Java, Indonesia (Yogyakarta or Solo)
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Creative Commons image by cranrob
Lost to the jungle for over 700 years, this gigantic Buddhist stupa was reclaimed from the jungle in 1814 by Thomas Stamford Raffles, the then-governor of Java. When the locals reported about some ruins on a hill, little that Raffles realise that the entire hill was the archaeological site itself!
Built in the 9th century by the Sailendra Dynasty, this massive pyramid is comprised of four circular terraces on top of six square ones. Estimates say the entire structure was built over a 70-year period, a massive undertaking considering that the monumental stones weigh 100kg each!
Pilgrims would ascend the stupa in a clockwise, circumambulatory route. They would be flanked by reliefs depicting Buddhist teachings: the Jataka tales and the life and wisdom of Buddha. Here, the reliefs tell us as much about daily life in ancient Java as it does of Buddhist teachings. The meditation was as much about the walk as it was the final destination – but it’s still unsure if pilgrims were allowed all the way up or if access were only restricted to the elites and religious. Today, however, it’s a proud symbol of the past – despite most of the population’s conversion to Islam.
For more information about Borobudur:
– The Restoration of Borobudur (World Heritage Series)
– The Lost Temple of Java (History/Journey’s Into the Past) by P. Grabsky
– The Mysteries of Borobudur: Discover Indonesia Series by J. N. Miksic
– Borobudur: Golden Tales of the Buddhas (Periplus Travel Guides) by J. Miksic
– Borobudur by J. L. Nou
– Borobudur (Images of Asia)