The History of Borobudur Temple and Its Unique Facts


Photo By: Stockphoto/tostphoto

The architectural splendor of Borobudur Temple cannot be separated from the long history of the development of Buddhism in Indonesia. The fame of Borobudur Temple is well known to foreign countries and is known as the largest Buddhist monument in the world according to the Ministry of Tourism website.

Located in Magelang, Central Java, Borobudur Temple underwent a long period of restoration to restore its majesty. Borobudur Temple is one of the most valuable treasures in Indonesia and the world. The following is a review of the history of Borobudur Temple and its unique facts:

1. A Brief History of the Borobudur Temple

According to historical records, the initial construction of Borobudur Temple occurred in the 8th and 9th centuries around 800 AD during the reign of the Syailendra dynasty.

The construction of Borobudur is predicted to take tens to hundreds of years to be fully completed during the reign of King Samaratungga in 825.

Although it was completed, there is no historical record that explains who the person who built the Borobudur temple was. The reason is, at that time Hinduism and Buddhism developed simultaneously on the island of Java.

The Syailendra dynasty was recorded as a follower of Mahayana Buddhism while around Borobudur there were also followers of Shiva's Hinduism.

Photo By: kemenparekraf

A number of archaeologists suspect that the construction of Borobudur Temple underwent four renovations. Initially construction began by leveling the plains around the temple and compacting the soil with stones to form a pyramid structure.

The structure was later changed due to the addition of square and circular steps. Then, Borobudur underwent the final changes to the circular steps and the size of the foundation was widened.

The splendor of Borobudur had disappeared for centuries because it was buried under a layer of soil and volcanic ash which was then overgrown with trees and shrubs to resemble a hill.

It is not known exactly why Borobudur was abandoned by its inhabitants at that time. The theory of history leads to the eruption of Mount Merapi and the conversion of the population's beliefs from Buddhism to Islam.

The return of the fame of Borobudur Temple occurred during the time of Thomas Stamford Raffles while serving as Governor General on the island of Java in 1811. The rediscovery occurred when Raffles heard that there was a large building hidden deep in the forest near the village of Bumisegoro.

Raffles then sent a Dutch engineer named Christian Cornelius to examine it.

The news of the rediscovery of Borobudur was also a disaster for the destruction in many places. Until the late 1960s the Indonesian government asked UNESCO for help to overcome the problems at Borobudur Temple.

In the history of Borobudur Temple, its renovation took a long time and a huge expense until it was designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1991.

Photo By: Stockphoto/LP7

2. The Shapes

As the largest Buddhist temple in the world as well as the largest Buddhist monument in the world, according to the website of the Ministry of Education and Culture, Borobudur Temple has a structure like a punden terrace which is getting smaller and smaller with four stairs in each cardinal direction.

Borobudur Temple has a length of 121.66 meters with a width of 121.38 meters and a height of 35.40 meters. According to Buddhist philosophy, the level structure of Borobudur Temple is an imitation of the universe for the wheel of life. There are three levels in the structure of the Borobudur Temple:

Kamadhatu: The lower part of the temple which symbolizes the underworld, describes human behavior that is still bound by worldly desires.

Rupadhatu: The middle part of the temple which symbolizes the intermediate nature, describes the behavior of humans who have started to leave worldly desires, but are still bound by the real world.

Arupadhatu: The upper part of the temple which symbolizes the upper realm, depicts the intangible element and as a sign of the level that has left worldly desires.

The stones in Borobudur Temple are predicted to come from rivers around Borobudur with a total volume of about 55,000 cubic meters, equivalent to 2 million pieces of stone.

3. Functions of Borobudur Temple

Apart from being a tourist place, Borobudur Temple now functions as a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists worldwide to guide humanity from worldly desires to enlightenment and wisdom according to Buddhist teachings.

On the way, pilgrims walk through a series of hallways and stairs by witnessing 1,460 reliefs engraved on the stone walls of the temple.

4. Unique Facts about Borobudur Temple

In addition to the history and moments of the Vesak day that attracted foreign attention, Borobudur Temple keeps a number of unique facts including:

  • There are 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues, making Borobudur the owner of the largest and most extensive Buddha relief in the world.
  • Theft of statues is rampant. Real Buddha head statues are often stolen and then sold in antiques, collectors, and illegal markets. Of the 504 Buddha statues, many were found in a headless condition.
  • Borobudur Temple was bombed. Two years after the 2nd restoration, January 21, 1985, 13 bombs were placed by the perpetrators in a number of small stupas. 9 of the 13 bombs exploded and destroyed hundreds of stone blocks of the stupa. The bombing action is related to radical understanding.
  • The Dutch East Indies government handed over the precious statues to Thailand and England. The Dutch East Indies government at that time gave free temple artifacts in large quantities as a gift for the arrival of the Thai King Chulalongkorn II.
  • The Dutch East Indies government had established a coffee shop at the top of the stupa when it was first discovered.

Thus the history of Borobudur Temple and unique facts that you can know. If it is not maintained, its sustainability will be increasingly eroded and extinct.

Always keep in mind to take good care of your attitude and behavior and dare to reprimand other visitors when they see acts of destruction such as littering, throwing cigarette butts into statue stupas, committing acts of vandalism.

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