Sep 132009
 

The first thing that strikes you – when you set eyes on Borobudur is – ‘gosh that is large’. Rally – really gigantic. Frankly, it looks more like a giant spaceship parked on plain ground than a place of Buddhist worship.

borumbodur

The second thought that strikes you is that who the how the f*** did someone build such a gigantic structure in the middle of a nowhere – iti s built on top of a hill in the middle of a jungle- (while it is a tourist site now – an UNESCO heritage site to boot, but at the time that it was built – it was in the middle of nowhere).

view from the top

The third thought that strikes you (atleast it struck me) is how the hell I am going to heave myself, my camera and an umbrella through this height. (it was pouring) It is a long climb up – a really long climb The advantage of taking a camera along on a site like this is that you can pretend to be taking pictures, when you are actually catching your breath :)

borumbodur entry 2

(this is just one part of the stairs, there is an equally high and steep climb before this level)

But, if you have the stamina -this is amongst the most inspiring sites that you will set your eyes on – just make sure that you aren’t on a tight schedule. The beauty of a place like this, is not so much the climb to the top- as much as the strolling around, absorbing every relief, the ambience and the atmosphere. and, letting your mind wander and imagine what it could have been like, in the centuries gone by.

red umbrella2

red & stone !

Imagine a complex in the middle of a jungle, nestled between two active volcanoes. Imagine a structure so high – that you wonder about the how and why ! a structure which is a multi tiered temple – atop which sits a Buddha looking out for the world below – and you just about begin to imagine Borobodur.

view from the top sepia

There is something timeless and solid about the place – it looks like a Guardian erected by the ancients to keep us all safe.

the guard - dwarapalika

(dwarapalika – Borobudur)

When i visited Indonesia, back in May for the shoot of the documentary on Disaster Risk Reduction – this was a must visit spot. I needed footage for the film – that established the perilous nature of the area. I didn’t expect to see something so rock solid. Something that looked as thought it could survive any volcano, earth quake or tsunami that hit it.

golden entrance 2

Buddhanet gives you the data about the place -

The structure, composed of 55,000 square meters of lava-rock is erected on a hill in the form of a stepped-pyramid of six rectangular storeys, three circular terraces and a central stupa forming the summit. The whole structure is in the form of a lotus, the sacred flower of Buddha.

Obviously, from the ground level, it didn’t look like a lotus – however, you do see three very distinct layers that lead to the Stupa at the top. Each layer – apart from the top one is full of intricately carved reilefs. There seem to be zillions of panels (some 2000 odd) – each of which tell a story. You enter each layer througha gigantic arch

golden skies

At the first layer – the reliefs depict cause and action. What will happen if you do right things and wrong. These are more like stand alone panels – each of which depicts a certain cause & effect. almost like an ancient poster.

golden_

At the next level, there are stories from the life of Buddha. This particular one depicts Gautama and his abandoned wife (he abandoned her) Yashodara.

gautama yashodara

This one shows the Buddha teaching his students.

buddha upadesh

while these are beautiful, and you can gaze at them for hours trying to figure them out – the truly jaw dropping moment arises when you reach the top – the last layer.

stupa sepia

There are no reliefs here. Nothing to distract form the multitude of Stupas and Buddhas all in a circle. I just stood there and gaped. It was raining, thundering in fact. and it was very, very windy – and was kind of spooky. And, then it cleared – and i said “oh, my god” – and i wasn’t too far off the mark

view from the top HDR

I sat there at the top – for a bit and just meditated. there was a peace, serinity and a oneness with the universe that was truly soul caressing.

Do go there, if you get a chance. it is truly a visit to remember.