Story and Pix by Geraldine Goh
Where in the world can you find the largest Buddhist monument?
The answer is - Central Java, Indonesia. And it is called Borobudur.
The temple is located in the town of Magelang, some 40 kms from Jogjakarta, roughly a 45-minute drive away.
The Borobudur was built during the Sailendra dynasty, which ruled the Javanese kingdom between the 8th and 9th century.
It was during this period that Mahayana Buddhism began to spread throughout the region.
The Borobudur is a tribute to Buddhism, with its bas reliefs that adorn the temple walls, depicting the life of the Buddha and his teachings
The stone stupas that line the perimeter of the concentric circle on the top tiers of the monument each house a seated Buddha
From the top of the temple, you can have a panoramic view of the area.
Apart from Borobudur, you can also visit the 8th century Hindu temple known as Prambanan that is less than eight kms from the Jogja airport.
It is the largest Hindu monument in Central Java, founded by the King of Mataram.
The Prambanan temple complex comprises the Brahma, Vishnu, Siva and Wahana temples – the four peaks symbolizing Mount Meru, home of the Hindu gods.
The stone carvings on the temple walls portray scenes from the Ramayana epic.
There are also smaller places of worship like the Sari Temple (left) where most of the stone carvings have eroded over time, and the 9th century Kalasan Temple (below), with the beautifully carved image of the god, Kala, guarding its entrance.
The Kalasan temple’s architecture is a blend of Hindu and Javanese artistry.
The Sambisari Temple (below) is rather unique in that it was built on lower ground. But its bas reliefs are not as impressive as those found at Prambanan.
There are other smaller temples in the vicinity of Magelang, but they are accessible by foot, hiking through the forest to the foothills.
How To Get There
It is better to get to Jogja by air, which is just a 50 minute flight away from Jakarta. Garuda Airlines has several flights daily between Jakarta and Jogja.
It is best to take the first flight out to Jogja at 6 am and the last flight back to Jakarta at 7 pm if you want to take a day trip to visit these temples. The round trip fare is about US$90.
Residents of Indonesia can enjoy a promotional rate of about half the normal price.
Going by road to Jogja will take more than 12 hours as you have to pass through small towns along the way and face traffic congestion along narrow roads, particularly on weekends.
Note too that entrance to Borobudur costs Rp. 6,000 per head (about US 60 cents) and US$7 for Prambanan. Locals pay only Rp. 6,000.
Entry to other smaller temples cost Rp. 500 (about US 5 cents).
Where To Stay
There are 4-star hotels like the Hyatt, which is located near Borobudur and the Sheraton that is just 2 kms from the airport. There is also the Melia Hotel in the centre of town.
Prices are from US$ 40 to US$50 per night for single or twin-sharing with breakfast.