The period in which the Javanese constructed Borobudur is shrouded in mystery and legend. No records about its construction or intention exist, and dating the temple is based on arty comparisons of reliefs and inscriptions located in Indonesia and elsewhere all over Southeast Asia. Strong cultural and spiritual influences arrived in present-day Indonesia in the Indian subcontinent starting around the 1st century CE. This influence multiplied from 400 CE onwards. Hindu and Buddhist merchants and traders settled in the region, intermarried with the local people, and eased long-distance trading connections between the indigenous Javanese and ancient India. Over the centuries, the Javanese combined the religions and culture of ancient India with their own.
The name “Borobudur” itself is the topic of intense scholarly discussion and is a lingering mystery. Some scholars assert that its name stems from the Sanskrit Vihara Buddha Uhr or even the “Buddhist Monastery on a Hill,” while some argue that Budur is not anything more than a Javanese name. The title “Borobudur” might likely be associated with “Bharabhudara.”
What’s known is that Buddhists left pilgrimages and participated in Buddhist rituals at Borobudur through the early medieval period until the temple was abandoned at some stage during the 1400s CE. The root causes of the abandonment of Borobudur are moreover debated, and the explanations for why the temple was ultimately abandoned remain unidentified.
Over the following decades, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, along with volcano expansion hid Borobudur from the Javanese, rendering it inaccessible. There is evidence, nonetheless, that Borobudur never left the collective cultural awareness of the Javanese people. Even after their conversion to Islam, later Javanese stories and myths expressed the temple’s affiliation with puzzles and unwanted energies.
In the years after Borobudur’s rediscovery, the government of the Dutch East Indies commissioned and allowed archaeological studies of the temple. However, looting was a significant difficulty in the 19th and early 20th century CE. Experts urged that Borobudur be left undamaged in situ, along with the first restoration attempts that lasted from 1907 to 1911 CE. Now, Borobudur is again a Buddhist pilgrimage site and a significant tourist destination in Southeast Asia.
Borobudur is an impressive and monumental ancient Buddhist structure that could only be rivaled in Southeast Asia by Angkot Wat in Cambodia, the Buddhist temples of Bagan in Myanmar (Burma). Borobudur’s layout mixes Javanese and Gupta dynasty designs, reflecting the blend of native and Indian aesthetics in ancient Java. These sculptures are unique because they portray the Buddha’s teachings, life, and personal wisdom. Borobudur can promise to have the biggest quantity of Buddhist sculptures of any single site on the planet these days when taken together. In early times, sculptors decorated and adorned the temples’ various galleries before that, coated with paint and stucco. This technique has helped better preserve those sculptures for over a million years.
It is projected that over 1.6 million cubes of andesite – a stone rock – were used in Borobudur’s construction. These rocks were cut and combined in a way that did not employ any mortar. Borobudur comprises three distinct monuments: the main temple at Borobudur and two smaller temples situated to the east of the most important temple. Both smaller temples are the Pawon Temple along with the Mendut Temple. Collectively, Borobudur, Pawon, and Mendut represent the path the person requires in attaining Nirvana. All three temples lie in a straight line as well.
The principal temple architecture at Borobudur is built on three levels using a pyramid-shaped foundation teeming with five square terraces, the back of a cone having three dimensional curved shaped platforms, and on the upper level, an enormous grand stupa. Fine reliefs form part of these walls of the temples and cover an area of about 2,520 m2 (27,125 square feet). 72 stupas, each having a statue of the Buddha inside, are found around Borobudur’s circular platforms. This feasibility and delineation of distance conform to the Buddhist conception of the world. The universe is divided into three spheres in Buddhist cosmology known as arupadhatu, rupadhatu, and kamadhatu.
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