Afternoon at Borobudur
February 14th, 2021
After yesterday’s visit to the market, today we’re exploring Borobudur in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. I’ve refreshed the photos and added more to this post, originally published in 2014.
Hope you love! ♥
Post of the Day: Adding a bit of light to the darkness as we get through the pandemic together. This series features travel photos from my archives, shared with you while staying close to home.
The world’s largest Buddhist temple, Borobudur, sits on the Indonesian island of Java. Borobudur was completed around 825 AD as a pilgrimage site and sits on top of a hill, as you can see from the approach. It’s a massive site — difficult to capture in a single frame while standing at the base.
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 is credited with its rediscovery.
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 main city of the Maya civilization in what we know today as Guatemala.
Steep steps at each side of the square-shaped foundation lead to Borobudur’s three levels, each one different and symbolic of the journey toward enlightenment. Kamadhatu is the common world, Rapudhatu is the transitional world and Arupadhatu is the formless world, or highest realm of existence before nirvana.
Bas relief scenes around Borobudur depict situations and temptations of life. They reminded me of reliefs at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, although Borobudur predates Angkor Wat by several centuries.
In all of the sculptures, individuality seems highly valued, with each face distinct from the others in features and expression. Additional ornamentation of some women further differentiates them from others. Clearly, the artists at work here were skilled and perceptive.
More than 500 Buddha statues sit around Borobudur, many without heads (lost with time). The large bell-shaped stupas around the top hold an additional 72 Buddhas within their interiors — just peek through the holes to see them.
Moving higher onto the site, the bas relief scenes are left behind implying a transition to a higher existence. Each level holds fewer stupas until reaching the single and largest stupa at the top center, symbolizing nirvana.
Borobudur is surrounded by lush jungle and distant hills — a beautiful setting muted by the excruciating midday heat which chased the crowds away when I visited. Go early or late to capture the Buddhas and bas reliefs in their best light. They’ll be waiting, just as they have been for the past 1,196 years.