• Denholm Hewlett

[Photography] Borobudur Temple

Psychic Garden take a journey to visit the ancient Borobudur Buddhist temple in Central Java, Indonesia, the largest and most mysterious Buddhist temple in the entire world. All the photos in this article were taken by resident creative Denholm Hewlett.

The history behind the Borobudur temple complex is shrouded in mystery. There are no written records in existence of who constructed the world's most magnificent Buddhist monument, or the exact year that it began construction and what the original intended function. Borobudur was built somewhere between the 8th-9th century during the reign of the Sailendra Dynasty, with construction starting around 750 AD, during the peak of the Srivijayan Empire's impact in central Java (760 - 830 AD). The lengthy building process for this great monolith took roughly 75 years to construct and was completed during the reign of Samaratungga in 825.

Shortly after it's completion, this incredible structure remained hidden from the world for centuries after a mighty eruption from Mount Merapi concealed the temple under layers of thick volcanic ash. The reason why the temple was deserted for such an extensive time is still a secret, it's desertion is attributed to the decline in Buddhism and the power shift from Central Java to Eastern Java. It's believed that the eruption triggered by Merapi destroyed all the vegetation and caused an immense starvation in the region, forcing the inhabitants to abandon their homes and re-locate too the coastal regions.

The long forgotten Borobudur temple compound was then re-discovered in 1814 by an English explorer and in 1835 the site was finally cleared up. Ever since, efforts have been made to preserve and restore this magnificent monument. Between the years of 1973 and 1984 a big restoration program was undertaken to return the compound back to the days of it's former glory and it has since become a prime destination for Buddhist expeditions.

Borobudur is an unparalleled marvel of design, the intricate stonework and structure of this temple is unlike anything else on earth and can be considered reminiscent of the layout of a computer chip, an integrated system encoded with ancient messages of compassion and divine wisdom for a modern world in need. Borobudur is the largest temple in Indonesia, designed as a shrine to honour the Lord Buddha and as a place for Mahayana Buddhist pilgrimage.

The pilgrim's journey begins at the base of the towering monument and follows a path around the compound, ascending to the top through three levels symbolic of Buddhist cosmology: Kāmadhātu (the world of desire), Rūpadhātu (the world of forms) and Arūpadhātu (the world of formlessness). This temple is an incredible accomplishment from a design perspective, it was constructed without utilising any cement or mortar and has been likened to a set of large interlocking Lego blocks held together without any glue. This ancient site is considered to be amongst the seven wonders of the world.

Borobudur temple follows the traditional designs of Javanese buddhist architecture and with a Gupta visual aesthetic which shows India's impact on the region at the time, but the structure is uniquely Indonesian in design. It was built in three tiers: A pyramidal base with nine stacked concentric platforms, six square and three circular, topped by a central dome.

The walls and balustrades are decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. The central dome is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues, each contained inside a perforated stupa, which itself is a symbol of a Buddha, representing his enlightened mind and presence. The monument was restored with UNESCO's help in the 1970s and has since become Indonesia's most visited tourist destination for buddhists, travellers and worshippers alike.

Check out a gallery of photographs taken at sunrise at the famous Borobudur temple of the stunning architecture and the pilgrims preying in harmony.

~ Psychic Garden

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