Borobudur, the Biggest Buddhist Temple in the Ninth Century
Who does not know Borobudur? This Buddhist temple has 1460 relief panels and 504 Buddha effigies in its complex. Millions of people are eager to visit this building as one of the World Wonder Heritages. It is not surprising since architecturally and functionally, as the place for Buddhists to say their prayer, Borobudur is attractive.
Borobudur was built by King Samaratungga, one of the kings of Old Mataram Kingdom, the descendant of Sailendra dynasty. Based on Kayumwungan inscription, an Indonesian named Hudaya Kandahjaya revealed that Borobudur was a place for praying that was completed to be built on 26 May 824, almost one hundred years from the time the construction was begun. The name of Borobudur, as some people say, means a mountain having terraces (budhara), while other says that Borobudur means monastery on the high place.
Borobudur is constructed as a ten-terraces building. The height before being renovated was 42 meters and 34.5 meters after the renovation because the lowest level was used as supporting base. The first six terraces are in square form, two upper terraces are in circular form, and on top of them is the terrace where Buddha statue is located facing westward. Each terrace symbolizes the stage of human life. In line with of Buddha Mahayana, anyone who intends to reach the level of Buddha's must go through each of those life stages.
The base of Borobudur, called Kamadhatu, symbolizes human being that are still bound by lust. The upper four stories are called Rupadhatu symbolizing human beings that have set themselves free from lust but are still bound to appearance and shape. On this terrace, Buddha effigies are placed in open space; while the other upper three terraces where Buddha effigies are confined in domes with wholes are called Arupadhatu, symbolizing human beings that have been free from lust, appearance and shape. The top part that is called Arupa symbolizes nirvana, where Buddha is residing.
Each terrace has beautiful relief panels showing how skillful the sculptors were. In order to understand the sequence of the stories on the relief panels, you have to walk clockwise from the entrance of the temple. The relief panels tell the legendary story of Ramayana. Besides, there are relief panels describing the condition of the society by that time; for example, relief of farmers' activity reflecting the advance of agriculture system and relief of sailing boat representing the advance of navigation in Bergotta (Semarang).
All relief panels in Borobudur temple reflect Buddha's teachings. For the reason, this temple functions as educating medium for those who want to learn Buddhism. YogYES suggests that you walk through each narrow passage in Borobudur in order for you to know the philosophy of Buddhism. Atisha, a Buddhist from India in the tenth century once visited this temple that was built 3 centuries before Angkor Wat in Cambodia and 4 centuries before the Grand Cathedrals in Europe.
Thanks to visiting Borobudur and having supply of Buddha teaching script from Serlingpa (King of Sriwijaya), Atisha was able to improve Buddha's teachings after his return to India and he built a religion institution, Vikramasila Buddhism. Later he became the leader of Vikramasila monastery and taught Tibetans of practicing Dharma. Six scripts from Serlingpa were then summarized as the core of the teaching called "The Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment" or well known as Bodhipathapradipa.
A question about Borobudur that is still unanswered by far is how the condition around the temple was at the beginning of its foundation and why at the time of it's finding the temple was buried. Some hypotheses claim that Borobudur in its initial foundation was surrounded by swamps and it was buried because of Merapi explosion. It was based on Kalkutta inscription with the writing 'Amawa' that means sea of milk. The Sanskrit word was used to describe the occurrence of disaster. The sea of milk was then translated into Merapi lava. Some others say that Borobudur was buried by cold lava of Merapi Mountain.
With the existing greatness and mystery, it makes sense if many people put Borobudur in their agenda as a place worth visiting in their lives. Besides enjoying the temple, you may take a walk around the surrounding villages such as Karanganyar and Wanurejo. You can also get to the top of Kendil stone where you can enjoy Borobudur and the surrounding scenery. Please visit Borobudur temple right