Borobudur, Java, Indonesia

Borobudur, the famous Buddhist temple, dating from the 8th and 9th centuries, is located in central Java. It was built in three tiers: 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 2,500 m2. Around the circular platforms are 72 openwork stupas, each containing a statue of the Buddha. The monument was restored with UNESCO’s help in the 1970s.

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.  (read more here :

Chandi Borobudur or Ancient Borobudur is built on a long natural hill, the ridge of which was leveled and converted into a plateau. The main part of the plateau forms the site of the monument. The plain on the north-western spur of the hill provided the site for the monastery. The plateau is some 15 m higher than the surrounding plain, and the top of the hill rises about 19 m above the plateau. It is around and over the top of the hill that the monument is constructed. A considerable amount of fill was required, however, as the hilltop was not sufficient to serve as the core of the structure. Chandi Borobudur differs completely from the general design of such structures. It is not a building erected on a flat, horizontal base, leaving an inner space for the enthronement of a statue, but a stepped pyramid, consisting of nine superimposed terraces, and crowned by a huge bell-shaped Stupa. The building technique, however, is the same as that used in the construction of chandis in stone. The building material was not collected from quarries, but taken from neighbouring rivers. The stones were fashioned and cut to size, transported to the site, and laid without mortar. The stones are made to grip by means of dovetails in the horizontal connections, and indentations in the vertical joints. The use of a knob on one side of a stone that fits into a corresponding hole in the next is also very frequent. These arrangements allow a certain flexibility, so that the monument can withstand slight movements without undergoing any immediate danger of collapse. When building was completed, the carvings and other embellishments were added. The structural design is complicated but a main vertical division into three parts (base, body and top) is evident. The base forms a square with protuberances. The square itself measures 113 m x 113 m, the overall dimensions being 123 m x 123 m. The 4 m high walls of the base are supported by a foothold, resembling a huge plinth – 1.5 m high and 3 m across. The body or middle part of the monument is composed of five terraces, which diminish in size with height. As if to emphasize the changes from one part to another, the first of these terraces stands back some 7 m from the sides of the base, creating a broad platform right round the monument. The other terraces retreat only 2 m at each stage, and balustrades at the outer sides convert the narrow galleries into corridors. The superstructure is again clearly distinguished from the terraces. It consists of three re-entrant circular platforms, each of which supports a row of perforated stupas. Surmounting the rows of stupas, which are arranged in concentric circles, the central dome on top of the whole monument soars into the sky to a height of nearly 35 m above ground-level. Access to the upper part of the monument is provided by stairways in the middle of each side of the pyramid. Through a series of gates (most of which have been lost at each level), a stair leads directly to the circular platforms, at the same time intersecting the corridors of the square terraces. ‘The main entrance is at the eastern side (as is evident from the start of the narrative reliefs). Staircases are also found on the slopes of the hill, mounting from the lower-lying plain to the elevated plateau, and linking up with the stairways of the monument by means of paved ways. The entrances are guarded by stone lions; other lions watch at the different levels of the pyramid – a total of 32 lion statues in all. The builders of Chandi Borobudur realized the need for a drainage system because of the heavy rains. Spouts were provided at the corners of the mounting stages to drain off rain-water from the galleries. All of the 100 spouts are beautifully carved in the shape of makaras (gargoyles). As Borobudur is so different from all the other chandis in Indonesia it has often been suggested that it is a stupa and not a chandi at all. A stupa was originally intended as a shrine for relics of the Lord Buddha. Later, it is quite possible that the corporeal remains of distinguished Buddhist saints were enshrined in such stupas. Sometimes a stupa was erected merely as a symbol of the Buddhist creed. (p 14-16, Soekmono )

Apart from its abundance of narrative reliefs and ornamental carvings, Chandi Borobudur is exceptionally rich in splendid stone statues, all depicting Dhyani Buddhas. They are to be found in the rupadhatu and in the arupadhatu, seated cross-legged on lotus cushions and facing outwards. The Buddha statues of the rupadhatu are placed in niches, which are arranged in rows on the outer sides of the balustrades. As the terraces progressively diminish in size, the first balustrades have 104 niches, the second also 104, the third 88, the fourth 72, and the fifth 64, so that there were originally 432 statues. (p 35, Soekmono)


Source :

  • Soekmono, ‘Chandi Borobudur – A Monument of Mankind’, 1976, Van Gorcum, Assen/Amsterdam, The Unesco Press, Paris