Borobudur – Indonesia’s Ancient Temples



Indonesia is home to a long and storied history. A succession of Buddhist and Hindu empires were centered around the islands of Sumatra, Borneo, and Java for hundreds of years and spread across many modern borders. The Sriwijaya empire at it’s peak held influence across parts of the Philippines, Thailand, and Cambodia. During this time, 700-850 A.D., many monumental temples were built in Central Java. These include Prambanan, Sewu, and Borobudur, which is the largest Buddhist temple on Earth.

Borobudur and its neighboring temples are all located very close to the modern city of Yogyakarta in Central Java. During 800s this was the centre of power for the ruling kingdoms but it didn’t last. Internal strife led to the main centre of powers moving away from the area and eventually the grand temples fell away from importance after the 1300s. Of course the local people still knew of their existence but eventually they were covered by jungle and forgotten. It was not until Sir Thomas Raffles, the British Governor of Java, expressed interest in ancient artifacts that their existence came to light by 1814.

Starting at that time, the British and then Dutch colonists started a program to renovate and restore the temples of the area. By the 1970s, the Indonesian government began working with UNESCO to preserve this important temple. Basically the entire site was cleaned and the foundations were strengthened. Modern drainage was installed to protect the site from soil issues. This restoration was completed in 1982 and Borobudur became a major tourism site. UNESCO listed Borobudur as a World Heritage site in 1992. It’s now the single largest tourist attraction in Indonesia.

Visiting Borobudur

Borobudur DaylightBorobudur is located a short drive from the major city of Yogyakarta. Yogya is easy to reach as there are daily flights from both Jakarta and Bali. This is a great additional location to visit before or after a trip with Samata. With a plethora of 5 star hotels a short walk or drive from the temple, it’s an easy yet educational experience. The Temple consists of 9 levels with 2,672 stone reliefs and 504 Buddha statues. The design of Borobudur is to reflect a Buddhist pilgrimage and follows a set process from the bottom to the top. The temple itself is a perfect square measuring 123 meters by 123 metres.

Borobudur is not the only ancient temple in the region. There are 3 major Buddhist temples in the area including Pawon and Mendut. These 3 temples were built around the same time and are located in accordance to Buddhist rituals as they are positioned in a straight line 12km long. A little further away (45kms) lies the largest ancient Hindu temple in Indonesia, Prambanan. A great way to see all of the incredible architecture of these sites is to stay in the cosmopolitan city of Yogyakarta and visit each major temple on a separate day. Each temple complex is best visited either early in the morning or late in the afternoon for the best photo opportunities.

Indonesia is a vast and varied country. There are many activities to explore in conjunction with a cruise on the Samata. We would be more than happy to discuss several options with you and offer what insights we can. Learn more about visiting the iconic Orangutans or visiting the island of Bali on our recent blog posts.

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