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Borobudur Temple – Indonesia (Read Before Visiting!)

Borobudur Temple – Indonesia (Read Before Visiting!)

Borobudur Temple is a preserved Buddhist monument in Indonesia that attracts thousands of pilgrims and tourists from around the world. With three main levels, Borobudur Temple stretches over 2,500 square metres, making it one of the largest historical sites in the world.

In this article, we’ll be talking about everything you need to know about this brilliant architectural creation.

What is Borobudur Temple Famous for?

The temple is famous for its amazing structure, archaeological value, and religious significance. Borobudur Temple is the world’s largest Buddhist monument and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is the most visited tourist attraction in Indonesia.

Location of Borobudur Temple

Borobudur Temple

Borobudur Temple is located in Kedu Valley, 86 km from Surakarta and 40 km from Yogyakarta. Two twin volcanoes and rivers flank the temple. It’s located in an elevated region. In the 20th century, two other Buddhist temples were discovered while the temple was being restored to its former glory. They are located aligned to Borobudur Temple; it is believed that these temples shared a ritual relationship.

Archaeologists were of the idea that the Borobudur temple was built in the middle of a lake and that it reflected the shape of a lotus, but no evidence was found to support this hypothesis. 

History of the Borobudur Temple

Evidence suggests that Borobudur Temple was built in 800 AD during the Sailendra dynasty.  It is assumed that the completion of the temple took about 75 years. Despite the importance the temple held for the Javanese people around the time it was built, the temple was abandoned.

Borobudur was submerged in volcanic ash and thick jungle growth. However, its existence was not forgotten, but the temple held a negative connotation; people believed that Borobudur brought bad luck and associated it with death. These superstitious beliefs constituted the complete opposite of the temple’s majestic glory around the time it was built.

The temple was rediscovered during the British occupation of Indonesia between 1811 and 1816. Thomas Stamford Raffles, the governor of Indonesia at the time, was greatly interested in Javanese history. And he was informed there was a monument buried inside the jungle. He could not go and see the temple himself, but he sent an engineer, Hermann Cornelius, to discover the temple. Hermann, along with a group of 200 men, cleared away the jungle and unearthed the temple.

However, he could not uncover all the art galleries as there was a risk of collapse. In 1835, Christiaan Lodewijk Hartmann continued Hermann’s work, and it is believed that he discovered a large Buddha statue in one of the stupas.

In the years that followed, the appreciation of the temple grew slowly. It was a site of souvenirs rather than a site of archaeological and historical importance; many treasures of the temple were looted as well.  However, the temple grabbed the world’s attention in 1885 when its reliefs were uncovered. The architectural brilliance of the temple was understood, and the government implemented the restoration of the temple.

The restoration work was done between 1907 and 1911, but the work was not completed. During World War II and Indonesian National Revolution, the restoration work of the temple was put on hold. During this time, the temple further deteriorated, and the underground structure of the temple suffered due to drainage problems and weather.

A World Heritage Site

Stupas at Borobudur

In 1975, the Indonesian government, in collaboration with UNESCO and with the financial aid received from other countries, restarted the restoration process. And in 1991, UNESCO declared Borobudur Temple a World Heritage Site.

Is Borobudur Temple Part of the 7 Wonders?

The temple is considered one of the ancient marvels of the world; however, it is not on the list of the 7 wonders of the world. One of the main reasons is that the original list was created somewhere during the 2nd and 1st century BC, and Borobudur Temple did not exist until the 9th and 10th centuries.

That said, even if the list were created around the time the temple was built, the temple would have had so much competition as there were other structures of similar architectural brilliance.

Events and Tourism

Once the restoration work was completed, the temple began to shine as a place of religious importance. Vesak, a national holiday in the country, is celebrated at the site to commemorate Buddha’s birth, death, and enlightenment.

Borobudur Temple is the most visited tourist attraction in Indonesia. It attracted 260,000 tourists in 1974, and the figure rose to an annual 2.5 million. While the tourist income generated by the temple benefits Indonesia greatly, tourism has become a cause for concern. Temple needs protection from vandalism, and the temple’s stairs are being deteriorated due to the high number of people visiting the temple.

However, steps have been taken to minimise the damage done by tourist visits; the government built wooden structures on top of the stairs, and it’s been suggested that the visitors be issued special footwear when visiting the temple.

Is Borobudur a Stupa or Mandala?

Aerial View of the Borobudur Temple

Borobudur is a cross between a stupa that contains Buddhist relics and a mandala representing Buddhist cosmology. This is a temple mountain with a square that resembles the earth and a circle that resembles heaven. The temple holds one of the most complete collections of Buddhist relics in the world.

As for the architecture of the temple, the temple symbolises both Gupta dynasty architecture and Javanese style architecture. The temple is an example of Indian influence, but the structure has architectural details that make it uniquely Indonesian. Within the temple complex are 3,000 bas-relief sculptures and 500 Buddha statues.

Which is Bigger, Borobudur or Angkor Wat?

In terms of land area and size, Angkor Wat is much larger than Borobudur, but Borobudur has many caverns that you can explore. Although Angkor Wat is larger, Borobudur is older.

Things to do at Borobudur

Here’s a list of things you can do when visiting Borobudur Temple.

Watch the Sunrise

The temple opens at 6 AM, but you can be in the area at around 5 AM to witness the mesmerising transformation of the temple’s stupas and reliefs, as they bathe in the golden rays of the morning sun.

Explore

The temple expands over 2500 square metres, which means that there’s a lot for you to explore.

Visit the Museums

You’ll find three museums in the vicinity of the temple: Borobudur Museum, Museum MURI, and Samudraraksa Ship Museum. Each one of these museums contains valuable artefacts.

Visit Other Temples near Borobudur Temple

There are several other temples you can explore during your visit, and they include Pawon Temple, Mendut Temple, and Ngawen Temple.

Buy Souvenirs

Visit one of the souvenir stores and buy something to remind you of your visit. You can buy batik garments and bamboo carvings; the most popular tourist item is the mini replicas of the temple.

Getting Here

Getting to the temple is quite easy. All you have to do is book a tour through your hotel or a tour operator. There are several tours available, including sunrise tours. If you want to get here on your own, you can take the public bus from Central Yogyakarta; but this isn’t the best travel option for tourists.

The most convenient method for a tourist is to sign up for a tour that offers transport.

Best Time to Visit Borobudur Temple

The temple is open from 6 AM to 5 PM; the best time to visit is in the morning. The dry season, from April to October, is the best season to visit. The site gets quite crowded, so avoid the weekends if you can.  

What to Wear

Modest clothing is advised. Make sure your clothes cover your knees and upper arms. Loose garments are the ideal clothing option.