waiting, just as they have been for the past 1,189 years.