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The Incredible Temple-Mountain of Borobudur

On the island of Java, Indonesia, there is a legend, still standing today. It is a mountain that has a secret over a thousand years old. Thousands of statues adorn its face, facing the many volcanoes that surround the area. This is Borobudur, an ancient Buddhist temple complex, which was forgotten and abandoned for centuries, although no one knows why. In fact, it was forgotten for so long that it was hidden beneath volcanic ash and overgrown jungle for hundreds of years.

But now beautiful Borobudur is a hugely popular Buddhist monument. No one forgets it now, and so I got to enjoy, and share, this fantastic photo-tour with you. 

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The island of Java in Indonesia is home to a very special mountain. This mountain has over 1,000 statues scattered all around it. Borobudur is a mountain of mystic and mystery.

Borobudur was lost for many years until in 1814, a group of 200 men set a goal for themselves to find this mountain of legend. After six weeks of hacking and slashing their way through overgrown vegetation and volcanic ash and rubble, they found a strange stone statue. They another, then thousands of them! Today, we can see all of the figures standing on Borobudur. 


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Borobudur is believed to have been constructed some time during the 8th century. It is a Buddhist temple, but without an altar or sanctuary. Instead, it boasts six square platforms on which sit 3 circular platforms, and is decorated with galleries that form a ring around the structure. There are 504 statues of the Buddha. There is also a main dome that is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues. 

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This is a West view of Borobudur. We have no written accounts of the building of Borobudur, and so we don't know who built it, or why. Yet experts estimate it took about 75 years to complete! 

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Borobudur is beset by volcanoes, which is why it was covered in ash and debris for many centuries. In 1973, UNESCO came up with a restoration plan for the legendary mountain. It took 7 years to restore (1975-1982). But today, Borobudur is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Indonesia. 

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The Borobudur temple was at a height of 137 feet (42 meters) before the restoration, but is now only 113 feet (34.5 meters) after the restoration was complete. It had 10 floors, with the first 6 floors built as squares, and the last 4 built as circles. 

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The sun rising over the temple. A beautiful place to be. 

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After sunrise, the majesty of this mountain is unveiled. This is Borobudur from the North side. 

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Borobudur is shrouded in mystery. Why was it abandoned? Why did it spend centuries buried under volcanic ash and jungles? 

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Only the statues can give us answers, and they don't say much, just impress upon us a quiet power of presence. This is a Buddha statue overlooking the Merapi volcano at dawn. 

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A great Panoramic view. So what happened after this place was abandoned? Well, according to Wikipedia: "folk stories gradually shifted from its past glory into more superstitious beliefs associated with bad luck and misery. Two old Javanese chronicles (Babad) from the 18th century mention cases of bad luck associated with the monument.

According to the Babad Tanah Jawi (or the History of Java), the monument was a fatal factor for Mas Dana, a rebel who revolted against Pakubuwono I, the king of Mataram in 1709. It was mentioned that the “Redi Borobudur” hill was besieged and the insurgents were defeated and sentenced to death by the king. In the Babad Mataram (or the History of the Mataram Kingdom), the monument was associated with the misfortune of Prince Monconagoro, the crown prince of the Yogyakarta Sultanate in 1757. In spite of a taboo against visiting the monument, ‘he took what is written as the knight who was captured in a cage (a statue in one of the perforated stupas)’. Upon returning to his palace, he fell ill and died one day later." 


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The temple is a great place to hold performances. This is a ballet performed in front of the temple back in 2006. 

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A Buddha statue in the traditional 'dharmachakra Mudra' position and hand gesture, inside the bell-shaped stupa. 

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Above is the main stupa on the Borobudur Buddhist monument in Java. It is the largest Buddhist monument in the world. According to the photographer: "The upper rounded terrace with rows of bell shaped stupas containing Buddha images symbolize Arupadhatu, the sphere of formlessness. The main stupa itself is empty, symbolizing complete perfection of enlightenment.” 

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Above is the main stupa on the Borobudur Buddhist monument in Java. It is the largest Buddhist monument in the world. According to the photographer: "The upper rounded terrace with rows of bell shaped stupas containing Buddha images symbolize Arupadhatu, the sphere of formlessness. 

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Buddhist monks meditating on the top platform. Today, Buddhists can once again take a pilgrimage to Borobudur, and once a year Indonesian Buddhists celebrate at the monument.

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Night overtaking Borobudur.

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Borobudur divides into layers: There is the platform at the base, four square terraces that connect to each other with very steep staircases, and then another four circular terraces. The peak of the whole construction is the central stupa.

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The dark temple corridor in the morning mist.

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Borobudur was lost to the world during the 14th century, when Buddhist and Hindu kingdoms declined in power.

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Indonesian kids thrilled to have such a great background for their photo.

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The peak of the monument is a central stupa. The two chambers inside the stupa are empty. It’s unclear whether they were empty from the beginning as a representation of nirvana, or whether they originally contained now lost statues. You can discover 6 different postures of Buddha’s statue from the bottom level to the top. They are ‘contact with earth’, ‘giving and helping’, ‘meditation’, ‘fearlessness’, ‘teach and learn’, ‘turning of the wheel of dharma’

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One of the many statues that cover the mountain.

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Through this archway, you can see the fog rising above the jungles.

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Early morning, Merapi from Borobudur temple. You can see the park of the temple and the Merapi volcano in the background.

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A statue waits for sunrise on the way to the temple.

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During restoration, it took professionals from 27 different countries to figure out how to move over ONE MILLION stones. These were set aside, and the ones which were part of carved panels were cleaned and cataloged.

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A golden sunrise viewed from the temple.

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Buddha statue over the jungle highlands on a relaxing morning.

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Caged Buddhas High in the Temple in Borobudur. The stupa is covered with Buddhas, most of which are encased in these bell-shaped cages. If one peers inside, he will see that each statue holds his hands in a slightly different position.

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Yogyakarta – Borobudur Stupa Sunrise

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Buddhist monks praying at Borobudur.

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Many consider touching the praying Buddhas a token of good luck, and that it will help them realize their dreams.

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A view of the temple from the north-eastern plateau.

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As evening falls, we can see Mt. Merapi erupting in the background, but that doesn't seem to dispel the magic and peace of this serene place.
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