Borobudur, Central Java, Indonesia

Central, Java, Indonesia, 02.04.1996.  Printed by Kanisius.

“Darling V,

Fabulous country
So much to do but
the heat is so terrible 
can not do most.
Feet are so swollen.
Met some very
Interesting people

with love


Under layers of volcanic ash and jungle growth lay hidden for centuries, the monument of Borobudur in central Java, Indonesia.  Believed to have been founded around 800 CE there is no written record of who the Borobudur was built for or its intended use.  

The Mahayana Buddhist monument is decorated with 2672 relief panels and 504 Buddhas.  The temple’s design in Gupta architecture reflects both Indian and Indonesian influence.  The monument is now a place for Buddhist pilgrimage. 

Borobudur, ancient mountain, was abandoned in the 14th Centurty as the Javanese converted to Islam.  Tales of its past glory became intertwined with superstition of the falling of kings.

When viewed from above, Borbudur becomes the symbol of a giant tantric Buddhist mandala representing both Buddhist cosmology and the nature of mind.  The design resembles a step pyramid built to appear like a mountain or a high place where ancestral spirits live.  The monument is divided into three sections, each symbolising the Buddhist three realms - the world of desires (Kamadhatu), forms (Rupadhatu) and the formless world (Arupadhatu).  In the world of desires, Kamadhatu, is where most sentient beings exist and is represented by the base of the monument.  Those who no longer have attachment or desire for form live within Rupadhatu indicated by the five square platforms.  Those that are able to go beyond form and experience existence in its purest state exist in the formless, often known as nirvana which is symbolised in the three circular platform and the large topmost stupa.  The carvings of the Rupadhatu meld into the circular platforms of the Arupadhutu where all bodies and forms will eventually become formless.

In 1814, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, was advised of the location of the monument during his British rule of Java.  Since then, the existence of Borobudur has become known worldwide and has undergone several restorations.  The monument is now listed as a UNESCO World heritiage site.

Borobudur is still a place for pilgrimage and is one of Indonesia’s most visited tourist attractions (hence the swollen feet of Ms A.)