Final three circular platforms of the Borobudur monument
Borobudur is an 8th century Mahayana Buddhist monument in Central Java, Indonesia. The monument is built as a single large stupa, and when viewed from above looks like a giant Buddhist mandala. The foundation is square and has nine platforms of which the lower six are square and the upper three are circular. They are decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. The upper platform features 72 small stupas surrounding one large central stupa. Each stupa is bell-shaped and pierced with decorative openings. Statues of the Buddha sit inside the pierced enclosures. Each platform represents one stage of enlightenment. The system of stairways and corridors that guides pilgrims through the stupa was designed according to the three levels of Buddhist cosmology--Kāmadhātu (the world of desire) is represented by the base, Rupadhatu (the world of forms) is represented by the five square platforms, and Arupadhatu (the world of formlessness) is represented by the top three circular platforms and the large topmost stupa. The architectural features between three stages have metaphorical differences, with square and detailed decorations in the Rupadhatu disappearing into plain circular platforms in the Arupadhatu, representing how the world of forms gradually changes into the formless world.
Approximately 55,000 cubic metres of stones were taken from neighbouring rivers to build the monument. The stones were cut to size, transported to the site and laid without mortar. Knobs, indentations and dovetails were used to form joints between stones. Reliefs were created in-situ after the building had been completed. The monument is equipped with a good drainage system to cater for the area's high stormwater run-off. To avoid inundation, 100 spouts are provided at each corner with a unique carved gargoyles in the shape of giants or makaras.
Borobudur is located in an elevated area between two twin volcanoes, Sundoro-Sumbing and Merbabu-Merapi, and two rivers, the Progo and the Elo. The monument was built in the late 8th century, corresponding with the peak of the Sailendra dynasty in central Java (between 760–830 AD). The construction is estimated to have taken 75 years and completed in 825 AD around the same time that the Hindu Shiva Prambanan temple complex was erected. Borobudur lay hidden for centuries under layers of volcanic ash and jungle growth, following volcanic eruptions in the 10th century and the 14th century decline of Buddhist and Hindu kingdoms in Java, and the Javanese conversion to Islam.