Borobudur, Java - Indonesia
Surviving earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, Borobudur still stands proudly over the rice fields of Java. The largest Buddhist structure in the world perhaps channelled some of this holy significance for protection, and resumed its role as an important place of worship and pilgrimage for Indonesian Buddhists on its excavation and restoration in 1991. The mighty temple is a fascinating combination of stupa (dome shaped buildings), arches and statues which peer over a vast landscape of green rice fields and the nearby Merapi Volcano. Pilgrims walk clockwise through nearly five kilometres of open air corridors while ascending through six square terraces and three circular ones, before symbolically spiralling upward from the everyday world to the nirvana. The first terraces are filled with richly decorated relief panels depicting Buddhist doctrines and Javanese life, while the top of the temple has 72 remarkable stupas each containing a statue of Buddha. Crowning the entire structure is a great central stupa, which is empty to represent Nirvana.
Where is it?
The monument is located in the Kedu Valley, in the southern part of Central Java, at the centre of the island of Java, Indonesia.
What is it?
The largest, and one of the most striking, Buddhist monuments in the world was covered for centuries before its recent excavation in 1991. Buddhist cosmology believes that the universe is divided into three superimposing spheres, which is why Borobudur is split into three tiers, which must be traversed one by one to reach the top, Nirvana.
Best time to visit?
Visit at any point during the dry season, which runs from May to September.
The Karmawibhanga Museum is contained in the Borobudur Archaeological Park and displays archaeological findings around Borobudur and the recent restoration process. There are also explanatory comments about the reliefs on the walls, as well as a photo gallery of late 19th century shots of the complex before it was restored.