...building Borobudur
Based on inscriptions found on some of the stones of the monument, archaeologists agree that construction of Borobudur was probably begun around 760 AD and completed by about 830, the Golden Age of the Sailendra dynasty, under the reign of King Samaratunga. Sailendras were of foreign origin, either from South India or from Indo-China, and ruled Sumatra and Java from the 8th through the 13th centuries. Under their rule, the islands were major centers of Buddhist scholarship. The Javanese had been carving stone statues and inscriptions since about 400 AD, but between 700 and 900 AD, many of the Island's greatest shrines were erected.

Javanese sculptor
Javanese society of that time must have been healthy and wealthy enough to support an endeavor such as the building of Borobudur. It would have required plentiful manpower to haul the stone – as much as 45,700 cubic yards taken from nearby streams and rivers, all fitted perfectly together without mortar. Skilled craftsmen would have been needed to carve the images, which were completed after the stones were in place, and abundant agricultural resources to provide food.

By the middle of the 9th century, Borobudur was completed with a large monastery at the southwest foot of the hill. "Today it takes a trained eye to see Borobudur from a distance," says Asian art historian, Jan Fontein.
Borobudur from across Kedu Plain
"But we know that, in ancient times, this stone was covered with a kind of white plaster – called "plaster as hard as diamond" or "vajalaypa" – which may have been a base for colors and just as the pilgrim who went to Chartres saw the cathedral rise up from miles away, so the pilgrim who came to Borobudur may have seen the monument in ancient times, hours before he reached it."

Records from the 9th and 10th centuries show that Borobudur was a center of pilgrimage for about 150 years during a short but intense period of Buddhism. Chinese coins and ceramics found at Borobudur from the 11th to the 15th centuries suggest that pilgrims continued to visit Borobudur during that time.

historical records | Borobudur revealed | Enlightenment | building Borobudur
nature takes a toll | saving Borobudur | timeline

Mona Lisa
detail from Guernica
Lilies of the Valley Faberge Egg
Hope Diamond
Taj Mahal
scene from Borobudur

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