Candi Borobudur
The Largest Buddhist Temple in The World

Explore Candi Borobudur [BorobudurTemple], the largest Buddhist temple in the world and one of the Seven Wonders of the World | #ExploreSunda #Borobudur


Candi Borobudur in Central Java is the world’s largest Buddhist archaeological site, as recorded by the Guinness Book of World Records. In 1991, UNESCO include Candi Borobudur in its list of World Heritage Site. Borobudur temple is also one of the Seven Wonders of The World.

Candi is a term in Bahasa Indonesia that refers to a place of worship for Buddhists and Hindus. Usually, Candi is an ancient structure made of stones. Some are only seen as archaeological sites, but others are still used as places of worship. Thus, Candi is translated as a temple in English.

What is Candi Borobudur?

Candi Borobudur is a Buddhist shrine. It was built during Sailendra dynasty (circa 9th century). It was fully made of stones. The majority of its stone walls are decorated with relief (a wall-mounted sculpture). According to archaeologists, Candi Borobudur was built in the shape of mandala and in the middle of an ancient lake. From an aerial view it looked like a stone lotus in the middle of a pond.

Candi Borobudur

Borobudur temple has three zones representing Buddhist Cosmology: 

  1. Kamadhatu (the world of desire) at the foot of the temple. The reliefs are based on Karmawibhangga Sutra that tells the cause and effect law of human behavior. It consists of 160 reliefs, but the majority is hidden below ground. If you are interested, you can see the photography of the whole collection in the Borobudur Museum at the Borobudur Archaelogical Park.
  2. Moving up you will reach Ruphadatu (the world of forms). This zone comprises five levels of Gandhawyuha, Lalitawistara, Jataka, and Awadana. These stories were depicted over 1,300 reliefs, which stretched over 2.5 km. This zone also has 1,212 decorative panels.
  3. The last zone is Arupadhatu (the world of formlessness) at the top level. While the terraces of the other two zones are squares full with reliefs, the three terraces of Arupadhatu are circular without any relief, but there are 72 stupas here (stupa is an inversed-bell shape made of stone). There is a statue of Buddha inside each of this stupa. If you look closely, you can see that the statues represent six different hand positions of Buddha. The main stupa lies in the middle of the highest terrace, but there is not any statue inside it. 

Many more Buddha statues decorated Borobudur temple, there are 504 Buddha statues in total. Some intact, but many statues are missing some body parts, thus many of them are headless or armless.

Candi Borobudur is in-line with two other temples: Candi Pawon (approx. 1.15 km from Borobudur) and Candi Mendut (approx. 3 km from Borobudur). 

Every year there is a big procession during Vesak Day (the day to commemorate the birth, enlightenment, and the death of Buddha Gautama). The procession starts from Candi Mendut, then they all walk to Candi Borobudur. 

Relief Sculpture at Candi Borobudur
Stupa of Borobudur Temple

A Trip to Candi Borobudur

Ticket:

Domestic Tourist -
Rp.30,000

Open Vehicle Ride -
Rp.7,500

Car Park -
Rp.10,000

Borobudur temple is located in Muntilan, Magelang, Central Java. It is near Yogyakarta and Solo (Surakarta), two cities that rich in Javanese culture. That's why most visitors prefer to  take a one day trip to Borobudur either from Yogyakarta or Solo.

Taman Wisata Borobudur, the office that manages Candi Borobudur, also manages Candi Prambanan and Candi Ratu Boko. Hence, it offers a combo ticket to visit these 3 temples in one day.

Candi Borobudur has a vast garden surrounding it. The garden makes the temple more picturesque. Vehicles must be parked far away from the temple because too many vehicles create too much vibrations that will damage the temple. 

Candi Borobudur

If you don’t want to walk through the park, you can buy a ticket and ride an open vehicles that will take you from the entrance gate to the backside of Borobudur. From there, you only need to take a short walk (less than 50 meters) to the bottom of the temple. 

Reaching the bottom of Candi Borobudur, either you circle it first to admire the relief sculpture at that level or take the stairs to the next level. There is one set of stairs on each side of the temple. If you have sufficient time, you might want to stop at each level and walk around it. You will be surrounded by stone walls covered with relief sculpture depicting the life of Buddha. The top level doesn’t have relief sculpture, it only has many stupas, each filled with a Buddha statue. 

Hundreds of Buddha Statues at Candi Borobudur

Please be cautious when you take the stairs. The stone stairs are steep, they are slippery during rainy season, all of them are two ways, so people who climb up most likely will collide with people going down. In short, since so many visitors climb Borobudur temple daily, they are not in good shapes. Last time we visited Borobudur in December 2014, there was a project to cover one of the stone stairs with wooden planks to preserve the stone stairs. It is less slippery and less dangerous than stone stairs, but I think the wood will not last long, hence, it must be restored regularly.

Statues decorating one of the stairs at Candi Borobudur
Rain drainage system at Candi Borobudur

Since the open vehicle only goes one way from the entrance gate to the temple, once you are satisfied visiting Borobudur, you should walk through the exit passage, passing through various stalls of souvenirs and local foods. You also can rent an andong (a Javanese traditional horse cart) near the open vehicle station. It will take you through the villages surrounding Borobudur temple to reach the parking lot.

Souvenir vendors at Candi Borobudur
Exit through the market in Candi Borobudur

Two words that describes our visit to Candi Borobudur are gorgeous and amazing! 

Tips:

Since you will walk in the outdoor a lot, it’s better to come early in the morning to avoid the heat. 

Candi Borobudur

Although Borobudur temple is the most famous among the temples in Indonesia, there are many other interesting temples, both Hindus and Buddhist. Other temples we have covered here in ExploreSunda.com are:

Candi Prambanan, Central Java
Candi Gedong Songo, Central Java
Candi Cangkuang, Garut, West Java