Borobudur – The world’s biggest Buddhist monument

It’s been a month since we came back from Indonesia, I was struggling hard to write about this man-made beauty which left me spellbound!! Now, it’s time for me to introduce all my friends to one of the elegant man-made jewels of Indonesia.

Before going  to the Borobudur, I’ve read few interesting things over the internet and got to know that it is the world’s biggest Buddhist monument and also one of the greatest monuments on the globe which is widely considered to be the Eighth wonder of the world. This is located in an elevated area between two twin volcanoes, Sundoro-Sumbing and Merbabu-Merapi, and two rivers, the Progo and the Elo” on Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia.

Picture of Borobodur while walking from the entrance to the site..

Picture of Borobudur while walking from the entrance to the site..

My main motto of travelling to Jogjakarta was to visit Prambanan temple but after planning a trip, I’ve gathered some information from the internet on this city. Then I got to know that Borobudur is more famous and is unique of its kind present in Javan islands. My excitement cannot be doubled for this because of Prambanan temple for which my excitement has already reached a maximum.

As I’ve been to many man-made wonders during my previous explorations, But this one is very unique. Unique because the photographs which I’ve seen on the internet were just extraordinary especially those taken at sunrise were jaw dropping. If you don’t believe me, you can google it by yourself. But due to our hectic schedule we didn’t included a sunrise tour but still it was an awesome experience for being there for sunset. Let me take you all through the day which has embarked the best of the mesmerizing experiences in our tour and in fact our visual expectations.

The whole structure is in the form of a lotus flower floating on the lake..

The whole structure is in the form of a lotus flower floating on the lake..

On 27th June, after visiting Prambanan, Plaosan, Candi pawon, Tamansari and sultan palace we arrived Borobudur for Sunset, I’ve observed that there were 2 entrances one is for international tourists and one is for national tourists. Ticket price of both these entrances are not the same. The one which  allows international tourists is more expensive when compared to the locals entrance. We got water bottles, sarongs and a local guide along with the admission tickets. It’s a 10min walk from the entrance to the site. Once we neared to the site it reminded me a dramatic experience of the cloth slowly unveiling the stage before the start of a wonderful performance. As I was approaching near to this monument I was amazed by its enormous size and the grandeur after reaching the place.

This video is a glimpse of this marvel taken from IPhone (not of a very good quality but still can be viewable)

Monument depiction: 

This temple sits majestically on the top of a hill overlooking the lush green fields and distant hills. Covering an enormous area. This monument is an architectural wonder, decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. The architecture and stonework of this temple cannot be compared with any other. And it was built without using any kind of cement or mortar!

The whole structure is in the form of a lotus flower floating on the lake. Besides being the highest symbol of Buddhism, the Borobodur stupa is also a replica of the universe.In total, it represents the ten levels of a Bodhisattva’s life which he or she must develop to become a Buddha or an awakened one. These ten levels of the temple symbolize the three divisions of the cosmic system. As visitors begin their journey at the base of the temple, they make their way to the top of the monument through the three levels , Kamadhatu (the world of desire),This is the the lowest level which represents man’s world of desire is influenced by negative impulses.This level has 160 reliefs depicting cause and effect:

Rupadhatu (the world of forms) the middle level, the world in which man has control of his negative impulses and uses his positive impulses. This level has various stories of the Buddha’s life..

and Arupadhatu (the world of formlessness) the highest level, in which the world of man is no longer bounded by physical and worldly desires. This level has no reliefs or decorations whatsoever but has a balcony, square in shape with round walls: a circle without beginning or end. Here is the place of the seventy-two Vajrasattvas or Dhyani Buddhas tucked into small stupas. 

Stupas on the highest level of Borobodur

Stupas on the highest level of Borobodur

There are seventy Dhyani Buddhas tucked into these small stupas.

There are seventy Buddhas tucked into these small stupas.

BuddhaEach of these statues has a mudra (hand gesture) indicating one of the five directions: east, with the mudra of calling the earth to witness; south, with the hand position of blessing; west, with the gesture of meditation; north, the mudra of fearlessness; and the centre with the gesture of teaching. It is a devotional practice to circumambulate around the galleries and terraces always turning to the left and keeping the edifice to the right while either chanting or meditating.

Dharmachakra mudra is tucked in one of the 72

Dharmachakra mudra is tucked in one of the 72 stupas..

The temple has remained strong even through ten centuries of neglect. It was rediscovered in 1815, buried under volcanic ash. In the 1970’s the Indonesian Government and UNESCO worked together to restore  Borobudur to its former majesty The restoration took eight years to complete and today Borobudur is one of Indonesia and the world’s most valuable treasures.

Dhyanamudra also located on Rupadhatu

Buddha facing west towards mountain, Borobodur

Dhyanamudra also located on Rupadhatu

Dhyanamudra also located on Rupadhatu

What it is left to me…???

As I stood there admiring the beauty of the marvel and Listening to the tales of Buddha (from our guide) I never realized the time that passed by… The mighty mountains and the greenery in the surroundings made all of us to forget about the scorching heat.

Backdrop of Borobodur.. was pretty scenic

Backdrop of Borobodur.. was pretty scenic

A random thought came to my mind that no matter what it is, if humans keep their mind and focus on one thing they can do wonders. Look at this amazing site which is built by the ashes of Volcanoes. Have you ever imagined that ashes of Volcanoes can become the bricks of any construction? I myself never imagined that and frankly speaking I din’t even believed it until I smelled it. Lava has high sulphur content making it more pungent smelling. Then I asked my driver to take us to any nearby village where we can see Borobudur from a distance. It was already dark but we got to see the view which was quite good too. After a visit here you will understand why it is Indonesia’s most visited tourist attraction and a famous icon of Indonesia’s cultural heritage.

That's me with my family at Borobodur..

That’s me with my family at Borobodur..

One last note which I wanted to re-iterate that I would echo with the saying of this place as “The grandeur and complexity of the temples has to be seen to be believed, and photography struggles to convey the depth”

You can find some more pictures in this slide show:

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Some tips from my perspective:

1.  Be there for Sunrise tour though we missed it. It is an amazing experience for you to see and experience this marvel at peace and silence.

2.Borobudur is not a temple that you can shelter inside by escaping from the sun, its a series of ascending terrace levels culminating in a magnificent top level adorned with dozens of stupas. So try to carry an umbrella and don’t forget your Sunscreen 😛

3. The magnificent final level is a photographers dream. Try to spend more time there.

4. Try to visit any nearby villages where you can get to see the beauty of Borobudur from a distance. It is quite magnificent.

Echoes of Eternity – Prambanan temple

Prambanan”, a word which I have never heard off until one day, while surfing internet accidentally I saw some pictures of this place, from there on “Prambanan” was one such utterance which was haunting me. To the best of my surprises this year, I got an opportunity to visit this marvel. That doubled my excitement to the Indonesia trip…..!!!

Let narrate when, what and how this place did embarked in my memories…!!!!

As I’ve had an opportunity to read few things about this place along with the city called “Yogyakarta”, I  got to know about some interesting places nearby this city those were Borobodur- Worlds largest Buddhist Sanctuary, Mt.Merapi and night shopping at the Malioboro street. When I was planning the trip I’ve made sure that we have a complete day dedicated to this beautiful city Yogyakarta.

The temple was designed to mimic Meru, the holy mountain the abode of Hindu gods, and the home of Shiva.

This temple is simply magnificent and is a testament to the craftsmanship and intricacy of the Javan people

It was a one hour flight from Bali to Yogyakarta. Our flight departed at 7:00 am and arrived Central Javan Islands at 7:15 am(Bali is one hour ahead of Javan Islands). Due to the immense love which I developed on this place made me so excited . Our trip started at airport only. Our first stop is at Candi Prambanan temples.

Candi Prambanan a 9th-century Hindu temple located on the Prambanan plain of Yogyakarta in Central Java, Indonesia. This sprawling temple complex sits majestically in an open area which dominates the whole horizon. From a distance, the temple probably resembled a small city, with a towering core of central spires surrounded by hundreds of subsidiary structures.

These temples are truly amazing considering how old they are and the history and the carvings are fascinating.

Recreation gone by era

This is characterized by its tall and pointed architecture, typical of Hindu temple architecture.

This temple is characterized by its tall and pointed architecture, typical of Hindu temple architecture

It was likely started by Rakai Pikatan as the Hindu Sanjaya Dynasty’s. I think the words ‘grand and majestic’ best describes this marvel. The architecture of this temple follows the typical Hindu architecture traditions based on Vastu Shastra.

Extravaganza in stones..

Extravaganza in stones..

The place has its own aura and a very special feel to it.

The place has its own aura and a very special feel to it.

Originally there were a total of 240 temples standing in Prambanan. The Prambanan Temple Compound consists of: The three main shrines dedicated to the three Gods: Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Keeper and Shiva the DestroyerThis is the largest Hindu temple site in Indonesia and also listed in UNESCO world heritage sites..

The whole complex was well-maintained. Flowers were blooming, grass was trimmed, jasmine scent was everywhere.

The whole complex is well-maintained. Flowers were blooming, grass was trimmed, Scent of the flowers welcomes us to this majestic temple.

The Shiva temple is the tallest and largest structure in Prambanan. The Shiva temple encircled with galleries adorned with bas-reliefs telling the story of Ramayana carved on the inner walls of the balustrades. To follow the story accordingly, visitors must enter from the east side and began to perform pradakshina or circumambulating clockwise. The bas-reliefs of Ramayana continued to Brahma temple galleries. The bas-relief of Ramayana illustrate how Sita, the wife of Rama, is abducted by Ravana. The monkey king Hanuman brings his army to help Rama and rescue Sita. There’s a 3m high statue of Lord Shiva.

Brahma and Vishnu temples: Brahma temple contains the statue of Brahma and Vishnu temple houses the statue of Vishnu.

Three Vahana temples:

In front of three main temples is dedicated to Vahana’s (vehicle) of the respective gods – Nandi(the bull) for Shiva, the Hamsa (sacred swan) for Brahma, and Vishnu’s Kite Garuda. In front of Vishnu temple is the temple dedicated for Garuda, however just like the Hamsa temple, Garuda temple contains no statue. Garuda holds important role for Indonesia, as it serves as the national symbol of Indonesia, and also as the name of the airline Garuda Indonesia..

Two Apit temples, Four Kelir temples, Four Patok temples & 224 Pervara temples. Today, all of 8 main temples and 8 small shrines in inner zone are reconstructed, but only 2 out of the original 224 pervara temples are renovated. The majority of them have deteriorated; what is left are only scattered stones. I hope UNESCO and Indonesian government put maximum efforts in reconstructing all these temples.

The temple was designed to mimic Meru, the holy mountain the abode of Hindu gods, and the home of Shiva.

The temple was designed to mimic Meru, the holy mountain the abode of Hindu gods, and the home of Shiva.

Lokapalas, Brahmins and Devatas

On the other side of narrative panels, the temple wall along the gallery were adorned with the statues and reliefs of devatas and brahmin sages.The figure of lokapalas, the celestial guardians of directions can be found in Shiva temple. The brahmin sage editors of veda were carved on Brahma temple wall, while in Vishnu temple the figures of male deities devatas flanked by two apsaras.

Prambanan panel: Breath of art

The lower outer wall of these temples were adorned with row of small niche containing image of simha (lion) flanked by two panels depicting bountiful kalpataru (kalpavriksha) tree. These wish-fulfilling sacred trees according to Hindu-Buddhist beliefs, is flanked on either side by kinnaras or animals, such as pairs of birds, deer, sheep, monkeys, horses, elephants etc. The pattern of lion in niche flanked by kalpataru trees is typical in Prambanan temple compound, thus it is called as “Prambanan panel”.

The temples collapsed during a major earthquake in the 16th century. In 14 February 2014, major tourist attractions in Yogyakarta and Central Java, including Borobudur, Prambanan and Ratu Boko, were closed from visitors, after being severely affected by the volcanic ashes from the eruption of Kelud volcano in East Java, located around 200 kilometers east from Yogyakarta. The Kelud volcano erupted on 13 February 2014 with explosion heard as far away as Yogyakarta.

I was impressed by the maintenance of the this place. Temples like these do not belong to any religion or community. They are treasures from our past and should be preserved and maintained by all of us. I would highly recommend a visit to this brilliant temple.

Slide show:

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Night at the Malioboro Street..

After visiting all the must see places in Yogyakarta we came back to our hotel which was quite near to Malioboro street. So at night we decided to go and check that street, which is very famous street for shopping and is also one of the main tourist attraction in Yogyakarta. Malioboro street was only 5mins away from our hotel, so we took a Becak(three wheel pedal powered bicycle cart) which costed 20,000RP/Becak.

Malioboro’s name is derived from Sanskrit which means bouquet of flowers.  This street is known as the longest market in Yogyakarta because it extends for a stretch of 2-3kms and is alive round the clock. This street is the centre of tourist district in Yogyakarta. There are some modern and colonial-age buildings around the area. Along the street is packed with small sidewalks shops, heritage street lights with bustling pedestrians to horse drawn bendis, batik stores to souvenir shops – The whole city culture can be seen right here.

But what  made our visit so special was the street music. Having never heard such beautiful music from these bamboo instruments which I never saw or heard, I completely fell for it. These musical instruments are called angklung/calung – and they produce such heavenly music – My God! I was in paradise!!These street players are simply exceptional with infusing their traditional music from these instruments with drums and beats. Listening to them on the busy road, in bustling traffic made me excited all the time it was just an experience. Be there and know it yourself!!

After buying some souvenirs and batiks we went in to malioboro Mall and had dinner in pizza hut. Then we took a Dokar (lovely horse carriage) which costed us 50,000RP from Marioboro to our hotel which was on Jalan-gow-ongan. Night at the Malioboro street made our trip to yogyakarta complete.

Malioboro street Yogyakarta (2)

While going back to our hotel on Dokar

My tips:

  1. Try to Bargain less than 50% of the price if they don’t give, Just walk away you can see similar stores on the street.
  2. Don’t forget to try Becak and Dokar.
  3. Try to go there at nights. Because Malioboro’s beauty is much appreciated at that time.