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Borobudur

Borobudur Temple is one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world. This colossal relic of Borobudur Temple was built by Sailendra dynasty between 750 and 842 AD; 300 years before Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, 400 years before work had begun on the great European cathedrals.

Photo: http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1179/1040661275_a8e727958b.jpg?v=0Located at 42 kms west of Yogyakarta, on the island of Java in Indonesia, Borobudur is one of the most magnificent Buddhist shrines in the world. The plan for this stupa is a schematized representation of the cosmos, a mandala. After visiting its lower terraces decorated with bas-reliefs, pilgrims attain the shrine's crowning stupa, which symbolizes the Absolute.

Little is known about its early history except that a huge tropical heat to shift and carve the 60,000 Cu m of stone.Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles revealed Borobudur Temple in 1814.

He found the temple in ruin condition and ordered that the site be cleared of undergrowth and thoroughly surveyed. The massive restoration project began from 1905 to 1910 led by Dr. Tb. van Erp. With the help of UNESCO, the second restoration to rescue Borobudur was carried out from August 1913 to 1983.

The overall height of Borobudur was 42 meters, but it is only 34.5 meters now (after restoration), and has the dimension of 123 x 123 meters. The building has 10 floors or levels: Hhumtcambharabudara, the mountain of the accumulation of virtue in the ten stages of Bodhisatva. Borobudur is located 41 km northwest of Yogyakarta, 7 km south of Magelang, Central Java.

History

The Sailendra dynasty is said to hark back indirectly to India by being cousins to the Chandella dynasty, which left numerous monuments in India between the 7th and 8th centuries (most notably, the Khajuraho temples). Allegedly, a schism in the family occurred between those remaining faithful to Hinduism - the Chandella dynasty, which stayed in Khajuraho - and the Sailendra branch which, having converted to Buddhism, set off for Indonesia as early as the 4th century.

The Sailendra dynasty reached its zenith in Indonesia during the 7th, 8th, and 9th centuries. Their king was considered the founder of Borobudur; he bore the name Indra (Hindu god represented on an elephant - god of rain, monsoons, storms and winds). The fact that the founder of this most fabulous Buddhist shrine bore a Hindu name shows the ambiguity of the Sailendra dynasty's position between Buddhism and Hinduism.

The shrine was actually signed or co-signed by Indra's son, King Samaragunta (also spelled Samaratunga). The latter turned the com pleted monument over to the Buddhist monks, who enjoyed royal sponsorship. Just as in classical India, in Java the dynasties generally continued Hindu names and beliefs. At the same time, they opened their minds to Buddhist doctrines, effecting a sort of unofficial conversion, which they concretized in the form of a gift of land, money or even pensions to the Buddhist monks who, in return, affected a tolerant and protecting attitude towards the royalty.

Source: Berger Foundation

Presentation of a Mandala

In the vernacular Indian language Pali, "mandala" means: sacred drawing. In a ritual held in common by Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism, the faithful meditate by carrying out repetitive drawings on the ground of certain mandalas handed down by tradition and believed to bring awareness of the divine.

The Buddhists developed this art to the greatest extent. Tibetan, Nepali or Sikh art exhibitions provide occasion to admire the "thangkas": these are large paintings that, hung by monks over statues of Buddha, represent the fruit of the spiritual exercise of reproducing a divine mandala. Thangkas are not considered works of art since, once finished, they lose their importance: for worshippers who produce these works, what matters is "doing the drawing", and not the end product. Such worshippers accomplish the same rite as the monks who become painters, illustrate manuscripts or untiringly draw and repeat mandalas on the ground.

The mandala featured here is the oldest and most orthodox extant; it is of Hindu rather than Buddhist origin, and explains the origin of the world.

Source: Berger Foundation

Visiting Tip: The ritual of experiencing Borobudur

It is a classic Buddhist ritual for pilgrims to carry out the stages of a visit by turning clockwise and gradually up wards around a stupa, until reaching the smallest round, which is that of the unity at the top.

This method was already described in pre-Vedic texts prior to 2700 BC; in India, this is called - by Hindus as well as Jains and Bud dhists - "pradaksina". The idea is to walk around the divine in order to awaken the divine, meaning to bring a statue to life and thus exalt its power, while at the same time apprehending all aspects of its divinity.

In India, as through out Southeast Asia, the clockwise direction allows you to keep your right hand physically in contact with the naos (shrine). The Buddhist implications at Borobudur are so very sophisticated and complex that it takes a whole series of zones of varying awareness to reach the unity at its summit.

What to see

Borobudur is constructed in such a way that it reveals various levels of terraces, showing intricate architecture that goes from being heavily ornamented to being plain (as we visually step from the fifth to the sixth terrace, moving from the World of Form to the World of Formlessness).

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mariaismawi/886033883/If you begin at the base of Borobudur, you'll find the three levels of Borobudur. The first is Kamadhatu, the world of desire, Rupadhatu, the world of forms and Arupadhatu, the world of formless. This is the path between the world of forms and formless.

The most intricately adorned level (of which one sees little since it was encased almost at its origin in stabilizing stones) features 160 carved panels depicting human joys and despair of the World of Desire.

The 1,300 bas-reliefs along the balustraded corridors of the square galleries forming the next five levels of terraces - the World of Form - represent scenes and teachings from the life of Buddha and the lives of 43 bodhisattvas: at this level, it is assumed that a person has achieved some mastery over worldly desires.

Finally, the three circular terraces are left un adorned except for the 72 perforated stupas, each containing a statue of Buddha: this World of Formlessness cul minates in the bell-shaped but totally unadorned central stupa that is Nothingness and All.

There are 1.460 relief panels on Borobudur, each of them tells the story of Buddha Gautama. The lowest level has 160 reliefs depicting the law of cause and effect; the middle level contains various stories of the Buddha's life from the Jataka Tales; the highest level has no reliefs or decorations whatsoever but has a balcony, square and shape with round walls.

Gallery 3 and 4

* Gandavyuha

Gallery 2

* Gandavyuha (the structure of teh world compared to a bubble).
Most of the reliefs in Borobudur narrate the tale of Sudhana, a young man seeking the Ultimate Truth. After many encounters with people from all levels of society, the story climaxes when Sudhana finally visits the bodhisattva Samantabhadra and vows to follow his example.
* There are also more stories about Jataka and Avadana.

Gallery 1

* Lalitavista (the unfolding of the play), the stroy of Budhha, showing how his life was a "performance" to educate mankind on how to attain enlightenment.
* Avadana (Heroic Deeds), most of the narratives in this section have not yet been deciphered
* Jataka (Birth Stories), narratives of the many self-sacrifacing act performed by Buddha in his earlier incarnations.

Basement level -"Hidden Foot"

* Mahakarmavibhangga (Great Classification of Actions), these reliefs show men and women caught in the cycles of karma and encorage the pilgrim to escape earthly existence and attain Nirvana.
* The 160 panels do not related a continuous story but it provides one complete illustration of cause and effect. The first 117 panels show various action producing one and same result. While the remaining 43 panels demonstrate the many result that follow one kind effect.

STATUES

Many scholars believe that the 432 Budhha statues on the five balustrades of the lower levels are linked to the 72 statues on the upper round terraces as part of a single metaphor.

Circular Terraces

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/10331634@N00/13412877/There are 92 Dhyani Buddhas tucked into small stupas. Each of these statues has a mudra (hand gesture) indicating one of the five directions; North, East, West, and the Center. The tiers just below the central stupa contain a Buddha with the mudra indicating the preaching of Buddha's first sermon carried out on the summit of Mount Semeru. This suggest that Borobudur is a representation of that sacred mountain.

"Kunto Bimo" Statues

Historically speaking, the most popular statue, "Kunto Bimo" can be found to the right of the stairway on the east side of the first terrace. Bimo was the second of the Pandawa Brothers in the Hindu Ramayana epic. Childless women in particular stretched out their fingers toward him in an attempt to touch his finger as he sat montionless in his "cage" believing that doing so they would be blessed to have their next generation.

East Gate

1. The Bodhisattva (would-be Buddha Gautama) in Tusita heaven, being paid tribute to by Devatas (deities) with various musical instruments.
2. The Bodhisattva intimates the Gods of his desire to descend on earth to incarnate into a Buddha and give guidance to the people who have gone ashtray so as to help them find back the right path.
3. A Brahmin teaches his Lanus (pupils) the worldly wisdom and informs them that in 12 years Buddha will descend on earth and redeem mankind from samsara (suffering).
4. The Pratekya-Buddhas (those who have already reached the enlightenment but who have not yet become a Buddha) know about the incarnation of the next Buddha and they are going to heaven to welcome and escort him.
5. The Bodhisattva is teaching the Gods.
6. Before Buddha descends on earth he hands his crown (tyara) to Maitreya, another would-be Buddha.
7. Gathering of the Gods.
8. Scene of King Cuddhodana and Queen Maya, the would-be parents.
9. Queen Maya in the Palace.
10. The Gods prepare themselves to accompany the Bodhisattva to earth.
11. Last tribute in Tusita heaven before the Bodhisattva descends on earth.
12. In the Cri-Carbha pavilion the Bodhisattva sits and meditates (mind the dyanamudra) and then descends on earth, carried by the Gods.
13. Queen Maya dreams, that a white elephant penetrates her body.
14. God Indra resolves to protect her.
15. Queen Maya goes to Acoka garden.

South East Gate

1. King Cuddhodana arrives at Acoka garden, riding on an elephant.
2. King Cuddhodana meets the Queen on the verandah. The Queen tells her dreams and ask her husband what the dream predicts.
3. King Cuddhodana, not knowing the significance of the dream, as a Brahmin named Asita about it. Asita explains that the Queen has become pregnant and will give birth to a King or a Buddha.
4. King Cuddhodana rejoices at this information and showers gifts upon Asita and other Brahmanas.
5. All the Gods offer their paradises to the Queen.
6. The Gods make Queen Maya visible at the various places simultaneously (Trikaya-doctrine: Dharma-kaya, Sambhoga-kaya and Nirvana-kaya).
7. Before the birth of Buddha the Queen performs a miracle: She cures the sick and deformed people.
8. The Princes are giving alms.
9. The King in meditation.
10. Many wonders are seen in Kapilawastu, such as lions sitting before the gates and elephants adoring the King etc.
11. The Queen adorns herself and
12. Drives in a carriage to the Lumbini Garden.
13. There in the garden Queen Maya gives birth to the Bodhisattva (Gautama) in a standing pose. Directly after birth the infant is already able to walk seven steps and because he is a God, he always stands upon lotus flowers. The Gods are bathing him. A week after the delivery Queen Maya passes away.
14. Holy persons of whole India are congratulating the King
15. After the Queen's death Cuddhodana's sister, Princes Gautami becomes the Prince's nurse.

South Gate

1. King Cuddhodana arrives at Acoka garden, riding on an elephant.
2. King Cuddhodana meets the Queen on the verandah. The Queen tells her dreams and ask her husband what the dream predicts.
3. King Cuddhodana, not knowing the significance of the dream, as a Brahmin named Asita about it. Asita explains that the Queen has become pregnant and will give birth to a King or a Buddha.
4. King Cuddhodana rejoices at this information and showers gifts upon Asita and other Brahmanas.
5. All the Gods offer their paradises to the Queen.
6. The Gods make Queen Maya visible at the various places simultaneously (Trikaya-doctrine: Dharma-kaya, Sambhoga-kaya and Nirvana-kaya).
7. Before the birth of Buddha the Queen performs a miracle: She cures the sick and deformed people.
8. The Princes are giving alms.
9. The King in meditation.
10. Many wonders are seen in Kapilawastu, such as lions sitting before the gates and elephants adoring the King etc.
11. The Queen adorns herself and
12. Drives in a carriage to the Lumbini Garden.
13. There in the garden Queen Maya gives birth to the Bodhisattva (Gautama) in a standing pose. Directly after birth the infant is already able to walk seven steps and because he is a God, he always stands upon lotus flowers. The Gods are bathing him. A week after the delivery Queen Maya passes away.
14. Holy persons of whole India are congratulating the King.
15. After the Queen's death Cuddhodana's sister, Princes Gautami becomes the Prince's nurse.

West Gate

1. The Bodhisattva has a bad dream.
2. The Prince bids farewell to his father, King Cuddhodana.
3. His father refuses to let him go and orders beautiful women to entertain him continually and by shutting all the gates.
4. At midnight the women fall asleep and the Bodhisattva sees them sleeping in unsavory poses.
5. He calls his grooms Kanthaka and candaka and has them put his horse ready.
6. Accompanied by the Gods he leaves the palace.
7. He thanks the Gods.
8. He cuts his hair and sends his horse back.
9. He receives a monasic.
10. The Gods pay homage to him.
11. The Bodhisattva visits the Brahmin woman Padma.
12. He visits Arala Kalap and Basivata.
13. He becomes a pupil of Arala Kalap.
14. Afterwards he visits King Bimbisara of Rajagrha.
15. King Bimbisara of Rajaggrha visits the Bodhisattva in the forest.
16. The Bodhisattva becomes a pupil of Rudraka.

North West Gate

1. He leaves Rudraka and with 5 pupils he goes to the Gaya mountain.
2. He becomes a hermit.
3. The Bodhisattva's late mother Queen Maya descends from heaven on earth to persuade her son to end his ascetic life and take again food and drink so as regain his physical health.
4. The Gods are guarding him.
5. They beseech him to take some food through the pores of his skin.
6. He comes to the conclusion that ascetism is of no use and he takes some food, which he receives from some girls of Urumilwa.
7. He takes the clothes of a dead person.
8. Afterwards he receives a monastic.
9. The following day Sujata offers him a cup of milk.
10. The Bodhisattva goes to the river Nairayana and take a bathe.
11. He throws the old clothes into the river.
12. The daughter of the naga king Sagara offers him a throne.
13. He eats the remaining food.
14. He throws the cup away, which is taken by Sagara.
15. Accompanied by the Gods the Bodhisattva goes to Bodhimanda, where he will receive the enlightement.

North Gate

1. God Brahma and other Gods adore the Bodhisattva.
2. The Gods adorn the Tree of knowledge (Bodhi tree)
3. While the Bodhisattva is meditating Mara's army attacks him. All the arrow change into flowers.
4. While the Bodhisattva is meditating Mara's army attacks him. All the arrow change into flowers.
5. Beautiful woman, Mara's daughters are tempting the Bodhisattva.
6. The Bodhisattva receives his highest knowledge. He becomes a Buddha.
7. He is adored by celestical nymphs.
8. The Gods pour him with holly water.
9. And afterwards they glory him.
10. In the second week he takes a long walk. From there he returns to the Bodhi tree.
11. In the fifth week he receives homage from the naga king Mucilinda.
12. In the sixth week he gets up and goes to the tarayana tree, accompanied by the Gods.
13. Three two merchants give him some meat during the journey through the forest.
14. In order to eat this he gets from every God a stone disk, which he unites.
15. He receives milk food again.

North East Gate

1. Brahma asks the Buddha to teach his knowledge.
2. The other Gods also bid him to do so.
3. He accepts, but he learns that Rudraka and Arala Kalapa are dead, so that he cannot teach them.
4. After a meeting the Buddha is greeted by an Ajiwaka Monk.
5. After a meeting the Buddha is greeted by an Ajiwaka Monk
6. He is received by the Naga king Sudarcana.
7. In the town of Rohitawastu.
8. In the town of Uruwilkalpa.
9. In the town of Anala and Sarathi.
10. He flies over the river Gangga.
11. The Buddha arrives in Benares.
12. He visits 5 former pupils.
13. They become his pupils.
14. They bathe the Buddha with water from the lotus pool.
15. And they listen with great interest to the first sermon of the Holly teaching of Buddha.

Best time to visit

Early morning is the best time to visit Javanese temples, Borobudur included. The gate opens at 6 am, around sunrise. The view of the surrounding volcanoes and the Bukit Menoreh range to the south is clearest at dawn, although morning mists sometimes obscure the view until 8 am. Visitors must walk 500 meters to the base of the hill then climb a series of steps to reach the temple foot. To see all the reliefs one must walk more than 2 km (1.25 mi) around the four galleries and climb several flights of steps. The minimum amount of time needed at the Site is 1.5 hours. To view all the reliefs takes at least 3 hours; more time will be needed to take photos. Visitors are not permitted to take large bags onto the monument; these can be checked at the entrance without fear of loss.

Getting there

Borobudur can be reached by many forms of transport, about one hour from Yogyakarta. The drive leads through small towns and rice fields. Borobudur lies at the edge of a tiny village, Borobudur Village, where the inhabitants are mainly farmers and souvenir vendors.

A car with driver can be hired in Yogyakarta. Hotels and tour operators arrange group tours by bus. You can also take public transport. Go by bus or minibus from Yogyakarta to the town of Muntilan, change at the terminal here to another bus for Borobudur.

Source: http://www.borobudurpark.com

Photo Gallery:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/borobudur/interesting/

Resources:
1) Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borobudur

2) UNESCO World Heritage Site
http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/592

3) Wikitravel
http://wikitravel.org/en/Borobudur

4) Project Jigsaw: Borobudur
http://rubens.anu.edu.au/htdocs/bycountry/indonesia/borobudur/

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