Borobudur Temple – The World’s Largest Buddhist Temple

Visiting Borobudur Temple in Indonesia

Monk at Borobudur Temple photo by Alain Bonnardeaux via Unsplash

The Magnificent Borobudur Temple

The Indonesian archipelago is home to thousands of islands and diverse ethnicities rich in culture and tradition stemming from history, religion, and natural beauty. From the renowned beaches of Bali to the famed active volcanoes of Gunung Rinjani and Anak Krakatau, adventure awaits the millions of visitors that come to the country.

Borobudur Temple
Borobudur Temple

In the Kedu Valley, Central Java, an architectural and cultural monument that dates back from the 8th and 9th centuries can be found. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Borobudur Temple is the largest Buddhist temple in the world and one of the most visited attractions in Indonesia. Tourists and visitors see the temple to pray, admire the monument, soak in the spiritual atmosphere and witness the sunrise.

Borobudur Temple, Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia via DepositPhotos
Borobudur Temple, Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia via DepositPhotos

The Borobudur Temple Compounds is divided into two parts; the three zones on the outside representing the natural world and the three monuments in the center representing the realm of Nirvana. Kamadhatu Zone 1, represented by the base, displays 160 reliefs that explain Karmawibhangga Sutra. Rupadhatu Zone 2, represented by five platforms, exhibits 328 Buddha statues and 1,300 relief carvings in the form of Gandavyuha, Lalitavistara, Jataka, and Avadana. Arupyadhatu Zone 3 is represented by three porticoes and a central stupa that is empty and has no decorations, symbolizing the highest form of purity. The three monuments in the compound representing the phases in the fulfillment of Nirvana are the Borobudur Temple, Mendut Temple, and Pawon Temple.

History of Borobudur Temple

There are no records on the origins and history of the Borobudur Temple Compounds, and it remains a subject of debate among historians and scholars, though it was estimated from the reliefs that the temple was built in the 8th and 9th centuries during the reign of the Sailendra Dynasty. Archeological examinations hypothesized that the temple’s construction was a political and cultural response to rivals such as the Hindu Javanese.

Monk at Borobudur Temple photo by Alain Bonnardeaux via Unsplash
Monk at Borobudur Temple photo by Alain Bonnardeaux via Unsplash

What is known is that the temple was used as a Buddhist temple where pilgrims participated in Buddhist rituals between the 10th and 15th centuries until the temple was abandoned for reasons unknown sometime in the 1400s. It was then deduced from records of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, rainforest growth, and the Javanese conversion to Islam how Borobudur Temple was deemed unimportant.

In 1814, Thomas Stamford Raffles of the Dutch East Indies sent Hermann Cornelius and 200 men to locate Borobudur. Once the monument was unearthed, the Dutch East Indies authorized the archaeological studies of the temple. By the 1960s, looting became a serious problem when several Buddha heads and figures were smuggled out and sold off. After several restoration projects, UNESCO designated Borobudur as a World Heritage Site in 1991. Today, the temple is once again a pilgrimage site and a major example of Indonesian architecture and cultural and religious identity.

Borobudur temple view from northwest plateau by Gunawan kartapranata via Wikimedia cc
Borobudur temple view from northwest plateau By Gunawan Kartapranata – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, cc

Interesting Facts about Borobudur Temple

  • Borobudur Temple is the largest Buddhist temple in the world, with 2,672 reliefs and 72 stupas, each containing a Buddha statue.
  • The temple is situated between two volcanoes, Mt. Sundoro-Sumbing and Mt. Merbabu-Merapi. The latter erupted in 2010, coating the monument in thick ash and clogging the drainage system.
  • Nine stupas were damaged when eleven bombs detonated in the 1985 terrorist attack led by Husein Ali Al-Habsyi.
  • Several Buddha statues remain headless, excavated, stolen, and removed from the bodies, where they are kept in private collections, sold off to the black market, or brandished in Western museums as “exotic” cultural artifacts.

Things to Do Inside the Compound

Climbing Borobudur

Borobudur Temple is meant to be experienced physically and spiritually as a pilgrimage site. Circle the temple three times in a clockwise direction. This circular movement in the Buddhist tradition is called “circumambulation,” which symbolizes the spiritual path of enlightenment. Visitors can hire a guide to learn about the stories of the reliefs during the climb.

Borobudur Temple Tour

Temple Tours usually include Borobudur Temple, Mendut Temple, Pawon Temple, and the neighboring Prambanan Temple, the largest Hindu Javanese temple. Walk through the religious ground, admire the reliefs and learn about its rich history.

Borobudur Sunrise Tour
Borobudur Sunrise Tour

Borobudur Sunrise Tour

Sunrise tours of the temple typically start around 4:00AM, just in time to see the sunrise light up the Javan landscape. This allows visitors to explore the monument before locals and tourists arrive.

Entrance Fees

Sunrise Ticket
International TouristEntrance Fee
AdultRp 500,000
StudentRp 400,000
Child (3 to 10 years old)Rp 250,000
Domestic TouristEntrance Fee
AdultRp 350,000
StudentRp 250,000

 

Regular Ticket
International TouristEntrance Fee
AdultRp362,500
StudentRp217,500
Child (3 to 10 years old)Rp217,500
Domestic TouristEntrance Fee
AdultRp50,000
ChildRp25,000

 

Sunset Ticket
International TouristEntrance Fee
AdultRp500,000
StudentRp400,000
Child (3 to 10 years old)Rp250,000
Domestic TouristEntrance Fee
AdultRp350,000
ChildRp250,000

How to Get There

The nearest major city to Borobudur with international flights is Yogyakarta. Adisucipto International Airport accommodates flights from Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. The cheapest way from Yogyakarta to the compound is by public bus for around Rp30,000 or $2, while the most convenient way is by renting a car or taking a taxi for around Rp90,000 – Rp210,000 or $6 – $14. The travel time from Yogyakarta to Borobudur can take between 60-90 minutes.

Upon arrival and once the ticket is purchased, visitors can choose to explore Borobudur on foot or by charting a horse-drawn carriage. Visitors who choose to walk can follow the signages and the path to enter Borobudur Temple.

Travel Tips for Visiting Borobudur Temple

  • Many Indonesians consider the compound a religious site; therefore, visitors must adhere to the dress code when visiting Borobudur Temple. Wear clothing that covers the shoulders and knees. The steps to the top of the temple can be steep and are not suited for shorts or skirts. Loose-fitting clothing is a great choice as the weather can get hot during the day. Comfortable footwear is advised for those looking to wander around on foot.
  • Arrive early and avoid the weekends to beat the heavy foot traffic of locals and tourists. Try arriving before 6AM during midweek or booking a sunrise tour.
  • Drink plenty of water. Borobudur Temple covers a total surface of 2,500 sqm, and visitors are bound to get thirsty when the weather is factored in.

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