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. If you have a car, 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. Alternatively, if you are staying in the Borobudur area, rent a bicycle and explore these temples together with the verdant local countryside. Candi Mendut near Borobudur A combined ticket for entrance to both Candi Mendut and Candi Pawon costs Rp 3500. You should be able to visit any of these in the hours of daylight. Candi Mendut — a Buddhist temple that is thought to have acted as a way-point on the road to Borobudur. It was first discovered in 1834 and holds the distinction of being the first ancient monument in the whole of Indonesia to be restored (from 1897). Some of the statues and reliefs here are of the highest quality, and it is well worth a visit. Mendut is notable as the start of the modern day Waisak procession. From Borobudur head back towards Muntilan on the main road for 3 km (1.8 mi) , and Candi Mendut is signposted off a small left hand turn off the main road. Candi Pawon (Branjalan) — is only 2 km (1.25 mi) from Borobudur and you cannot miss driving past it when heading back towards Muntilan and Yogyakarta. It is on a direct line with Borobudur and Mendut and is again thought to have been am ancient way-point. Both Candi Pawon and Candi Mendut are on a perfect straight line with Borobudur. This temple was restored in the early 20th century. Candi Pawon near Borobudur Candi Ngawen — is in Ngawen village just to the south of Muntilan on the main road heading towards Yogyakarta, about 15 km (9 mi) from Borobudur. This Buddhist temple dates from 824 AD, and has some interesting wall reliefs. Candi Canggal — dates from the 8th century, and is at Gunung Wukir on the main road heading back towards Yogyakarta from Muntilan. The best landmark is the Chinese cemetery which you should look for on the right after leaving Muntilan. A road leads west (right) just after you pass this cemetery. Follow this until the end and walk the last few minutes to Candi Canggal.
Borobudur Temple Compounds This famous Buddhist temple, dating from the 8th and 9th centuries, is located in central Java. It was built in three tiers: a pyramidal base with five concentric square terraces, the trunk of a cone with three circular platforms and, at the top, a monumental stupa. The walls and balustrades are decorated with fine low reliefs, covering a total surface area of 2,500 m2. Around the circular platforms are 72 openwork stupas, each containing a statue of the Buddha. The monument was restored with UNESCO's help in the 1970s. Outstanding Universal Value Brief synthesis The Borobudur Temple Compounds is one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world, and was built in the 8th and 9th centuries AD during the reign of the Syailendra Dynasty. The monument is located in the Kedu Valley, in the southern part of Central Java, at the centre of the island of Java, Indonesia. The main temple is a stupa built in three tiers around a hill which was a natural centre: a pyramidal base with five concentric square terraces, the trunk of a cone with three circular platforms and, at the top, a monumental stupa. The walls and balustrades are decorated with fine low reliefs, covering a total surface area of 2,520 m2. Around the circular platforms are 72 openwork stupas, each containing a statue of the Buddha. The vertical division of Borobudur Temple into base, body, and superstructure perfectly accords with the conception of the Universe in Buddhist cosmology. It is believed that the universe is divided into three superimposing spheres, kamadhatu, rupadhatu, and arupadhatu, representing respectively the sphere of desires where we are bound to our desires, the sphere of forms where we abandon our desires but are still bound to name and form, and the sphere of formlessness where there is no longer either name or form. At Borobudur Temple, the kamadhatu is represented by the base, the rupadhatu by the five square terraces, and the arupadhatu by the three circular platforms as well as the big stupa. The whole structure shows a unique blending of the very central ideas of ancestor worship, related to the idea of a terraced mountain, combined with the Buddhist concept of attaining Nirvana. The Temple should also be seen as an outstanding dynastic monument of the Syailendra Dynasty that ruled Java for around five centuries until the 10th century. The Borobudur Temple Compounds consists of three monuments: namely the Borobudur Temple and two smaller temples situatued to the east on a straight axis to Borobudur. The two temples are Mendut Temple, whose depiction of Buddha is represented by a formidable monolith accompanied by two Bodhisattvas, and Pawon Temple, a smaller temple whose inner space does not reveal which deity might have been the object of worship. Those three monuments represent phases in the attainment of Nirvana. The temple was used as a Buddhist temple from its construction until sometime between the 10th and 15th centuries when it was abandoned. Since its re-discovery in the 19th century and restoration in the 20th century, it has been brought back into a Buddhist archaeological site. Criterion (i): Borobudur Temple Compounds with its stepped, unroofed pyramid consisting of ten superimposing terraces, crowned by a large bell-shaped dome is a harmonious marriage of stupas, temple and mountain that is a masterpiece of Buddhist architecture and monumental arts. Criterion (ii): Borobudur Temple Compounds is an outstanding example of Indonesia’s art and architecture from between the early 8th and late 9th centuries that exerted considerable influence on an architectural revival between the mid-13th and early 16th centuries. Criterion (vi): Laid out in the form of a lotus, the sacred flower of Buddha, Borobudur Temple Compounds is an exceptional reflection of a blending of the very central idea of indigenous ancestor worship and the Buddhist concept of attaining Nirvana. The ten mounting terraces of the entire structure correspond to the successive stages that the Bodhisattva has to achieve before attaining to Buddhahood. Integrity The boundaries contain the three temples that include the imaginary axis between them. Although the visual links are no longer open, the dynamic function between the three monuments, Borobudur Temple, Mendut Temple, and Pawon Temple is maintained. The main threat to the ensemble is from development that could compromise the extraordinary relationship between the main monument and its wider setting and could also affect the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. The approach to the property has to a degree already been compromised by weak developmental regulations. Tourism also exerts considerable pressure on the property and its hinterland. There is a growing rate of deterioration of the building stone, the cause of which needs further research. There is also a small degree of damage caused by unsupervised visitors. The eruption of Mount Merapi is also considered as one of the potential threats because of its deposit acidic ash as happened in 2010. Authenticity The original materials were used to reconstruct the temple in two phases in the 20th century: after the turn of the century and more recently (1973-1983). Mostly original materials were used with some additions to consolidate the monument and ensure proper drainage which has not had any significant adverse impact on the value of the property. Though the present state of Borobudur Temple is the result of restorations, it retained more than enough original material when re-discovered to make a reconstruction possible. Nowadays the property could be used as a Buddhist pilgrimage site. Its overall atmosphere is, however, to a certain degree compromised by the lack of control of commercial activities and the pressure resulting from the lack of an adequate tourism management strategy. Protection and management requirements The protection of the property is performed under Indonesian Law No. 11/2010 concerning Cultural Heritage and its surrounding cultural landscape. It is executed under a National Strategic Area and the Spatial Management Plan by the Ministry of Public Works in accordance with the Law concerning Spatial Management No. 26/2007 and Governmental Regulation No. 26/2008 concerning National Spatial Planning and will be enforced further by another presidential regulation regarding the Management for the Borobudur National Strategic Area that is still being drafted by the Ministry of Public Works. The legal and institutional framework for the effective management of the property is regulated by a Presidential Decree Number 1 Year 1992. The established zones within the World Heritage property are respectively under the responsibility of the Borobudur Heritage Conservation Office under Ministry of Education and Culture, of state-owned institute PT. Taman Wisata Candi Borobudur under the Ministry of Enterprises, and of the local governments (Magelang Regency and Central Java Province). A study on the integrated management of Borobudur Temple Compounds has been conducted, including attention for the ecosystem, social and cultural aspects, ecotourism, public and private partnership and organisational feasibility study. This study is the basis of the still to be developed visitor management approach. In order to ensure consistency between the 1992 Presidential Decree and the 1972 JICA Master Plan zone-system indicated in the World Heritage nomination dossier and to strengthen the regulations regarding development, a New Presidential Regulation is still being formulated by a Coordinating Board (14 Ministries and local authorities as well as representatives of local communities) and by formalizing the role of the proposed Management Board into the wider zones. In addition, the protection of the property has been ensured by the regular financial contribution by the national budget. Monitoring programs has been effectively executed to monitor the growing rate of deterioration of building stone and also damage by unsupervised visitors. A research is being conducted to determine the long- term impact of deposit acidic ash of eruption of Mount Merapi to set further protection and conservation management of the property. Furthermore, a risk preparedness plan will be formulated in 2012. The Borobudur Heritage Conservation Office has conducted community development programs targeting especially at the youth to raise their awareness. In improving and empowering local community as specialist guide for Borobudur Temple Compounds, several training programs have been conducted. The community development related to economical sector (small enterprises that produce traditional handicrafts, culinaries, etc) have already being conducted by the municipalities of Magelang Regency and Central Java Province.
Borobudur and the concept of path in Buddhism Paths have been pervasive in human civilization. We are all familiar with the streets, trails, and lanes along which we routinely travel. Ancient Roman roads are utilized in some places even today. In contemporary computer culture we follow “paths” on webpages as we find our way to the information or experience we are searching for or find unexpectedly. There are simulated paths in complex first-person virtual reality video environments, where role-playing games formulate their content around the path to be conquered. The idea of path is an important concept in Buddhism, and is essential in understanding the meaning and purpose of one of the most remarkable and impressive monuments in the world: Borobudur. Located on the island of Java in Indonesia, the rulers of the S?ailendra Dynasty built the Temple of Borobudur around 800 C.E. as a monument to the Buddha (exact dates vary among scholars). The temple (or candi in Javanese, pronounced “chandi”) fell into disuse roughly one hundred years after its completion when, for still unknown reasons, the rulers of Java relocated the governing center to another part of the island. The British Lieutenant Governor on Java, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, only rediscovered the site in 1814 upon hearing reports from islanders of an incredible sanctuary deep within the island’s interior. Candi Borobudur’s design was conceived of by the poet, thinker, and architect Gunadharma, considered by many today to be a man of great vision and devotion. The temple has been described in a number of ways. Its basic structure resembles that of a pyramid, yet it has been also referred to as a caitya (shrine), a stupa (reliquary), and a sacred mountain. In fact, the name S?ailendra literally means “Lord of the Mountain.” While the temple exhibits characteristics of all these architectural configurations, its overall plan is that of a three-dimensional mandala—a diagram of the cosmos used for meditation—and it is in that sense where the richest understanding of the monument occurs.
The journey Set high upon a hill vertically enhanced by its builders to achieve a greater elevation, Borobudur consists of a series of open-air passageways that radiate around a central axis mundi (cosmic axis). Devotees circumambulate clockwise along walkways that gradually ascend to its uppermost level. At Borobudur, geometry, geomancy, and theology all instruct adherents toward the ultimate goal of enlightenment. Meticulously carved relief sculptures mediate a physical and spiritual journey that guides pilgrims progressively toward higher states of consciousness. The entire site contains 504 statues of the Buddha. 1460 stone reliefs on the walls and opposite balustrades decorate the first four galleries, with an additional 1212 decorative reliefs augmenting the path. The relief sculptures narrate the Buddha’s teachings (the Dharma), depict various events related to his past lives (Jataka tales), and illustrate didactic stories taken from important Buddhist scriptures (sutras). Interestingly, another 160 relief sculptures adorn the base of the monument, but are concealed behind stone buttresses that were added shortly after the building’s construction in order to further support the structure’s weight. The hidden narrative reliefs were photographed when they were discovered in the late 19th century before the stones were put back to help ensure the temple’s stability. Moving past the base and through the four galleries, the devotee emerges onto the three upper terraces, encountering 72 stupas each containing a three-dimensional sculpture of a seated Buddha within a stone latticework. At the temple’s apex sits the large central stupa, a symbol of the enlightened mind.?
The experience of meaning While the sheer size and scope of a mandala structure such as this makes the site worthy of admiration, it is important to understand how the experience of Borobudur relates to the philosophic and spiritual underpinnings of the Buddhist religion it reifies and commemorates. Since its inception, roughly 2500 years ago, Buddhism has directly engaged what it sees as the paradoxical nature of human existence. The most essential tenet the religion promulgates is the impermanent, transient nature of existence. Transcendental wisdom via the Dharma (the Noble Eight-Fold Path) hinges on recognizing that attachment to the idea of a fixed, immutable “self” is a delusion. Enlightenment entails embracing the concept of “no-self” (anatta?), understood to be at the heart of eliminating the suffering and dissatisfaction (dukkha) of sentient beings. This is the ultimate message expressed in the sacred scriptures that are solidified in artistic magnificence along the stone walls and railings of Borobudur. The physical movement of circumambulating the structure symbolizes the non-physical—or spiritual—path of enlightenment. In a real sense, then, the concept of path within Borobudur monumentalizes the impermanent. Like a river that is never the same from moment to moment, to physically move along the path while meditating on the spiritual message of the sutras is meant to help one fully embrace the Buddha’s paradoxical message of impermanence. The texts illustrated on the walls refer to pathways as well. For instance, the Gandavyuha Sutra forms a major segment of the temple’s upper galleries. The last chapter of a larger text called the Flower Garland Sutra, it relates the story of Suddhana, a youth who commences a journey to meet fifty-three teachers while seeking the path to enlightenment. The concept of “path” is a central theme in the text. He eventually meets an enlightened being (bodhisattva) named Samantabadhra. Excerpts from the larger sutra illustrate the concepts under discussion: “I will lead those who have lost their way to the right road. I will be a bright light for those in the dark night, and cause the poor and destitute to uncover hidden treasures. The Bodhisattva impartially benefits all living beings in this manner. I vow to shut the door to evil destinies and open the right paths of humans, gods and that of Nirvana. Once any sentient beings see the Buddha, it will cause them to clear away habitual obstructions. And forever abandon devilish actions: This is the path traveled by Illumination. Sentient Beings are blinded by ignorance, always confused; the light of Buddha illuminates the path of safety. To rescue them and cause suffering to be removed. All sentient beings are on false paths—Buddha shows them the right path, inconceivable, causing all worlds to be vessels of truth...”
From darkness into light The idea of moving from the darkness into the light is the final element of the experience of Borobudur. The temple’s pathway takes one from the earthly realm of desire (kamadhatu), represented and documented on the hidden narratives of the structure’s earthbound base, through the world of forms (rupadhatu) as expounded on the narratives carved along the four galleries set at right angles, until one finally emerges into the realm of formlessness (arupadhatu) as symbolized and manifested in the open circular terraces crowned with 72 stupas. However, the symbolization of enlightenment these stupas represent is not intended to be merely aesthetic. Buddhist stupas and mandalas are understood as “spiritual technologies” that harness spiritual “energies” in the creation of sacred space. The repetition of form and the circumabulatory progress of the pilgrim mimic, and thereby access, the cosmological as a microcosm. The clockwise movement around the cosmic center reproduces the macrocosmic path of the sun. Thus, when one emerges from the dark galleries representing the realms of desire and form into the light of the “formless” circular open air upper walkways, the material effect of light on one’s physical form merges concomitantly with the spiritual enlightenment generated by the metaphysical journey of the sacred path. Light, in all its paradoxes, is the ultimate goal. The crowning stupa of this sacred mountain is dedicated to the “Great Sun Buddha” Vairocana. The temple sits in cosmic proximity to the nearby volcano Mt. Merapi. During certain times of the year the path of the rising sun in the East seems to emerge out of the mountain to strike the temple’s peak in radiant synergy. Light illuminates the stone in a way that is intended to be more than beautiful. The brilliance of the site can be found in how the Borobudur mandala blends the metaphysical and physical, the symbolic and the material, the cosmological and the earthly within the structure of its physical setting and the framework of spiritual paradox. Essay by Robert E. Gordon
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