In Indian mythology Mount Meru stood at the center of the world below the Polar Star. The Borobudur temple was an architectural translation of this symbol. The Mahayana Buddhist Sailendra Dynasty ruled the Sri Vijaya / Srivijaya kingdom built the Borobudur temple complex (778-824), located northwest of Yogyakarta, the greatest Buddhist monument in S.E. Asia. This corresponds to the period between 760–830 AD, the peak of the Sailendra dynasty, when central Java was under the influence of the Srivijayan Empire. There is confusion between Hindu and Buddhist rulers in Java around that time. There were two rival royal dynasties in Java at the time — the Buddhist Sailendra and the Saivite Hindu Sanjaya. The Sailendras were known as ardent followers of Lord Buddha, though stone inscriptions found at Sojomerto suggest they may have been Hindus. It was during this time that many Hindu and Buddhist monuments were built on the plains and mountain around the Kedu Plain. The Sanjaya triumphed over the rival Sailendra in the 856 battle on the Ratubaka plateau.
The Borobudur is a huge stupa surmounting nine stone terraces into which a large number of Buddha images and stone bas-reliefs have been set. The overall height is 105 ft (34.5 m), and has the dimension of 375 ft x 375 ft (123 m x 123 m). It is composed of more than 2,000,000 blocks ofrock. Considered one of the great monuments of world religious art, it was designed to be a place of pilgrimage and meditation. The basreliefs illustrate Buddhist ideas of karma and enlightenment but also give a vivid idea of what everyday life was like in eighthcentury Indonesia. Energetic builders, the Sailendra also erected candi, memorial structures in a temple form of original design, on the Kedu Plain near Yogyakarta.
Indonesia’s biggest Buddhist temple, Barabudhur / Borobudur is located in Magelang Regency, around 15 km to the Southwest of Yogyakarta. According to Poerbatjaraka, Barabudhur means Budur Monastery, while Raffles stated that 'boro' means “big” and 'budur' is the Javanese term for Buddha. Founded by a king of the Saliendra dynasty, it was built to honour the glory of both the Buddha and its founder, a true king Bodhisattva. This colossal temple was built between AD 750 and 842: 300 years before Cambodia's Angkor Wat, 400 years before work had begun on the great European cathedrals. Little is known about its early history except that a huge army of workers worked in the tropical heat to shift and carve the 60,000 m3 of stone. At the beginning of the 11th century AD, because of the political situation in Central Java, divine monuments in that area, including the Borobudur Temple became completely neglected and given over to decay.
Originally this ancient building stood 42 m high, but now it is only 34.5 m high after restoration. The temple’s square base is 123 x 123 m in dimension, with porches on each side. The entire edifice consists of 10 stories on an area of 15.13 m2. The first seven terraces are square, and the upper three are circular. Each stairway that leads to the upper terraces has a beautifully adorned gate, with kalamakara without its lower jaws attached above the it.
Barabudhur has been registered in world heritage list number 348, which was changed into number 592 in 1991. This temple is laid out on a small hill surrounded by Menoreh Hill, Merapi Volcano, and Mount Merbabu to the northeast and Mount Sumbing and Sindoro to the northwest. Until today scholars have yet to come to an agreement in regard of the name Barabudhur. Negarakertagama (1365 AD) mentions “Budur”, a Buddhis shrine of Vajradhara. According to Casparis, Sri Kahulunan stone inscription (842 AD) mentions “Kawulan i Bhumi Sambhara”. He argues based on the inscription that Barabudhur is a place of worship. Bumi Shambara is the name of certain part in Barabudhur temple.
Based on inscriptions found on several stones in Barabudhur Temple, some scholars conclude that this temple was built around the year 780 AD under kings of Sanjaya Dynasty. The construction took tens of years and it was completed only 830 AD, during the reigns of King Samaratungga of Syailendra dynasty. This grand temple is said to be built by an architect named Gunadharma, although no written evidence is found to about this man. In 950 AD Barabudhur was buried by lava from Merapi volcano eruption. Abandoned around the year 1000, the temple was gradually overgrown with vegetation.
It was rediscovered after a thousand years in 1814. The rediscovery was on the merit of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. When Raffles paid a visit to Semarang, he was informed that there were piles of stones with relief. A first restoration campaign, supervised by Theodor van Erp, was undertaken shortly after the turn of the century. A second one was led more recently (1973-l 982) by Unesco. Since then, the management of the site has been monitored by Indonesian and Japanese experts. USAID has contributed 100,000 USD in support of the project entitled “Save the Borobudur World Heritage Site”. This is an emergency operation for the safeguarding of the Borobudur Temple compounds from the damaged caused by the Mt. Merapi Eruption. This effort will contribute to the revitalization of the local community livelihood in Cultural Industries and Heritage Tourism.
One degree of authenticity is surface authenticity, a drastic approach that sometimes can be justified to save great structures. For example, the temples at Abu Simbel were relocated to escape the waters of the Aswan Dam, and Borobudur, the great Buddhist temple in Indonesia, was restabilized with an inner concrete frame of considerable girth to keep it from sliding down the hill.
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