Architecture Of BOROBUDUR
Borobudur ground plan took form of aMandala.
Borobudur is built as a single large stupa, and when viewed from above takes the form of a giant tantric Buddhist mandala, simultaneously representing the Buddhist cosmology and the nature of mind. The foundation is a square, approximately 118 meters (387 ft) on each side. It has nine platforms, of which the lower six are square and the upper three are circular. The upper platform features seventy-two small stupas surrounding one large central stupa. Each stupa is bell-shaped and pierced by numerous decorative openings. Statues of theBuddha sit inside the pierced enclosures.
Approximately 55,000 cubic metres (72,000 cu yd) of stones were taken from neighbouring rivers to build the monument.The stone was cut to size, transported to the site and laid without mortar. Knobs, indentations and dovetails were used to form joints between stones.Reliefs were createdin-situ after the building had been completed. The monument is equipped with a good drainagesystem to cater for the area’s high stormwaterrun-off. To avoid inundation, 100 spouts are provided at each corner with a unique carved gargoyles in the shape of giants ormakaras.
Half cross-section with 4:6:9 height ratio for foot, body and head, respectively.
Borobudur differs markedly with the general design of other structures built for this purpose. Instead of building on a flat surface, Borobudur is built on a natural hill. The building technique is, however, similar to other temples in Java. With no inner space as in other temples and its general design similar to the shape of pyramid, Borobudur was first thought more likely to have served as a stupa, instead of a temple.Astupa is intended as ashrine for the Lord Buddha. Sometimes stupas were built only as devotional symbols of Buddhism. A temple, on the other hand, is used as a house of deity and has inner spaces for worship. The complexity of the monument’s meticulous design suggests Borobudur is in fact a temple. Congregational worship in Borobudur is performed by means of pilgrimage.
Pilgrims were guided by the system of staircases and corridors ascending to the top platform. Each platform represents one stage ofenlightenment. The path that guides pilgrims was designed with the symbolism of sacred knowledge according to the Buddhist cosmology.
A narrow corridor with reliefs on the wall.
Lion gate guardian.
Little is known about the architect Gunadharma. His name is actually recounted from Javanese legendary folk tales rather than written in old inscriptions. The basic unit measurement he used during the construction was called tala, defined as the length of a human face from the forehead’s hairline to the tip of the chin or the distance from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the middle finger when both fingers are stretched at their maximum distance. The unit metrics is then obviously relative between persons, but the monument has exact measurements. A survey conducted in 1977 revealed frequent findings of a ratio of 4:6:9 around the monument. The architect had used the formula to lay out the precise dimensions of Borobudur.
The identical ratio formula was further found in the nearby Buddhist temples of Pawon and Mendhut. Archeologists conjectured the purpose of the ratio formula and the tala dimension has calendrical, astronomical and cosmological themes, as of the case in other Hindu and Buddhist temple of Angkor Wat inCambodia.
A carved gargoyle-shaped water spout for water drainage.
The main vertical structure can be divided into three groups: base (or foot), body, and top, which resembles the three major division of a human body. The base is a 123×123 m (403.5×403.5 ft) square in size and 4 meters (13 ft) high of walls. The body is composed of five square platforms each with diminishing heights. The first terrace is set back 7 meters (23 ft) from the edge of the base. The other terraces are set back by 2 meters (7 ft), leaving a narrow corridor at each stage. The top consists of 3 circular platforms, with each stage supporting a row of perforated stupas, arranged in concentric circles. There is one main dome at the center; the top of which is the highest point of the monument (35 meters (115 ft) above ground level). Access to the upper part is through stairways at the centre of each 4 sides with a number of arched gates, watched by a total of 32 lion statues. The gates is adorned with Kala‘s head carved on top center of each portals withMakaras projecting from each sides. This Kala-Makara style is commonly found in Javanese temples portal. The main entrance is at the eastern side, the location of the first narrative reliefs. On the slopes of the hill, there are also stairways linking the monument to the low-lying plain.
The monument’s three divisions symbolize three stages of mental preparation towards the ultimate goal according to the Buddhist cosmology, namely Kāmadhātu (the world of desires), Rupadhatu(the world of forms), and finally Arupadhatu (the formless world).Kāmadhātu is represented by the base, Rupadhatu by the five square platforms (the body), and Arupadhatu by the three circular platforms and the large topmost stupa. The architectural features between three stages have metaphorical differences. For instance, square and detailed decorations in the Rupadhatudisappear into plain circular platforms in the Arupadhatu to represent how the world of forms – where men are still attached with forms and names – changes into the world of the formless.
In 1885, a hidden structure under the base was accidentally discovered. The “hidden foot” contains reliefs, 160 of which are narrative describing the real Kāmadhātu. The remaining reliefs are panels with short inscriptions that apparently describe instruction for the sculptors, illustrating the scene to be carved. The real base is hidden by an encasement base, the purpose of which remains a mystery. It was first thought that the real base had to be covered to prevent a disastrous subsidence of the monument through the hill. There is another theory that the encasement base was added because the original hidden foot was incorrectly designed, according to Vastu Shastra, the Indian ancient book aboutarchitecture and town planning. Regardless of its intention, the encasement base was built with detailed and meticulous design with aesthetics and religious compensation.
|Narrative Panels Distribution|
|first gallery||main wall||Lalitavistara||120|
|third gallery||main wall||Gandavyuha||88|
|fourth gallery||main wall||Gandavyuha||84|
Borobudur contains approximately 2,670 individualbas reliefs(1,460 narrative and 1,212 decorative panels), which cover thefaçades andbalustrades. The total relief surface is 2,500 square meters (26,909.8 sq ft) and they are distributed at the hidden foot (Kāmadhātu) and the five square platforms (Rupadhatu).
The narrative panels, which tell the story of Sudhana and Manohara, are grouped into 11 series encircled the monument with the total length of 3,000 meters (9,843 ft). The hidden foot contains the first series with 160 narrative panels and the remaining 10 series are distributed throughout walls and balustrades in four galleries starting from the eastern entrance stairway to the left. Narrative panels on the wall read from right to left, while on the balustrade read from left to right.
The hidden foot depicts the workings of karmic law. The walls of the first gallery have two superimposed series of reliefs; each consists of 120 panels. The upper part depicts the biography of the Buddha, while the lower part of the wall and also balustrades in the first and the second galleries tell the story of the Buddha’s former lives.The remaining panels are devoted to Sudhana’s further wandering about his search, terminated by his attainment of the Perfect Wisdom.
Borobudur’s main stupa, which is empty and raised a mystery when discovered
The law of karma (Karmavibhangga)
The 160 hidden panels do not form a continuous story, but each panel provides one complete illustration of cause and effect.There are depictions of blameworthy activities, from gossip to murder, with their corresponding punishments. There are also praiseworthy activities, that include charity and pilgrimage to sanctuaries, and their subsequent rewards. The pains of hell and the pleasure of heaven are also illustrated. There are scenes of daily life, complete with the full panorama of samsara (the endless cycle of birth and death).
The birth of Buddha (Lalitavistara)
Main article: The birth of Buddha (Lalitavistara)
The story starts from the glorious descent of the Lord Buddha from the Tushita heaven, and ends with his first sermon in the Deer Park near Benares. The relief shows the birth of the Buddha as Prince Siddhartha, son of King Suddhodana and Queen Maya of Kapilavastu(in present-day Nepal).
The story is preceded by 27 panels showing various preparations, in heavens and on earth, to welcome the final incarnation of theBodhisattva. Before descending from Tushita heaven, the Bodhisattva entrusted his crown to his successor, the future BuddhaMaitreya. He descended on earth in the shape of white elephantswith six tusks, penetrated to Queen Maya’s right womb. Queen Maya had a dream of this event, which was interpreted that his son would become either a sovereign or a Buddha.
While Queen Maya felt that it was the time to give birth, she went to the Lumbini park outside the Kapilavastu city. She stood under aplaksa tree, holding one branch with her right hand and she gave birth to a son, Prince Siddhartha. The story on the panels continues until the prince becomes the Buddha.
Prince Siddhartha story (Jataka) and other legendary persons (Avadana)
Jatakas are stories about the Buddha before he was born as Prince Siddhartha. Avadanas are similar to jatakas, but the main figure is not the Bodhisattva himself. The saintly deeds in avadanas are attributed to other legendary persons. Jatakas and avadanas are treated in one and the same series in the reliefs of Borobudur.
The first 20 lower panels in the first gallery on the wall depict theSudhanakumaravadana or the saintly deeds of Sudhana. The first 135 upper panels in the same gallery on the balustrades are devoted to the 34 legends of the Jatakamala. The remaining 237 panels depict stories from other sources, as do for the lower series and panels in the second gallery. Some jatakas stories are depicted twice, for example the story of King Sibhi (Rama‘s forefather).
Sudhana’s search for the Ultimate Truth (Gandavyuha)
Gandavyuha is the story told in the final chapter of the Avatamsaka Sutra about Sudhana’s tireless wandering in search of the Highest Perfect Wisdom. It covers two galleries (third and fourth) and also half of the second gallery; comprising in total of 460 panels. The principal figure of the story, the youth Sudhana, son of an extremely rich merchant, appears on the 16th panel. The preceding 15 panels form a prologue to the story of the miracles during Buddha’ssamadhi in the Garden of Jeta at Sravasti.
During his search, Sudhana visited no less than 30 teachers but none of them had satisfied him completely. He was then instructed by Manjusri to meet the monk Megasri, where he was given the first doctrine. As his journey continues, Sudhana meets (in the following order) Supratisthita, the physician Megha (Spirit of Knowledge), the banker Muktaka, the monk Saradhvaja, the upasika Asa (Spirit of Supreme Enlightenment), Bhismottaranirghosa, the BrahminJayosmayatna, Princess Maitrayani, the monk Sudarsana, a boy called Indriyesvara, the upasika Prabhuta, the banker Ratnachuda, King Anala, the god Siva Mahadeva, Queen Maya, BodhisattvaMaitreya and then back to Manjusri. Each meeting has given Sudhana a specific doctrine, knowledge and wisdom. These meetings are shown in the third gallery.
Lens flare at the Borobudur stairs and Kala arches entrance. Borobudur is the 8th century Buddhist monument took shape as a giant Mandala-mountain. The stairs took pilgrim from Kamadhatu (realm of desire}, through Rupadhatu (realm of forms and shapes), and finaly elevated to a higher spiritual plane of Arupadhatu (realm of formlesness). Central Java, Indonesia
After the last meeting with Manjusri, Sudhana went to the residence of Bodhisattva Samantabhadra; depicted in the fourth gallery. The entire series of the fourth gallery is devoted to the teaching of Samantabhadra. The narrative panels finally end with Sudhana’s achievement of the Supreme Knowledge and the Ultimate Truth.
A Buddha statue with the hand position of dharmachakra mudra(turning the Wheel of the Law)
A Buddha statue with the hand position of dharmachakra mudra(turning the Wheels of the Law).
Apart from the story of Buddhist cosmology carved in stone, Borobudur has many statues of various Buddhas. The cross-legged statues are seated in a lotus position and distributed on the five square platforms (the Rupadhatu level) as well as on the top platform (the Arupadhatu level).
A Buddha statue inside a stupa
A headless Buddha statue inside a stupa.
The Buddha statues are in niches at the Rupadhatu level, arranged in rows on the outer sides of the balustrades, the number of statues decreasing as platforms progressively diminish to the upper level. The first balustrades have 104 niches, the second 104, the third 88, the fourth 72 and the fifth 64. In total, there are 432 Buddha statues at the Rupadhatu level. At the Arupadhatu level (or the three circular platforms), Buddha statues are placed inside perforated stupas. The first circular platform has 32 stupas, the second 24 and the third 16, that add up to 72 stupas.Of the original 504 Buddha statues, over 300 are damaged (mostly headless) and 43 are missing (since the monument’s discovery, heads have been stolen as collector’s items, mostly by Western museums).
Relief panel of a ship at Borobudur
At glance, all the Buddha statues appear similar, but there is a subtle difference between them in the mudras or the position of the hands. There are five groups of mudra: North, East, South, West and Zenith, which represent the five cardinal compass points according to Mahayana. The first four balustrades have the first fourmudras: North, East, South and West, of which the Buddha statues that face one compass direction have the corresponding mudra. Buddha statues at the fifth balustrades and inside the 72 stupas on the top platform have the same mudra: Zenith. Each mudrarepresents one of the Five Dhyani Buddhas; each has its own symbolism. They are Abhaya mudra for Amoghasiddhi (north),Vara mudra for Ratnasambhava (south), Dhyana mudra forAmitabha (west), Bhumisparsa mudra for Aksobhya (east) andDharmachakra mudra for Vairochana (zenith).
Musicians performing a musical ensemble, probably the early form of gamelan.
1971 poster calling for the restoration of Borobudur.
Borobudur attracted attention in 1885, when Yzerman, the Chairman of the Archaeological Society in Yogyakarta, made a discovery about the hidden foot.Photographs that reveal reliefs on the hidden foot were made in 1890–1891.The discovery led the Dutch East Indies government to take steps to safeguard the monument. In 1900, the government set up a commission consisting of three officials to assess the monument: Brandes, an art historian, Theodoor van Erp, a Dutch army engineer officer, and Van de Kamer, a construction engineer from the Department of Public Works.
The Apsara of Borobudur.
In 1902, the commission submitted a threefold plan of proposal to the government. First, the immediate dangers should be avoided by resetting the corners, removing stones that endangered the adjacent parts, strengthening the first balustrades and restoring several niches, archways, stupas and the main dome. Second, fencing off the courtyards, providing proper maintenance and improving drainage by restoring floors and spouts. Third, all loose stones should be removed, the monument cleared up to the first balustrades, disfigured stones removed and the main dome restored. The total cost was estimated at that time around 48,800Dutch guilders.
The bas relief of 8th century Borobudur depicted the palace scene of King and Queen accompanied by their subjects. Its strongly suggested that the relief depicted the actual scene of Sailendran royal court.
The restoration then was carried out between 1907 and 1911, using the principles of anastylosis and led by Theodor van Erp.The first seven months of his restoration was occupied with excavating the grounds around the monument to find missing Buddha heads and panel stones. Van Erp dismantled and rebuilt the upper three circular platforms and stupas. Along the way, Van Erp discovered more things he could do to improve the monument; he submitted another proposal that was approved with the additional cost of 34,600 guilders. At first glance Borobudur had been restored to its old glory.
A bas-relief on the wall of Borobudur describe a man holding a medium sized sword or a dagger that similar to keris. The dagger’s part that shared similarity with typical keris is the handle and the wider part of the blade near the handle. This suggests that keris is quite well documented and have older tradition in Java.
Due to the limited budget, the restoration had been primarily focused on cleaning the sculptures, and Van Erp did not solve the drainage problem. Within fifteen years, the gallery walls were sagging and the reliefs showed signs of new cracks and deterioration. Van Erp used concrete from which alkali salts andcalcium hydroxide leached and were transported into the rest of the construction. This caused some problems, so that a further thorough renovation was urgently needed.
Queen Maya retreat to Lumbini to gave birth to Prince Siddharta Gautama (Buddha), the panel of Lalitavistara, Borobudur, Central Java, Indonesia.
Small restorations have been performed since then, but not sufficient for complete protection. In the late 1960s, the Indonesian government had requested from the international community a major renovation to protect the monument. In 1973, a master plan to restore Borobudur was created.The Indonesian government and UNESCO then undertook the complete overhaul of the monument in a big restoration project between 1975–1982.The foundation was stabilized and all 1,460 panels were cleaned. The restoration involved the dismantling of the five square platforms and improved the drainage by embedding water channels into the monument. Both impermeable and filter layers were added. This colossal project involved around 600 people to restore the monument and cost a total of US$ 6,901,243. After the renovation was finished, UNESCO listed Borobudur as a World Heritage Site in 1991. It is listed under Cultural criteria (i) “to represent a masterpiece of human creative genius”, (ii) “to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design”, and (vi) “to be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance”.
Gallery of reliefs
|Relief panel of a ship at Borobudur.||Musicians performing a musical ensemble.||The Apsara of Borobudur.|
Borobudur: Pyramid of the Cosmic Buddha
Written by Dr. Caesar Voûte
Published by DK Printworld Ltd.
Oversized (30 cm) coffee-table style book with
351 text pages, 163 color and black & white photographs,
8 architectural drawings, glossary, bibliography, index, and
two folded copies of the Vajradhatu and Garbhadhatu mandalas
ISBN: 812460403-7 – Now available from borobudur.tv through Amazon.com
A detailed carved relief stone.
Though the western world rediscovered this magnificent structure almost two hundred years ago this sacred place nonetheless remains seated in its enigmatic depth, engulfed in vaporous illusions, waiting for someone to find the base simplicity of its Truth. This book is a catalyst and invites adventurous minds to find new directions by bringing into focus the vast universe of the Borobudur in order to cultivate the Way to weeding out error. The questions posed or solutions offered herein are like water and waves: different yet identical in essence. They stir discussion.
A decorative gargoyle (makaras) at Borobudur as a spout to drainage waterfalls.
One of the special contributions of this book lies in its correlating the cyclical movements of the Sun and Moon with the numerical symbolism of Borobudur. The authors cite the magical effect of the Sun suddenly appearing out of the volcano Merapi and empowering the Borobudur-mountain with its radiant energy in poetic imagery. This magic moment of satori or enlightenment echoes the experiences of the unknown monarch who had commissioned the monument’s construction and the inspiration that made the architect envision this Buddhist wonder.» Dr. Lokesh Chandra, New Delhi