Borobudur...magnificent, spiritual and very humbling...

The Buddhist Temple of Borobudur (photo LP)
I am currently in Jakarta, Indonesia, visiting a dear friend and her husband, having spent the last four days touring in Central Java. The environs of Jogjakarta are as far removed from the hustle and bustle of southern, tourist laden Bali as possible. And my eyes have been opened to a culture so diverse, so rich in history and so engrained in every aspect of everyday life, that I have felt truly humbled by the experience.

The Eastern side of Borobudur (photo LP)

The most extraordinary part of my journey into the centre of this island of Java was a visit to the ancient Buddhist temple of Borobudur. I know little about the Buddhist religion other than general concepts, but I am now in awe of the beliefs and will endeavour to learn more.

The Buddha, the top Stupa, Borobudur (photo LP)

Words like " spectacular" and " awe inspiring" do not do justice to the magnificence of this ediface. And while the structure is exceptional in its detail and sheer size, it was the spirituality which invaded each and every turn as I walked around it's circumference which confounded and humbled me.

The instructions for entering and exploring the Temple (photo LP)

The information below is taken from the official UNESCO website:

The Borobudur Temple Compounds is one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world, and was built in the 8th and 9th centuries AD during the reign of the Syailendra Dynasty. The monument is located in the Kedu Valley, in the southern part of Central Java, at the centre of the island of Java, Indonesia.

The Temple taken from the Aman Jiwo Hotel (photo Christine Simmmonds)

The main temple is a stupa built in three tiers around a hill which was a natural centre: a pyramidal base with five concentric square terraces, the trunk of a cone with three circular platforms and, at the top, a monumental stupa. The walls and balustrades are decorated with fine low reliefs, covering a total surface area of 2,520 m2. Around the circular platforms are 72 openwork stupas, each containing a statue of the Buddha.

An openwork stupa (photo LP)

The vertical division of Borobudur Temple into base, body, and superstructure perfectly accords with the conception of the Universe in Buddhist cosmology. It is believed that the universe is divided into three superimposing spheres, kamadhatu, rupadhatu, and arupadhatu, representing respectively the sphere of desires where we are bound to our desires, the sphere of forms where we abandon our desires but are still bound to name and form, and the sphere of formlessness where there is no longer either name or form. At Borobudur Temple, the kamadhatu is represented by the base, the rupadhatu by the five square terraces, and the arupadhatu by the three circular platforms as well as the big stupa. The whole structure shows a unique blending of the very central ideas of ancestor worship, related to the idea of a terraced mountain, combined with the Buddhist concept of attaining Nirvana.

One of the five square terraces (photo LP)

The Temple should also be seen as an outstanding dynastic monument of the Syailendra Dynasty that ruled Java for around five centuries until the 10th century.

Detail of carving...from the 8th Century AD (photo LP)

The Borobudur Temple Compounds consists of three monuments: namely the Borobudur Temple and two smaller temples situatued to the east on a straight axis to Borobudur. The two temples are Mendut Temple, whose depiction of Buddha is represented by a formidable monolith accompanied by two Bodhisattvas, and Pawon Temple, a smaller temple whose inner space does not reveal which deity might have been the object of worship. Those three monuments represent phases in the attainment of Nirvana.

The Entrance to the Temple (photo LP)

The temple was used as a Buddhist temple from its construction until sometime between the 10th and 15th centuries when it was abandoned. Since its re-discovery in the 19th century and restoration in the 20th century, it has been brought back into a Buddhist archaeological site.