Candi Borobudur is located some 45 minutes northeast of Yogyakarta. It sits on a hill in the town of Muntilan in the Magelang District. Almost all travel agents in Yogyakarta offer the day-trip excursion to this temple, usually combined with Candi Mendut, Candi Pawon and Candi Prambanan.
I paid Rp60.000 (USD6.00) for the round-trip journey with a travel agent in Jalan Malioboro in downtown Yogyakarta, which includes 3 stops at Pawon, Mendut and a silver-making centre.
The entrance fee for foreigners is Rp95.000 (USD11) or Rp9.000 for Indonesian residents.
This world-famous temple is located in a small hill of Kedu Basin. It overlooks 4 different volcanoes, namely Mt. Merbabu (3,142m), Mt. Sumbing (3,371m), Mt. Merapi (2,911m) and Mt. Sundoro (3,1366m), as well as the spectacular jagged peaks of Menoreh Hills that rise as high as 1,022m. To me, it goes without saying that the geographical setting was meticulously chosen for this much-acclaimed UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Candi Borobudur was modeled after the Buddhist cosmology of Kamandhatu (the phenomenal world of desires), Rupadhatu (the transitional world from the present corporeal being), and Arupadhatu (the divine sphere of perfection and enlightenment).
If you could not immediately distinguish the cosmology model that was incorporated into Borobudur's architecture, you are not alone. It took me sometime to differentiate the dizzying sky-reaching steps and floor levels. Basically, Kamandhatu is the rectangular wall that juts out of the temple's foot. It signifies the present world that is visible to our naked eyes. Rupadhatu is the 4-storey terraced corridors which are decorated with statues, stone carvings and wall reliefs. This is the transitional world epitomised by Rupadhatu, at which the soul arrives from the present world into this intricate maze in anticipation of reaching the divine state. Finally, a devout soul shall reach Arupadhatu in the state of enlightenment. The top section of the temple, filled with stupas, including a colossal one which probably signifies the "God", represents Arupadhatu.
According to historical data, the building of Candi Borobudur exemplified a tremendous labourious precision - some 55,000m³ of andesit stones were brought in from the Progo River, a few kilometres away. The temple was built during the age of Syailendra Dynasty (or Sailendra, which means Kings of the Mountains) in the early 8th century. Its construction was overseen by a number of different rulers of the dynasty. Upon completion, Borobudur was used for meditations and religious rituals by Vajrayana sect of the Tantric School of Buddhism.
Borobudur is a combination of the word "Bara" and "Budur". "Bara", from the Sanskrit word "Vihara", which means a complex of temples and monastery (coincidentally, there is a word "biara" in Malay which implies the same connotation although rarely being used except in classical literature). Meanwhile, the word budur is from the Balinese term "Beduhur", which means "up high". Thus, Borobudur means a monastery or a complex of temples perched on a hill.
Despite its colossal grandeur, Candi Borobudur was abandoned after the eventual decline of Syailendra Dynasty, as it was the case with other great archeological marvels of the world. At the information centre, there are old photos on display showing its deplorable state when it was first re-discovered in early 1800s (much to my amazement when seeing how it looks like today). Since then, there were two major restoration initiatives undertaken by various parties:
1907 - 1911
Under the guidance of a Dutchman, Theodore van Erp, Candi Borobudur was somewhat restored, although the perilous threat of structural disintegration was still eminent due to the sinking soil structure and general erosion.
1973 - 1983
The Indonesian government and UNESCO embarked a multi million dollars project that resulted in the present being of Candi Borobudur. Advanced engineering methods including subterranean boring to regulate water seepage, installation of underground water conduits, massive underlying steel beams for supports, as well as patching up the broken parts. On 23rd February 1983, the restored Candi Borobudur along with the adjoining Taman Wisata (Archeological Park) was unveiled by President Soeharto.
During my visit, minor restorations were still on-going at parts of the temple.
Regarded as one of the wonders of the world. You have to see it to believe it!