Borobudur Temple

Borobudur Temple

Borobudur Temple

For centuries, Borobodur laid hidden under layers of volcanic ash. The reasons behind the desertion of this magnificent monument still remain a mystery.

There is no written record of who built Borobudur or of its intended purpose. The construction time has been estimated by comparison between carved reliefs on the temple’s hidden foot and the inscriptions commonly used in royal charters during the eight and ninth centuries. Borobudur was likely founded around 750 AD. This corresponds to the peak of the Syailendra dynasty in central Java (760–830 AD), when it was under the influence of the Srivijaya Empire. The construction has been estimated to have taken 75 years and been completed during the reign of Samaratungga in 825.

For centuries, Borobodur laid hidden under layers of volcanic ash. The reasons behind the desertion of this magnificent monument still remain a mystery. Some scholars believe that the famine was caused by the eruption of Mount Merapi that forced the inhabitants of Central Java to leave their lands behind in search of a new place to live. When people once again inhabited this area, the glory of Borobudur was buried by ash from Mount Merapi.

Borobudur was rediscovered in 1814 by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles who, during his visit in Semarang, received a report indicating the discovery of a hill full of many carved stones. The hill was believed by the local inhabitants to be the site of an ancient monument called budur. Raffles then commissioned a team led by Cornelius to investigate the hill.

It was in 1835 that the site was cleared. Some efforts were made to restore and preserve the colossal monument since then. Unfortunately, in 1896 the Dutch colonial government gave away eight containers of Borobudur stones, including reliefs, statues, stairs and gates, as presents for the King of Siam who was visiting Indonesia.

A restoration program undertaken between 1973 and 1984 returned much of the complex to its former glory, and the site has since become a destination of Buddhist pilgrimage. On January 21, 1985 the temple suffered minor damage due to a bomb attack. In 1991, Borobudur was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Viewed from above, Borobudur takes the form of a giant mandala, symbolically depicting the path of the bodhisattva from samsara to nirvana, through the story of Sudhana described in the Gandavyuha Sutra, a part of the Avatamsaka Sutra. In total, this massive monument contains over 2 million stone blocks.

Some scholars think that this massive monument is a gigantic textbook of Buddhism to help people to achieve enlightenment. To read this Buddhist textbook in stone requires a walk of more than two miles. The walls of the galleries are adorned with impressive reliefs illustrating the life of Buddha Shakyamuni and the principles of his teaching.

Representing the existence of the universe, Borobudur perfectly reflects the Buddhist cosmology, which divides the universe into three intermingled separate levels. The three levels are Kamadhatu (world of desire), Ruphadatu (world of forms), and Arupadhatu (world of formlessness).

The hidden base of Borobudur was originally the first level, which contains the gallery of Kamadhatu level. It is thought that during construction Borobudur experienced a landfall that threatened the entire building. To prevent the whole monument from collapsing, the Kamadhatu level was closed and made into a new base that holds Borobudur steady.

This level of Kamadhatu pictures the world of passion and the inevitable laws of karma. The first 117 panels show various actions leading to one and the same result, while the other remaining 43 panels demonstrate the many results that follow one single effect. At least 160 relief panels were carved around this level, based on the manuscript of Karmavibhangga. What is left of these can be seen in the Southeast corner of this level.

The reliefs of the Rupadhatu level show the stories based on the manuscripts of Lalitavistara, Jataka-Avadana and Gandavyuha. The Lalitavistara reliefs, consisting of 120 panels, tell us about the life of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha. It starts with the glorious descent of Buddha from the Tushita heaven. Born as Prince Siddhartha, Buddha’s childhood was isolated from the outside world’s misery. Accidentally witnessing the misery of sickness, decrepitude and death, young Prince Siddharta decided to escape from the worldly life and commencing his search of freedom from suffering. Siddhartha’s long and painful search finally led him to the highest level of enlightenment and made him Buddha, the Enlightened One. This story ends with Buddha’s sermon in the Deer Park near Benares.

The Jataka is a collection of stories about Buddha’s previous reincarnation, chains and virtues. According to the Jataka, Buddha was born 504 times before being born as Prince Siddharta, taking on the forms of god, kings, princes, learned men, thieves, slaves, and a gambler. Many times he was born in the forms of animals such as lion, deer, monkey, swan, big turtle, quail, horse, bird and many others. But the Boddhisatva (Buddha-to-be) was distinguished from all other kings, slaves, or animals among whom he lived. The Boddhisatva is always superior and wiser than those around him.

As to the relief of Avadana, the main figure is not the Buddha himself. All the saintly deeds pictured in this part are attributed to other legendary characters. The stories are compiled in Dvijavadana (Glorious Heavenly Acts) and the Avadana Sataka (The Hundred Avadana). The first 20 frames in the lower series of stories on the first gallery depict the Sudhanakumaravana.

The series of reliefs covering the wall of the second gallery is dedicated to Sudhana’s tireless wandering during his search for the highest wisdom. The story is continued on the walls and balustrades of the third and fourth galleries. Most of the 460 panels depict the scenes based on the Mahayana text Gandavyuha, while the concluding scenes are derived from the text of Badracari.

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Prambanan Temple

Prambanan Temple

Prambanan Temple

Prambanan Temple is said to be the most beautiful Hindu temple in the world. It is the biggest temple complex in Java with three main temples dedicated to the three great Hindu deities; Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma (the symbols of Trimurti in Hindu belief).

Prambanan Temple is said to be the most beautiful Hindu temple in the world. It is the biggest temple complex in Java with three main temples dedicated to the three great Hindu’s deities; Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma (the symbols of Trimurti in Hindu’s belief).

According to the history, Rakai Pikatan, a Hindu prince from Sanjaya Dynasty, who had married into the ruling Buddhist Syailendra monarchy built all the temples in the area in the 8th century AD. In its original form, the temple complex contained over 250 large and small temples. The temple compound was expanded by successor of Mataram kings with hundreds of Perwara temples around the central temples. It served as the royal temple of the Kingdom of Mataram for religious ceremonies and sacrifices. However, in the 10th century the temple was largely abandoned because the Mataram dynasty moved to East Java. Then, it collapsed during a major earthquake in the 16th century.

Also locally known as Roro Jonggrang, legend has it that the 1,000th statue of the temple was the statue of a slender virgin lady named Roro Jonggrang, who turned into stone by a young and powerful man named Bandung Bondowoso after her attempt to thwart Bondowoso’s effort in building a thousand temples and two wells in one night for the lady failed. Bondowoso was in love with Roro Jonggrang and asked her to marry him. However, Roro Jonggrang was full of hatred because Bondowoso killed her father; hence she tried to refuse his proposal by asking him a seemingly impossible task. As a man who had unseen troop of spirits, it was easy for Bondowoso to finish the task. After nearly a thousand temples had been built, Roro Jonggrang asked the villagers to pound rice and to set a fire in order to look like the morning had broken. This way, the spirits had no choice but left before completing the last one temple. Bondowoso realised that the lady had cheated him so he turned Roro Jonggrang into the 1,000th statue. This is a very interesting folklore that local people love to share.

In 1811, a surveyor working for Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles found the ruins of Prambanan by pure chance, yet, they were not long enough in Java to do much about it and the temple remained neglected for decades. Dutch residents started to loot the reliefs to adorn their garden with priceless statues while local people were taking the foundation stones and using them as construction material. It was in 1930 that the proper restoration began and continues to this day.

In 1991, UNESCO listed Prambanan Temple Compound as World Cultural Heritage.

The high structures are typical of Hindu architecture, and the plan of the temple complex is a Mandala, as is Borobudur. As a symbol of the Hindu cosmos, the temple is vertically divided into three parts, both vertically and in plan.


The base of the temples, as well as the outer square is the underworld. It was a large space marked by a rectangular wall. This is a place for ordinary folk, mortals, both human and animal. This is the place where lust and desire are commonplace. It is an unholy area.


The central body of the temples and the middle square of the complex, represents the ‘middle world’ the place for those who have left their worldly possessions. This is where people begin to see the light of truth. The middle world had four rows of 224 small individual shrines, where all shrines are identical.


The top of the temples and the innermost square represents the realm of the gods, the holiest zone, and is crowned. Three 16 temples that consist of 3 main temples: Brahma the Creator, Shiva the Destroyer, and Vishnu the Keeper. Shiva temple is the biggest and the tallest amongst all with 47.6m high, while Brahma and Vishnu are 33m high. In addition to the three main temples, there are three Wahana Temples, four Kelir Temples, two Apit Temples and four Patok Temples.


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Mekare-kare: Balinese Men’s Pandan Battle to Honor The God of War

Mekare-kare: Balinese Men’s Pandan Battle to Honor The God of War

Mekare-kare: Balinese Men’s
Pandan Battle to Honor The God of War

Surakarta, or commonly called Solo, is one of the most famous batik central in Indonesia. Two famous Batik villages in Solo that having long history of Batik, Laweyan Batik Village and Kauman Batik Village offer you a lot to admire.

Karangasem is one of the most touristic destinations in Bali which still preserved their ancestor’s traditions. One of the unique ceremonies found in Tenganan village, Karangasem, is Perang Pandan. Tenganan is also one of the oldest villages in Bali which is locally known as “Bali Aga”.

Perang Pandan (Pandan Battle) War Dance, or locally known as “mekare-kare” or “megeret pandan”, at Tenganan village is held annually at “Sasih Kalima” (fifth month of the Balinese/Caka calendar). It is carried out during the ceremony called “Ngusaba” at the yard of the village’s temple, dedicated to the god of war – Indra.

Tengananese men dress in traditional clothing with bare chest and headband (udeng), use thorny pandanus as their weapon for the battle and a rattan woven shield for protection. The duel is accompanied by gamelan music named Seloding, a musical instrument that should only be played by people who purified.

Mekare-kare is carried out by the youth of Tenganan village and also another youth outside the Tenganan village. The youth of the village acts as Pandan War participants, while youths from outside the village as a supporting participant. Though it is not an actual war, it does involve blood, but the spiritual aspect of the ritual causes no men to feel any serious pain, nor do they get infected by the wound resulting from the end of the ritual.

The ceremony begins after the praying ritual at the temple and continues with circling around the village and drinking traditional fermented drink called “tuak”.

After the battle ends, they smear the scratches and wounds with turmeric and vinegar traditional potion to each other and the ritual leader spreads holy water to them. No heart feeling among the fighters, and they all sit together to feast on banana leaves (megibung) and laugh together at the end.