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Borobodur dating to 750-850 AD is one of Southeast Asia's spectacular sites worth visiting  <img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click for full image
Travel Guide > Asia > Indonesia > Jawa Tengah > Borobudur

Borobudur Travel Guide

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Borobudur is an ancient Buddhist stupa and temple complex in central Java, Indonesia and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Even more important - so we like to believe - is that Borobudur is included on our very short list of Southeast Asia's top temples and monuments.

Structure of Borobudur

Borobudur consists of a single stupendously large structure, which can be divided into layers as follows:


The platform at the base of the structure, which was clearly post the original construction and hides some reliefs, is of uncertain provenance and function.

The main theories are that the platform was added to censor reliefs depicting earthly desires or — rather more likely — to buttress the subsiding structure and prevent it from collapsing.

The walls of square terraces of Borobodur  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>
A section of the platform has been excavated at the southeast corner, showcasing some of the hidden reliefs underneath.

Square terraces

The bulk of the structure consists of four square terraces connected by steep staircases. Each terrace has reliefs in two layers on both sides, recounting the story of the Buddha's past lives and his enlightenment.

The "correct" way to view the reliefs is to start from the east gate (the main entrance) and circulate clockwise.

Circular terraces

After the square terraces the structure suddenly opens up to reveal the final four circular terraces. Comparatively plain and unadorned, there are no more reliefs here, just several hundred domes housing half-hidden Buddha statues (many headless, some lost entirely).

The peak of Borobodur  is a central stupa   <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

Central stupa

The peak of the structure is a central stupa. The two chambers inside the stupa are empty, and it is unclear whether they were empty from the beginning as a representation of nirvana, or whether they originally contained now lost statues.

You can discover 6 different postures of buddha's statue for bottom level to the top. They are "contact with earth", "giving and helping", "meditation", "fearlesness", "teach and learn", "turning of the wheel of dharma".


The rather lacklustre museum, a few hundred meters to the north of the temple does a haphazard job of presenting the restoration process.

Perhaps the most interesting bits are the exhibition of the Karmawiharga reliefs, with explanatory comments, and the photo gallery of old 19th-century shots of the complex before it was restored.

The peak of Borobodur structure  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

Around Borobudur

Between Yogyakarta and Magelang lies the volcanic Kedu Plain. This was clearly an important area in pre-10th century Javanese history as it contains a whole host of ruins (both Buddhist and Hindu) dating from the same era as Borobudur and easily reached from there.

The most accessible of these together make an interesting use of the late part of the day on the way back to Yogyakarta after you have seen Borobudur.

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