Borobudur is the Most Visited Site in Indonesia

Posted in Asia | April 14, 2010 | 0 Comments

Located in Magelang at Central Java, Borobudur refers to the Mahayana Buddhist monument that is a shrine of Lord Buddha and a pilgrimage spot. It holds six square podiums capped by three round ones out of which the central podium is the main dome enclosed by holed stupas containing 72 Buddha statues. Listed as a World Heritage site, this entire structure of 9th century is adorned with over 2600 panels of bas-reliefs and some 504 Buddha statues.

Many people believed to be the site of a lake on which this temple was built signifying a lotus flower, sacred to Buddhism. According to some experts, this was evident from its architecture and the surrounding area known as the Kedu Plain, which was once a lake.

Holding sacred importance, Borobudur is the place to be on the full moon day in May (Vesak Day) when the day is observed as the birth, enlightenment, and death of Siddhartha Gautam.

Religious Significance

Geographically, Borobudur along with two other temples namely, Pawon and Mendut stand in straight line in the region. On the Vesak Day, the pilgrimage begins on foot from Mendut to Borobudur. Then, the pilgrims from the monument’s base follow a circular path around the monument that ascends them to the summit by passing all nine platforms each representing a stage of enlightenment. During this, they pass via three phases of Buddhist cosmology namely, Kamadhatu (the world of desire), Rupadhatu (the world of forms), and Arupadhatu (the world of formlessness). In addition, they also have to cross a net of stairways and corridors adorned with over thousand of tale-telling relief panels.

The Monument

Built on hill bedrock rather than on a flat surface, the monument is a single huge stupa symbolizing the Buddhist cosmology. The main structure is split into three groups: base, body, and top symbolizing the three major partitions of a human body. Base being square in shape, the body holds five square platforms each decreasing in height. The top group is the home of three circular platforms and perforated stupas in concentric circles, each in bell shape and perforated by many pretty openings.

According to the Buddhist cosmology, these three divisions are intentionally made to represent the three stages of mental state towards the final aim of human life. The base symbolize Kamadhatu (the world of desires), while the body of five square platforms denote Rupadhatu (the world of forms). Arupadhatu is signified by the three circular platforms and the giant stupa in the middle. Exhibiting metaphorical differences, the square and elaborate carvings of the body, the Rupadhatu transforms into simple and round platforms at the top, the Arupadhatu. This represents the transformation of the humans attached to name and forms (world of forms) into the liberated and enlightened souls detached with all worldly aspects (world of formless).

You can reach the upper part via the stairways on each of the four sides having many arched gates guarded by 32 lion statues. Each gate is decorated with Kala’s head on top with Makaras jutting out common to the Javanese temples. The main entrance is on the east where you will find the first narrative reliefs.

As compared to other temples in Java, there is no inner space of worship and its outline resembles the shape of pyramid. So, rather than a temple, Borobudur is believed to have been served more of a stupa that is a shrine for Lord Buddha as a devotional symbol of Buddhism. However, contradicting to what I just stated, the complexity of the detailed design helps in concluding it as a temple.

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