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Borobudor Temple

I visited Yogyakarta, Indonesia where this temple is located during my visit to the country in 1998. The walk up to this structure is amazing, except for the constant attacks by peddlers trying to sell you souveirs of your visit. The paths are lined with fragrant, flowering trees and it is very surreal to actually stand on stones that were placed there thousands of years ago. In any case, here is a good description of the structure I found. Also, see http://www.kenricephoto.com/pages/trav_java_1.html for a few photos of the temple. Once I get my webpage up and running I will post many more pictures of the site.

The Borobudor Temple
(Taken from http://www.gpsworld.com/1198/temple.html)

Considered one of the seven wonders of the world, the majestic Borobudor Temple serves as an awe-inspiring testament to the hard work, determination, and, above all,faith of its eighth- and ninth-century creators.

The temple is an architectural representation of the Buddhist concept of the universe and the life of Buddha. Literally wrapped around a hill, the monument overlooks a green valley encircled by a ring of mountains. The structure begins with six rectangular stories, ascends to three circular terraces, and crests with a central stupa (or large dome) at the top. The journey up (and through) this magnificent temple is designed to be a feast for the spirit as well as the senses: Adorned by miles of bas-relief carvings, the 10 levels symbolize the accumulation of virtue in the 10 stages of Bodhisatva -- beginning with everyday life and spiralling up to nirvana.

Below the base, a series of reliefs depicts the world of desire, in which good and evil receive their just reward and punishment accordingly, with reincarnation to higher and lower life forms. Covered with stone, these reliefs are partially visible from the south. Then, at the main eastern gateway, the visitor begins his or her clockwise trip (which is standard for all Buddhist monuments) around galleries richly decorated with relief panels. First is the world of form, ornamented by more than 1,000 illustrations of the life of Buddha as he journeyed toward enlightenment. The three circular terraces that follow introduce the visitor to the world of no form, which are unadorned by reliefs. Instead, 72 lattice-work stupas containing Buddha images are arrayed evenly along the terraces. As the pilgrim progresses, he or she reaches into the stupas to touch the hands or feet of the Buddhas for good luck. Finally, the traveler reaches the large, central stupa, which is symbolically empty.

Devotees circumambulate around the galleries and terraces chanting or meditating. From beginning to end, the entire walk is some 5 kilometers long.

Borobudur is not actually a temple per se, which is to say, it is not an edifice to be entered. Instead, it's a huge symmetrical monument, a giant stupa, a commemorative structure which recalls and embodies Buddhist cosmology, as BiggPoppaliscious' cut-and-paste says. It is not far from the lovely town of Yogyakarta on the island of Java, and I recommend a visit to that town, as well as to Borobudur itself.

Borobodur was built on a hill which was terraced and faced with rock; the stone was then elaborately carved. The huge stupa was begun at a period when Hinduism held sway in Java, and the lower 2 levels, which I believe are square, not rectangular, most clearly reflect Hindu mythology. Construction on these levels was begun around 775 AD. A period of turmoil on the island followed; Buddhist leaders gained power, and the monument's significance was diverted to Buddhist ends. Construction ended around 850 AD. Later, Islam swept the island, and most people on Java today are Muslim; Borobudur consequently fell into disrepair, but it remains a visible reminder of this earlier, Buddhist past.

It is odd to say that the stupa on top is "symbolically empty". In fact it's really empty, to symbolize Nirvana, the cessation of all thought, emotion, and action.

A Hindu-Buddhist syncretic religion is still practiced on neighbouring Bali, one reason why that island is so unique and peaceful.

BiggPoppaliscious is incorrect in thinking that s/he stood "on stones that were placed there thousands of years ago", for the stupa is not that old. In addition, when Islam took hold on Java, Borobudur fell into ruin, and jungle grew over the rubble. European hubris relates that the monument was "discovered" by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles in 1814. When you see such locutions, think "discovered by Europeans". Such a huge structure, even if crumbled and overgrown, could hardly have escaped the notice of the people who lived around it at the time. Europeans undertook reconstruction of the amazing stupa, a mind-numbingly complex task which relied, no doubt, on plentiful native labour and expertise. Today Borobodur is a truly impressive rebuilt structure that looms over the Muslim villages around it as even its rubble must have done a few centuries ago.

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