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Sunday, March 9, 2014

#BOROBUDUR: A Temple or a Shrine?

A temple or a shrine? Well, both refer to places of holy worship and could be synanymous but there is a nuance between the two. A temple could be a shrine but a shrine is not necessarily a temple.To make the explaination short, a temple has an inner house where worshippers can gather to venerate their god (s). According to our guide, Borobudur is more of a shrine than a temple since it has no inner house or enclosed space which qualifies it for a temple. Makes sense?

This you cannot easily find in books but one that you can discover when you hire a guide when you visit Borobudur Temple.

beautiful #BOROBUDUR

First, here's what you need to know.

1. We stayed at Edu Hostel in downtown Yogyakarta. 
2. Yogyakarta is 45 minutes away by car from Borobudur on early morning when there arr almost no cars on the road. 
3. We availed of 
Golden Sunrise at Punthuk Setumbu Hill -Borobudur 
and Mendut Temple Tour 
(6 hours) 85,000 Rupiah/pax. Leaves at 4 am.

Punthuk Setumbu is a hill located 4 km west of Borobudur Temple. It is one of the best place tobwatch Borobudur sunrise from an altitude of 400m above sea level.
4. Since you leave the hotel very early and cannot avail of the frew breakfast included in the accommodation, the tour comes with free breakfast. 
5. By free breakfast, I mean coffee, toast and a few slices of fruits.

Since food was rather simple, we ordered other things (at our own cost) which included gado-gado for our friend Rupert). Remember the Gudeg not very satisfying experience we had the night before? Well this gado-gado made Rupert feel that he's had enough of Indonesian food. Haha!

We finished breakfast as quickly as possible and headed to the entrance of the temple. Like in Prambanan Temple, foreign tourists are charged a different premium so there is also a separate entrance for them.

Entrance Fee at Borobudur: 220,000 Rupiah
Guide fee (optional) : 
forgot how much exactly but it was roughly 300Php if converted so tag 100 Php lang kami ^^.

We made the mistake of not hiring a tour guide when we were in Angkor Wat and again in Prambanan. We originally thought it could be a waste of time and it could go against the enjoyment of stopping at any spot we choose and enjoy the pleasure of taking photos but I am glad my wife insisted on hiring one.


--Borobudur is a 9th-centuryMahayana Buddhist Temple in Magelang Central Java.
--Located approximately 40 kilometres (25 mi) northwest of Yogyakarta and 86 kilometres (53 mi) west of Surakarta.
--Built in the 9th century during Sailendra Dynasty.
--Designed in Javanese Buddhist architecture which blends the Indonesian indigenous cult of ancestor worship and the Buddhist concept of attaining Nirvana.
--Borobudur has the largest and most complete ensemble of Buddhist reliefs in the world.

--The monument consists of six square platforms topped by three circular platforms and is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues.
--The temple also demonstrates the influences of Gupta art that reflects India's influence on the region.
--Borobudur has the largest and most complete ensemble of Buddhist reliefs in the world.
--A UNESCO World Heritage Site. >>Source
Like Prambanan, Borobudyur was also abandoned for many years due mainly to volcanic eruptions in the area. Take note, there are two active volcanoes in the area and when one of them exploded hundereds of years ago, the whole temple was said to have been covered with ash. Same thing happened in recent history. Our guide said that they had to close the temple a few years back because of the ashes and all the guides who were working in the temple at that time volunteered to clean it. They didn't get paid for it of course but they know the economic significance of the temple so all groups concerend, not just the government, did lend a hand to remove the volcanic ash.

During the long years of abandonment, many parts of the temple, rocks, reliefs and even Buddhas and Buddha heads were stolen. There are only a few complete Buddhas left as a result. One example is the one pictured immediately below.
I noticed this figure before we started climbing the temple. It looks rather similar to the ones you can find in Angkor Complex. "It is a tongue" , our guide said, the tongue being central to our troubles in life. "It's about being careful in your words and about speaking the truth which has a very big impact on our lives" he added.
Dila pala yun ^^
This is a water sprout. It is integral to the longevity of Borobudur and other temples. Since the temple is built on a hill, water seeps through the rocks and into the earth underneath thereby compromising the integrity of the whole structure. During the recent reconstruction conducted by the Indonesian government and UNESCO, our guide said, the had to remove the piles of rocks one by one and laid out reinforced concrete, lead and series of pipes underneath so as to manage the soil underneath.
My wife really enjoyed having a guide walking us through the pyramid. She was very attentive and she was even taking notes and asking a lot of questions all throughout that tour while I was busy juggling between taking photos and listening to their conversation. It was already around 7:30 in the morning when we got to the lower rectangular level where stone carved panels tell the story of the Buddhist Sutras. 

Since there are 1,460 intricate scenes in total, it would have been difficult to make sense of the story behind the reliefs. Our guide took us to one side where the most important relief is located. It has something to do with the mother of Buddha being visited by a white elephant in his dream. When she woke up, she was confused of what the dream meant.

To cut the story short, that was the signal of her pregnancy to Siddharta Gautama better known as Buddha. I think I heard of this story somewhere in the past but I wasn't paying attention. What strikes me is the resemblance to the Virgin Marry ( Catholicism) and the conception and birth of Jesus Christ.
the most important relief in Borobudur

Higher terraces are of circular shape on which statues of Buddha sit inside perforated bell shaped stupas.

There are 504 Buddha statues all in all in sitting position facing outward to nature demonstrating a range of hand positions. There are four hand positions for Buddha during meditation and you can find all of them here in Borobudor depending on what direction your are at. That said, all Buddhas facing the same direction have similar hand positions each.


At the top of the monument is a huge bell shaped stupa nearly 10 metres is diameter. The centre of this stupa is completely empty but there are doubts if it has always been empty or in fact held some form of icon within in the past.

Our guide has bid us farewell before we reached the uppermost part of the pyramid but left us an advise before he departed. He said we have to walk around the giant stupa in one complete circle on clockwise direction and then make a wish. My wife asked if she can go around several times and therefore make several wishes. She was serious. Our guide reminded her of the Buddhist teaching of not being "greedy". "You can walk around several times but you can only make one wish" he added. Makes sense. ^^
Beautiful Borobudur


Each bell-shaped stupa originally has a Buddha statue inside. But since many of these statues were stolen, many stupas are empty inside. Notice the holes on the stupas? There are two types. Some have are square-shaped while others are diamond-shaped. Cool!

There are so many other things that will come to your attention when you hire a guide so I really suggest you get one. If you are a group of three or four, that will not hurt your pocket at all.

You could be face to face with such a massive and iconic temple like Borobudur but if you don't understand its story, you might think of it as just another pile of old rocks. When you visit Borobudur, I suggest you hire a guide so that you can fully appreciate the place. There, I said it again.

We got to see Borobudor in another perspective and literally in other angles. Without our guide, we would have followed where most people go and would have just wandered around aimlessly.


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