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Breathtaking Borobudur: Indonesia's temple gem

Friday, June 3, 2011
Jason Dundas travelled to Central Java in Indonesia. The reason for visiting was to see Borobudur, an eighth-century Mahayana Buddhist monument. It is both a shrine to the Buddha and a place for Buddhist pilgrimage.

It was built 1300 years ago in the heart of the jungle and was then, and still is, the largest Buddhist temple in the world, and one of Indonesia's most visited sites. It may be puzzling that such a revered Buddhist temple is in the largest Muslim community in the world, but it is all explained on the hour drive from Yogyakarta. The monument was designed to take followers a step closer to Nirvana.

After completion in 850 AD, the temple operated for more than 500 years until being abandoned in the 14th century. No-one knows why — maybe war, volcanic eruption or perhaps the growing influence of Islam.

It sat forgotten for 400 years, buried deep in jungle and volcanic ash. In the early 1800s, the UK's governor-general in Java, Sir Stamford Raffles, learned there could be a hidden castle in a Javanese jungle, and the British became very interested. For two months, 200 men slashed, burned and dug, eventually revealing one of the hidden wonders of the world. Borobudur is on the World Heritage List.

The British weren't all that respectful of their rediscovery. They removed carvings and statues but there are still wonderful things to admire.

The monument has six square platforms topped by three circular platforms. It is decorated with 504 Buddha statues and 2672 relief panels which, if laid end to end, would stretch more than 3km. The top platform is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues seated inside perforated stupa.

Pilgrim journeys begin at the base of the monument. They walk slowly to the top taking a clockwise route, passing carvings which tell the story of Buddha's life. There is a system of stairways and a corridor with 1460 narrative relief panels on walls and balustrades. To walk anticlockwise would bring bad luck.

During the walk, three levels of Buddhist cosmology are passed: Kamadhatu, Rupadhatu and Arupadhatu.

Indonesian Buddhists generally take the pilgrimage once a year to celebrate Vesak, the commemoration of Buddha's birth.

Keep a look out for an imposing 3m-high statue of Buddha at the Mendut Temple.

Jason's biggest suggestion is to be there before sunrise to beat the crowds.


Central Java in Indonesia.


Gecko's Adventures 15-day East Java and Bali tours are $1495 per person twin share. Local leader, 14 nights in budget hotel accommodation, 13 breakfasts, all transport and sightseeing are included. International flights are not included. They run year-round on selected dates.

Prices correct at June 4, 2011.

Garuda Indonesia has flights to Jogjakarta from:

  • Perth $ 648
  • Melbourne $ 813
  • Sydney $ 832

Conditions apply.

Prices correct at 04.06.2011

For further Information

Garuda Indonesia
Ph: 1300 365 330

Gecko's Adventures
Ph: 1300 854 444

Visa: Australian passports must have a minimum validity of six months from date of arrival. Seven-day and 30-day visas are available on arrival. Requirements and fees change regularly, so check with an Indonesia consulate for current information.

Electricity: 22V at 50Hz. Sockets are two-pin plugs. Adaptors are cheap and on sale everywhere.

Time zone: GMT +8.

Currency: Indonesian rupiah.

International dialling code: +62 361.

It is recommended travellers to Indonesia see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there may be specific vaccinations recommended. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended. For further information, visit and

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