The Borobudur Temple

The Borobudur Temple is one of the largest and most impressive monuments in the Buddhist world. In 1814, Luitenant-Governor Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles and H.C. Cornelius discovered the temple, after it had remained hidden for centuries underneath the volcanic ashes and vegetation.

The Borobudur Temple

The name ‘Borobudur‘, or ‘Barabudhur‘ in Javanese, comes from the Sanskrit ‘Vihara Buddha Ur‘, which can be roughly translated as ‘Buddhist Temple on the Mountain’. The temple is situated at the Kedu Plain, approximately forty kilometers North from Yogyakarta, Central-Java. In this area we also find other Buddhist temples, like Candi Mendut, Candi Pawon and Candi Sewu, as well as the Hindu Prambanan temple. Northeast from the Borobudur lies the Merapi and Merabu volcano, while northwest from the temple there are the volcanos of Sumbing and Sindoro. In this characteristic landscape we also find an intersection of two rivers, the Progo and Elo.

Mount Merapi and Merabu

The construction of this ancient monuments took place from approximately 780 up until 830 during the reign of the Sailendra[1] dynasty in Central-Java. The Sailendra dynasty held close ties with other international Buddhist countries, such as India and Sri Lanka, which also was expressed through the particular style of the inscriptions and depictions of the time.

Map of Borobudur Temple

The Borobudur is built on top of an artificial hill, which, from below to the top level, consists of a square foundation, five square terraces, and three circle-shaped terraces, on top of which there is a stupa[2]. This particular archeological construction model is in many scientific research labeled as a mandala[3]. Though many suggestions have been introduced to support these observations, yet there remains no evidence by which these claims can be proven to be fully correct.


[1]  Sailendra: ‘The Lords of the Mountain’, in: Grabsky, Phil, 2000 : “The lost temple of Java”. London: Seven Dials; p. 102.

[2]  Stupa: a Sanskrit term for a dome-shaped Buddhist monument in which the relics of the Buddha were preserved.

[3] Mandala: a Sanskrit term which refers to any round or circle-shaped object (like the sun, moon, a ball, a weel, etc.), yet at the same time it could also imply the meaning of a district, province, land, group or society, whereas another common interpretation of a mandala is that it represents a cosmogram – a traditional symbol as used in Tantric Buddhism. See: Klokke, Marijke J. : “Borobudur: a Mandala?: A contextual approach to the function and meaning of Borobudur” in: “IIAS yearbook”. Leiden, 1995; p. 193.

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