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  • Writer's pictureDonna Zabel


Updated: Oct 26, 2020

While Southeast Asia is dotted with stunning Buddhist temples, none are as commanding as Borobudur in central Java. The huge temple structure was built around a hill and consists of a pyramid base, concentric square terraces, circular platforms, and a huge stupa at the top. All the surfaces are covered with intricate stone reliefs depicting traditional Buddhist stories and beliefs. Built between the 8th and 9th centuries, the monumental complex seems to come from another world, plopped into an otherwise nondescript area of farmland and rice fields. Getting there involved a torturous three-hour drive from the port city of Semarang.

The massive base supports six square terraces topped by three circular terraces. The massive stupa at the top is surrounded by 5-foot tall mini-stupas placed like gumdrops. There are several stairways leading to the top, but visitors are confined to one with some well-placed railings, help I sometimes needed to get up and down the sometimes very steep steps.

The sheer size of Borobudur would be enough to make it a major site, but it is the intricate carvings covering several thousand panels that makes the temple breathtaking. They are the history, stories, and traditions of Buddhist life in Java over a thousand years ago. Archeologists believe the now grey stone carvings were once colored. No wonder it was once a center of Asian civilization, and still is one of the most important Buddhist sites in the world. It is a “must see” for any trip to Indonesia.

Climbing up the staircases of Borobudur
Temple of Borobudur

photo: Donna Zabel, CC BY 3.0

photo: Donna Zabel, CC BY 3.0

photo: Donna Zabel, CC BY 3.0

photo: Donna Zabel, CC BY 3.0

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