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(both: bō'rōbo͝odo͞or`), ruins of one of the finest Buddhist monuments, in central Java, Indonesia. Built by the Sailendras of Sumatra, this magnificent shrine dates from about the 9th cent. It is a huge, truncated pyramid covered with intricately carved blocks of stone that illustrate the life of the Buddha and his teachings according to Mahayana Buddhist doctrine. A seated Buddha within may be seen from three platforms above the seven stone terraces that encircle the pyramid.

Borobudur (Indonesia)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Although today it is buried in the jungle almost in the center of the island, Borobudur is the most interesting relic of the former Buddhist domination of Java. Today it survives as the largest Buddhiststupa in the world.

A center for Vajrayana tantric Buddhist worship, Borobudur emerged on a site formerly used as a Hindu temple. The original site seems to have been chosen for its resemblance to Allahabad, India, where two rivers converge. These physical rivers are believed to converge with a spiritual river, thus creating a place where immortality is experienced.

Vajrayana is a form of Buddhism with practices that claim to speed up the process of attaining enlightenment. It is most often associated with Tibetan Buddhism, although it originated in India and spread to most of the main Buddhist countries. It spread through southeast Asia and to Indonesia in the eighth century. In Java it became associated with the powerful Sailendra dynasty. The several Sailendra who ruled in the late eighth and early ninth centuries expanded the Borobudur complex, which became the center of the faith on the island. By the end of the ninth century, however, the headquarters of the Sailendra kingdom shifted away from central Java, and religious hegemony in the area returned to Hinduism. Then in 1006, Java was shaken by a massive earthquake and an accompanying eruption of the Merapi Volcano. Ash from the volcano covered the site. It was abandoned and eventually lost in the jungle regrowth.

Borobudur remained lost to the larger world for the next 800 years. Sir Thomas Stanford Raffles rediscovered Borobudur in 1814. He led an original clearing of the site and an initial survey. A century later a massive restoration effort began, to be followed by a more recent effort in the 1980s by UNESCO. The archeological attention has led to the site being reclaimed from the jungle, if not returned to Buddhist worship.

The mound, which holds the temple above the jungle floor, has some 50,000 cubic feet of stone. The temple base is some 500 feet on each side. Above the base are eight terraces, each home to a number of relatively small stupas, memorials to enlightened individuals (or buddhas), and many statues of the Buddha. A pilgrim ascends the temple along a spiral pathway that features pictures of scenes from the major Buddhist scriptures depicting the path to nirvana. They lead to a central terrace upon which rests a large stupa surrounded by 72 small stupas. The central stupa is 105 feet high.

In its overall form, Borobudur is a picture of the cosmos similar to the pictures on somemandalas. Its shape is quite similar to Mount Meru, the home of the Buddhist deities. Its division into three basic levels—the base, the terraces, and the giant central stupa—represents the three divisions of the universe in Buddhist cosmology: the level of earthly entanglements, the terraces where one separates from the world and purifies desire, and the highest levels of emptiness and formlessness. The giant central stupa has two empty spaces into which a pilgrim may enter to experience the nothingness of nirvana.

It appears that Borobudur, as a Buddhist site, was constructed to house one of the relics of Gautama Buddha that were distributed through the Buddhist world as significant centers emerged. Byits size and elaborateness, however, Borobudur became a sacred site in and of itself. Today, it resides in a land that is overwhelmingly Muslim, and only a few Buddhist pilgrims join the tourists who visit the site annually.


Dumarçay, Jacques. Borobudur. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978.
Forman, Bedrich. Borobudur: The Buddhist Legend in Stone. New York: Dorset Press, 1992.
Marzuki, Yazir, Toeti Heraty. Borobubur. Jakarta: Djambatan, 1982.
Wickert, Jurgen. Borobudur. Jakarta: Pt. Intermasa, 1993.



a Buddhist sanctuary in the southern part of the island of Java. It is a unique medieval monument of Indonesian art and the culminating point of its development. Borobudur was constructed (c. A.D. 800) from blocks of stone on the slope of a natural hill. It has the form of a graded, ten-tiered pyramid (height, 31.5 m; length of the foundation, 123 m), which includes the route of processions and five square and three round terraces (with numerous bell-shaped stupas) topped by a large stupa. The niches of the terrace and the upper stupas, decorated with tracery, hold 504 statues of Buddha; the walls of the bypasses of the lower terraces are covered by 1,460 reliefs on the life of Buddha. Borobudur, with its infinite wealth of aspects all subordinated to a strictly unified plan, harmony of architecture, sculpture, and ornamental decor, was conceived as a monumental symbol of the universe. The sculpture of Borobudur is remarkable for its lyrical softness and rhythmicity, sensual charm, feeling of the felicitous fullness and harmony of being, and wealth of the lifelike folklore and genre motifs of its reliefs.


Prokof ev, O. Iskusstvo Iugo-Vostochnoi Azii: 3. v. do n. e.-18 v. n. e. Moscow, 1967.
References in periodicals archive ?
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Borobodur as Cultural Landscape: Local Communities' Initiatives for the Evolutive Conservation of Pusaka Saujana Borobodur.
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Much progress, certainly, has been made since the heyday of Dutch colonial archeology, but much, too, remains enigmatic and intellectually puzzling about this (with Borobodur) most magnificent of archaic Indonesian monuments.
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(59) In Southeast Asia the appeal of the Sujata episode can be gauged in a variety of representations which range from Borobodur reliefs to a fifteenth-century Mon inscription.