Borobudur to Become an International Destination for Buddhist Pilgrims

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Indonesia’s coordinating minister for maritime affairs has said that Indonesia aims to make Borobudur, an ancient Mahayana Buddhist temple complex and UNESCO world heritage site in Central Java, into a major Buddhist tourism destination and place of pilgrimage for Buddhists from all over the world.


“We want to make Borobudur a Mecca for Buddhists. It is like all Muslims feeling obliged to visit Mecca before they die,” said Rizal Ramli on 3 October, adding that he believed Borobudur was “much more beautiful than Ankor Wat in Cambodia.” (Republika Online)


“If Christians want to visit Jerusalem, Muslims wants to perform hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, well, Buddhists should visit Borobudur at least once in [their] life," said Rizal, who was also a minister under the late president Abdurrachman Wahid. “But first we have to repair [the temple].” (Republika Online)


Restoration work on the temple was previously carried out using original materials at the turn of the 20th century, and between 1973 and 1983 in cooperation with UNESCO.


Borobudur to Become an International Destination for Buddhist Pilgrims

Standing atop Borobudur, in Central Java. From whc.unesco.org


The tourism development plan is part of the Indonesian government’s scheme to draw 20 million foreign tourists to the country annually in the next five years. Rizal noted that the government also planned to promote other destinations, including Lake Toba in North Sumatra, Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara, and the Thousand Islands off Jakarta.


PT Taman Wisata Candi Borobudur, Prambanan and Ratu Boko (PT TWCBPRB), which manages the site, said it aims to draw about 2 million tourists to historic sites in Central Java and Yogyakarta in 2019. However PT TWCBPRB director of finance and human resources Purwanto conceded that the target would be difficult to achieve. “Currently, foreign tourist arrivals level achievements were still about 260,000. To get to 2 million tourists, it was a bit difficult, but there needs to be an attempt,” he said. (Republika Online)


Reputed to be the largest Buddhist temple in the world, the Borobudur temple was built in the 8th and 9th centuries during the Syailendra dynasty, which ruled Java for some 500 years until the 10th century. The temple was constructed in three tiers: a pyramidal base with five concentric square terraces, a cone-shaped trunk with three circular platforms, and a stupa at the top. The walls and balustrades are decorated with fine low reliefs, while the central dome is surrounded by 72 openwork stupas, each containing a statue of the Buddha. The temple is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues in total.


The temple compound includes two smaller temples directly to the east of Borobudur—Mendut Temple, which features a depiction of the Buddha accompanied by two bodhisattvas, and the smaller Pawon Temple. The three temples together represent three phases in the attainment of nirvana.


Craig Lewis

Source: buddhistdoor.net (Oct. 9, 2015)