As we embarked on a journey into Central Java, we had the priority of cleansing our minds and clearing our heads. We were right, this part of Java had us finding ourselves spiritually and even stumbling upon some pleasant surprises, one after another.
Driving up North to the sacred lands of Borobudur, we passed through endless emerald green rice terraces and small Hindu temples along the way. The World’s biggest Buddhist monument was built in the 9th century, and decorated with 504 Buddha statues. The Borobudur oozes spirituality from the numerous Hindu relic sculptures and countless Buddha statues, and the mountains far in the distance.
Beyond the Borobudur
Unlike other temples built on flat land, the Borobudur was built on a hill, an elevated area between two twin volcanoes and two lakes. This explains the stunning view of the natural landscape surrounding the Buddhist temple.
Entering the grounds of the Borobudur, we were greeted by luscious greenery, and and an atmosphere of a royal garden.
Ascending the stairs of the giant monument, I constantly turned around to take in the beauty of the entire Kedu Plains landscape. Overlooking criss-crossed terrace fields, and tall coconut trees, the Borobudur and the mountains surrounding it were one.
Unfortunately, Indonesia’s most visited monument is swamped with tourists, especially in the evening during sunset. We fought through the scorching afternoon heat to avoid the crowd, and managed to have it all for ourselves. Herds of students came pouring in towards 4pm for the cooler weather, so try to avoid that time!
Architecture of the Ancient Shrine
Built as a shrine for the Lord Buddha, the Borobudur is a single large stupa (bell-shaped structure containing Buddhist relics). The foundation is a square, and the entire monument consists of 9 platforms. On the upper platforms, there are 72 stupas surrounding one large central stupa. Each of them contains a Buddha statue within.
Standing in a Muslim country, it is unfathomable that such a majestic Buddhist monument could withstand centuries of evolution. Borobudur was believed to have been abandoned following the Javanese conversion to Islam.
One could easily feel the rich religious beliefs of the pilgrims who had journeyed to this sacred land.
Reliefs on the Walls of Borobudur
Reliefs telling legends and ancient tales cover the facades and corridors of the Buddhist shrine. Paying tribute to Buddha, these reliefs depict the biography of Buddha, while some tell the story of Buddha’s former lives.
You might not be able to interpret the stories completely, but a wave of holy spiritual uplifting energy might just hit you if you learn to immerse yourself in their beliefs.
Where to Stay
We found a quiet peace of heaven at Pondok Tingal Guesthouse. Nestled in the wild foliage, the guesthouse is a typical Javanese Losmen (homestay), built with rattan in a simple local style. With a family room (no aircon but spacious living room and double bed) at only 100,000Rp (US$9), it is affordable yet offering a genuine experience for the budget travelers. There are not many choices for accomodation in the town of Borobudur, with a high-end hotel in the grounds of the temple, and several other budget guesthouses.
An unbelievably sacred site, this is an amazing spot to visit especially if you’re looking for some inner peace and tranquility. But beware of the crowds, they might just spoil your peace of mind!
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