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Older than Angkor Wat and bigger too, Indonesia specialist Jacqui Brooks introduces Borobudur

The vast pyramidal structure (AD 750-850) of Borobudur, Java
The vast pyramidal structure (AD 750-850) of Borobudur, Java

Borobudur, Yogyakarta, IndonesiaThe 9th century Buddhist monument of Borobudur is nestled between the active volcano of Mount Merapi, verdant rice paddies, palm tees and Central Java’s rolling Menoreh Hills.

Although little detail is known about the early days of Borobudur, its completion is believed to pre-date the temples of Angkor by 300 years. Constructed under the Sailendra Dynasty rule, the 72 Buddha sculptures, and 2,500 square meters of bas reliefs and carvings tell the tale of centuries old Javanese life, and Buddhist teachings.

Relief at Borobudur, Yogyakarta, IndonesiaDuring the fall of the Sailendra Dynasty at the beginning of the 11th century, the site of Borobudur was abandoned and lay undiscovered under volcanic ash and enveloping foliage for an estimated 800 years. Revered colonial ruler Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles ordered the excavation of the site in 1814, having heard whisperings of a hidden monument from local legend. Since then, the temple site has been restored and attained UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1991.

Borobudur is one of the most visited sites in the Indonesian archipelago, receiving an estimated 2.5 million visitors each year. It is well worth an early start to reach it in time for sunrise, to enjoy a more serene experience, and beat the crowds.

Did you know?

  • Long hailed as the largest and most complete collection of Buddhist bas reliefs in the world, Borobudur claimed the Guinness Book of Records’ title as the World’s Largest Buddhist Monument in June 2012.
  • If you were to complete a full circuit of each level of Borobudur, you would have walked over five kilometers by the time you reached the top.
  • After the eruption of Mount Merapi in 2010, the Borobudur Heritage Conservation Agency spent $20,700 on custom parachute silk coverings for each of the monument’s 72 Stupas, in case of future eruptions of volcanic ash.

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