The Mysterious and Beautiful Borobudur, a UNESCO site in Java, Indonesia
Borobudur is one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world. Built between 750 and 842 AD: 300 years before Cambodia's Angkor Wat and 400 years before work had begun on the great European cathedrals. Little is known about its early history except that a huge army of workers worked in the tropical heat to shift and carve the 60,000 m3 of stone. At the beginning of the 11th century AD, because of the political situation in Central Java, divine monuments in that area, including the Borobudur Temple became completely neglected and given over to decay. The Sanctuary was exposed to volcanic eruption and other ravages of nature. The temple was not rediscovered until the 19th century. A first restoration campaign, supervised by Theodor van Erp, was undertaken shortly after the turn of the century. A second one was led more recently (1973-82).
A harmonious marriage of stupas, temple-mountain and the ritual diagram, this temple complex was built on several levels around a hill which forms a natural centre. The first level above the base comprises five square terraces, graduated in size and forming the base of a pyramid. Above this level are three concentric circular platforms crowned by the main stupa. Stairways provide access to this monumental stupa. The base and the balustrades enclosing the square terraces are decorated in reliefs sculpted in the stone. They illustrate the different phases of the soul's progression towards redemption and episodes from the life of Buddha. The circular terraces are decorated with no fewer than 72 openwork stupas each containing a statue of Buddha.
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