Borobudur is the name of a Buddhist temple located in Borobudur, Magelang, Central Java. The location of the temple is approximately 100 km to the southwest of Semarang and 40 km to the northwest of Yogyakarta. This temple was founded by Mahayana Buddhists around the year 800 AD during the reign of the Syailendra dynasty.

Borobudur Temple is similar to the Buddhist scriptures carved in the rock with the quality and quantity of carved reliefs and types of stories that are qualified and equipped with statues and stupas that are no less amazing. Borobudur Temple has approximately 2672 relief panels which are said to stretch 6 kilometers in length. UNESCO even recognized it as the largest and most comprehensive Buddhist relief ensemble in the world. Every scene and story carved into it is a masterpiece of art that is intact and extraordinarily high in value.

There is a separate technique for reading reliefs on the walls of the temple, which is read in a clockwise direction. This is known as mapradaksina (Old Javanese) which comes from the Sanskrit Daksina which means east. The beginning of the story will begin and end at the east side gate at each level. Borobudur has ascending stairs in the four cardinal directions but it is estimated that the main ascending ladder is to the east.

Relief on Borobudur is carved on several levels of the temple. The reliefs depict scenes taken from several sutras, namely the stories of Karmawibhangga, Jatakamala, Awadana, Gandawyuha and Bhadracari.

Karmawibhangga is a relief that illustrates a story that has a causal correlation (law of karma). In the Kamadhatu zone, a number of Karmawibhangga reliefs depict human passions, such as robbery, murder, torture, and defamation. Not only describing evil deeds, Karmawibhangga Relief carved on 160 panels also illustrates the teachings of cause and effect of good deeds.

Each panel is not a narrative story (series) and contains certain stories which among others describe the behavior of the Old Javanese community at that time, including religious behavior, livelihoods, social structure, fashion, living equipment, types of flora and fauna, and so on. Overall it describes the life cycle of humans, namely: birth – life – death (samsara).

Kamadhatu is a picture of the world inhabited by most people, or a world that is still controlled by kama or “low appetite”. Therefore this zone is at the lowest level of Borobudur and is now closed by the supporting foundations of the building so that it is not visible (except on the slightly open South side). There are allegations that the closure of this zone is due to strengthen the structure or foundation of the building. However, another allegation states that this is to cover obscene content from the relief. To see the relief in this zone, visitors can visit the Karmawibhangga Museum which displays photos in Kamadhatu that were intentionally taken so that they can still be enjoyed by visitors.

Lalitawistara is a relief that depicts the history of the Buddha starting from the descent of the Buddha from heaven Tusita to the story of the first teachings he did in the Deer Park near Banaras City. The Lalitawistara reliefs which consist of 120 panels do not fully depict the story of the Buddha.

Lalitawistara is a series of relief stories carved nicely on the walls of the temple in hallway 1 level 2. Broadly speaking, Lalitawistara depicts Gautama Buddha’s life at birth until he exits the palace and gets enlightened under the bodhi tree.

Jataka and Awadana are reliefs of the Buddha before being born to be Prince Siddharta. Carved at the second level of the temple (hall 1), this relief tells the story of the goodness of the Buddha and the self-sacrifice he made in various forms of reincarnation, both as humans or animals. It is this good deed that distinguishes it from other creatures. Moreover, doing good is a stage of preparation in the quest for a higher level of Buddhism.

Awadana also contains a Jataka story but the character of the story is not Buddha but prince Sudhanakumara. Stories on the Awadana relief are compiled in the Book of Diwyawadana (noble deeds) and the Awadanasataka Book (one hundred Awadana stories).

Gandawyuha is a row of reliefs carved neatly on the walls of Borobudur a number of 460 panels carved on the wall and balustrade. These relief sculptures are spread at different temple levels. Stories about Sudhana, the son of a wealthy merchant who wanders in his search for the highest knowledge or true truth. His depiction on panels is based on the Mahayana Buddhist scripture entitled Gandawyuha. Meanwhile, for the closing part, the story of relief is based on the story of another book, namely Bhadracari. This story is about Sudhana’s oath to make Bodhisattva Samantabhadra a role model for his life.

When visitors see from the fifth to the seventh floor there is no relief on the walls. The level that symbolizes the above nature is called Arupadhatu (which means not in the form or intangible). At this level, human beings are free from all desires and bonds of any form but have not yet reached Nirvana. In Arupadhatu, visitors can see the overlayed stupas in which there are Buddha statues.

At the highest level of the Borobudur Temple which has a total of 10 levels or the court there is a stupa that is the largest and highest. In this largest stupa, an imperfect Buddha statue or Unfinished Buddha, which is now stored in the Karmawibhangga Museum, was found.

Surabaya, 5 April 2020