The Borobudur Temple Ship: Bringing a Memory Back to Life

Constructed in the 8th century, Borobudur has become an source of national pride in Indonesia and continues to inspire today.

Under the cover of darkness, we ascended a small hill in the remote region of Magelang, Central Java, side-by-side with visitors and locals alike. Standing behind railings or atop makeshift bamboo structures, we all patiently awaited the coming of the sun and the magic of Borobudur Temple that the light would reveal. The temple, built by ancestors in the 8th century, is considered the greatest Buddhist monument in the world.

Constructed in the 8th century, Borobudur has become an source of national pride in Indonesia and continues to inspire today.

Slowly, the sky lightened, heavy with mist and volcanic fog. The temple remained shrouded in mist, barely visible but powerful and peaceful in its presence.

Built from more than two million stone blocks, Borobudur sits aligned with four stairways at each main compass point (East, South, West, and North), and consists of three major vertical levels—Kamadhatu (the foot of the temple, representing the lowest sphere and the realm of ordinary humans), Rapadhatu (the body of the temple, representing the realm between earthly desire and the gods), and Arupadhatu (the top of the temple, representing the realm of the gods).

The stupa of Borobudur Temple is barely visible through the morning fog. The structure is so massive that it is easily mistaken for one of the surrounding hillsides.

The entire temple tells the story of the teachings and life of the Buddha, and of the environment and culture of Java at the time the temple was constructed, conveyed through carvings in the stones. There are almost 3,000 relief panels distributed over the two million stone blocks.

The temple has been under restoration since becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the 1970s, with broken or shattered stones replaced by new ones in a continuous rebuilding process to maintain structural integrity for the —> Read More

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