Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ancient Temples of Borobudur & Prambanan

The Buddhist temple of Borobudur and the Hindu temple compound known as Prambanan are Yogyakarta's most popular tourist attractions. Although one is Buddhist and the other Hindu, these two places of worship have very similar histories. Both were built in the ninth century, abandoned shortly thereafter, and devastated by disaster and neglect for centuries. Today both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and are right in my backyard.

I visited both of these sites for the first time in September and then again in February when my ELF friends Jackie and Michaela came to visit. We left the ICRS guesthouse at 5:30 in the morning to beat the heat and the crowds. Our efforts paid off because we had Borobudur practically all to ourselves on a gloriously sunny morning. But by the time we got to Prambanan, the midday sun was at its strongest and we felt ourselves fading fast and in need of some frozen mango drinks at Parsley. However, before we called it a day we got in some great photo-ops and learned some interesting facts.

The origins of the name 'Borobudur' are disputed 
but it might mean 'temple above the hill'.

Borobudur was abandoned in the 10th century
 and remained buried under volcanic ash until its rediscovery in the 18th century.

Borobudur is Indonesia's most visited tourist attraction.

There are 2,672 relief panels representing Buddhist cosmology 
from the lusty everyday to Nirvana.
Originally there were 504 Buddha statues.
Today more than 300 are damaged and more than 40 are missing.

One of the few intact Buddha statues. Many statues were decapitated soon after Borobudur's rediscovery in the 18th century. The heads can be found in museums all over the world.
There are more Buddha statues inside each of these latticed stupas. This top level of the temple was closed because the Buddhas in the stupas are still covered in ash from the recent 2010 eruptions of Mt. Merapi.

Like Borobudur, Prambanan was abandoned in the 10th century, probably because of a volcanic eruption, and  was further damaged in a big earthquake in the 16th century. Proper restoration began in the 20th century but earthquakes remain a constant threat. The main temple is still closed to visitors today because of the 2006 Yogya earthquake.
Four-headed Hindu statue in one of the smaller shrines.

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