Borobudur Temple


BOROBUDUR or BARABUDUR is a 9th century Mahayana Buddhist Temple in Central Java, Indonesia.  In Indonesia, ancient temples are referred to as CANDI, thus the locals refer to BOROBUDUR Temple as CANDI BOROBUDUR.  The term CANDI also loosely describes structures, for example baths and gates.  The origins of the name BOROBUDUR, however, are unclear, although the origin names of most ancient Indonesian Temples are no longer known.  The name BOROBUDUR was first written in Sir Thomas Raffles’ book on Javanese History.


Most CANDI are named after a nearby village.  If it followed Javanese language conventions and was named after the nearby village of Bore, the monument should have been named BUDURBORO.  Raffles thought that BUDUR might correspond to the modern Javanese word  BUDA (ancient) —- i.e. “Ancient BORO”..  He also suggested that the name might derive from BORO meaning “great” or “honourable” and BUDUR for Buddha.  However, another archaeologist suggests the second component of the name BUDUR comes from the Javanese term BHUDHARA (Mountains).

Built in the 9th century, the Temple was designed in Javanese Buddhist architecture, which blends the Indonesian indigenous culture of ancestor worship and the Buddhist concept of attaining Nirvana.  The Temple also demonstrates the influence of Gupta Art that reflects India’s influence on the region, yet there are enough indigenous scenes and elements incorporated to make BOROBUDUR uniquely Indonesian.  The monument is both a shrine to Lord Buddha and a place for Buddhist pilgrims.

Borobudur-temple (1)

The monument consists of 9 stacked platforms  —– 6 square and 3 circular ———– topped by a central dome.  The Temple is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues.  The Central Dome is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues, each seated inside a perforated stupa.  It is the world’s largest Buddhist Temple.  The journey for pilgrims begins at the base of the monument, and follows a path around the monument and ascends to the top three levels symbolic of Buddhist Cosmology : KAMADHATU (the world of desire), RUPADHATU (the world of form) and ARUPADHATU (the world of formlessness).  The monument guides pilgrims through an extensive system of stairways and corridors.  BOROBUDUR has the largest and most complete ensemble of Buddhist relief in the world.

Borobudur temple sunset

Evidence suggest BOROBUDUR was constructed in the 9th century and abandoned following the 14th century decline of Hindu Kingdoms in Java and the Javanese conversion to Islam.  Worldwide knowledge of its existence was sparked in 1814 by Sir Thomas Raffles, then the British ruler of Java, who was advised of its location by native Indonesians.  BOROBUDUR has since been preserved through several restorations.  The largest restoration project was undertaken between 1975 and 1982 by the Indonesian Government and UNESCO, following which the monument was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


In 1974, 260,000 tourists, of whom 36,000 were foreigners, visited the monument.  The figure climbed to 2.5million visitors annually (80% were domestic tourists) in the mid-1990s, before the country’s economic crisis.  Tourism development, however, has been criticized for not including the local community, giving rise to occasional conflicts.  In 2003, residents and small businesses around BOROBUDUR organized several meetings and protests, objecting to a Provincial Government Plan to build a 3-storey mall complex, dubbed the JAVA WORLD.

International Tourism Awards were given to BOROBUDUR Archaeological Park, such as PATA Grand pacific Award —2004, PATA Gold Award Winner —–2011 and PATA Gold Award Winner —– 2012.  In June 2012, BOROBUDUR was recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s Largest Buddhist Archaeological Site.

Borobudur Temple side

UNESCO identified 3 specific areas of concern under the present state of conservation : (a) Vandalism by visitors; (b) Soil erosion in the south-eastern part of the site and (c) Analysis and restoration of missing elements.  The soft soil, the heavy rains and numerous earthquakes lead to the destabilisation of the structure.  Earthquakes are, by far, the most important contributing factors, since not only do stones fall down and arches crumble, but the earth itself can move in “waves”, further destroying the structure.  The increasing popularity of the Temple brings in many visitors.  Despite warning signs, on all levels, not to touch anything, the regular transmission of warnings over loudspeakers and the presence of guards, vandalism on reliefs and statues are a common occurrence, leading to further deterioration.  As of 2009, there is no system in place to limit the number of visitors allowed per day or to introduce mandatory guided tours.  In August 2014, the Conservation Authority of BOROBUDUR reported some severe abrasion of the stone stairs caused by the scraping of the footwear of visitors, and it planned to install wooden stairs to cover and protect the original stairs, just like those installed in ANGKOR WAT.


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