18 Things to Do in Borobudur Yogyakarta, Indonesia – Temple – Sunrise Tour
Borobudur temple Yogyakarta is one of the 7 Ancient Wonders of the World that is also the largest Buddhist temple in the world. The Shailendra Dynasty, which is the ruling dynasty in Java and Sumatra at that time, built Borobudur Temple in the 9th century as a shrine to Buddha. Ever since that time, Borobudur has been a popular site for a Buddhist pilgrimage. As such, Borobudur Temple has been a major tourist destination that is visited frequently by millions of domestic and foreign visitors.
Set in the vastness of Kedu Plain, Borobudur Temple is truly one of the greatest man-made structure on earth. The temple itself spans around 15.000-meter square area and comprised of nine stacked platforms, with each platform is subsequently smaller than the one below. The highest peak of the temple is approximately 35-meters high from the ground. The whole temple is made from dark gray andesite stone or known locally as batu candi or candi stone. There are more than 500 Buddha statues and thousands of relief panels in the Borobudur compounds. It is the largest and most complete collection of Buddhist reliefs in the world. Experts and archaeologists estimated that the temple took more than 75 years to build.
This enormous layered structure can be divided into four levels, which is the base platforms, main terraces, circular terraces, and the central stupa. The base platform provides a firm foundation for the structure, supporting the massive structure with an unparalleled tenacity. The six main square-shaped terraces contained many reliefs that tell us about Buddha’s past lives until his enlightenment. Just above the square terraces, there are three circular terraces containing 72 Buddha statues hidden inside stupas. Some of these domes are cut in half, and some of the Buddha statues are missing its heads due to neglections and a bombing by some terrorists many years ago. The highest peak of the temple is a central stupa with two chambers inside, which was empty due to some looting in the past or purposefully left empty as a symbol and representation of nirvana.
The temple was temporarily abandoned during the decline of the Hindu kingdoms followed by the rise of Islamic kingdoms in Java Island. In the 19th century, the British ruler of Java at that time, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, wrote a book on Javanese history with several mentioning of the Borobudur Temple. It quickly ignites interests from the whole world that has grown curious about this wondrous structure, resulting in its popularity as one of the Wonders of the World. Due to the previous neglection of the temple, it has been preserved and restored several times to keep it in a tip-top shape.
Nowadays, the Borobudur Yogyakarta stands tall as the pride of the Indonesian people. It was declared by the UNESCO as one of the World Heritage Site. Every once in a year, many Buddhist from Indonesia and other countries celebrate the Vesak Day in this enormous shrine. Aside from the religious and ceremonial events, there are many other things to do in Borobudur Temple and some of them are featured in the article below.
As one of the Wonders of the World, Borobudur Temple Yogyakarta Indonesia surely provides a lot of interesting objects and things to do and see for every visitors. Some of them are probably too typical and have become a cliche, but some of these things below are absolutely a must when you are visiting this majestic structure.
1. Study the Reliefs of Borobudur Temple
Borobudur relief, the wall reliefs on Borobudur temple are depicting the life story of Buddha and his teachings during his life as a human until he made it into nirvana. It is split into several sets of stories contained within an extremely large collection of inscriptions and illustrations of around 2706 reliefs carved on the temple walls. The four main story are as follows:
- Karmavibhangga or the Law of Karma.
- Lalitavistara or the Birth of the Buddha.
- Jatakas and Avadanas.
- Gandavyuha or the Journey of Sudhana Searching the Truth.
The Karmavibhangga was drawn mostly on the lowermost level of the temple. As such, most of it was masked behind the post-original construction on the foot of the Borobudur temple. The Lalitavistara is comprised of 27 relief panels showing the beginning of the Lord Buddha’s descent from heaven until his first sermon as Prince Siddharta on earth. Meanwhile, the Jatakas and Avadanas mostly covers about the backstory before Buddha was born as Prince Siddharta. Lastly, the Gandavyuha tells us about the tireless journey of Sudhana on his quest to search for the highest form of wisdom.
2. Attend the Vesak Ceremony
Vesak is a Buddhist celebration that commemorates the three phases of Buddha’s life, which are his birth, enlightenment, and death. Sometimes, it is also unofficially called the “Buddha’s Birthday” by some people. During Vesak, many Buddhist followers in Indonesia gather around in Borobudur Temple to organize a lively, long, elaborate, colorful, and magnificent festival in the Borobudur’s sacred ground. Sometimes, Buddhist followers from the foreign countries also take part in this celebration when they are purposefully or accidentally visiting Indonesia.
The ritual itself begin by walking from the nearby Mendut Temple to Pawon Temple and finally ends at the Borobudur Temple. The monks who take part in the ritual usually will carry bottles of holy water that symbolize humility and transporting flames that symbolize enlightenment. After they reach the Borobudur, the procession will continue with encircling the temple while reciting mantras and meditating in a ritual named Pradaksina. If you are lucky enough to be visiting Borobudur Yogyakarta, Indonesia while the Vesak ritual takes place, be prepared for an unforgettable magical experience of your lifetime.
3. Observe the Mahakarya Borobudur Festival
There is a wide open space in Borobudur Yogyakarta called Aksobya that functions as a theater with the greatness of Borobudur Temple as its background setting. Every once in a year, the Aksobya theater hosts a colossal performance of traditional Javanese dance called Mahakarya Borobudur. The dance itself narrates the story of the conception and construction of Borobudur temple Indonesia, interweaving all tales from the Shailendra dynasty with the local life and legends during the 8-9th century. The colossal dance is performed by a collaboration of the Solo’s Art School members, local communities, and some historians. Accompanied by a full gamelan orchestra, the whole show presents an incredibly beautiful and harmonious performance that blends perfectly with the majestic Borobudur temple Indonesia in the background. It is truly an amazing sight to behold and definitely a recital that you don’t want to miss.
4. Buy Some Souvenir from the Locals
Another popular thing to do in Borobudur Temple West Javais to procure some souvenirs and mementos from the stalls and peddlers near the exit area. There are a lot of interesting souvenirs sold here, like the Borobudur West Java miniature, Buddha figurines, and other statues as well. Sometimes you can find something really interesting like a small statuette made from volcanic rock. However, you need to sharpen your haggling skill if you wish to buy these merchandise at a reasonable price.
Most of the peddlers will try to sell their wares at an exorbitant price, especially if you are a foreign tourist. For example, a small figurine of Buddha only costs around Rp. 30.000,00 but they will try to sell you at five times the amount, which is Rp. 150.000,00. Nevertheless, that is exactly why you need to bargain really hard to counter their act.
Borobudur Temple Attractions
There are other interesting things to do in the vicinity of Borobudur Temple as well since it was built in a vast field surrounded by many natural attractions. You can visit these places or do these things right after or before you went to the Borobudur Temple.
5. Watching Sunrise from Setumbu Hill
Borobudur Sunrise tour, situated around 4km west of Borobudur Temple, this hill is very popular among the photographer community and sunrise seekers. The reason it got so famous is because it offers an impressive view of a sunrise atop the Borobudur Temple from a distance. Dubbed as the Nirvana Sunrise by many, the sight is so gorgeous and captivating that it will leave you breathless. The hill itself is so serene and provides an unobstructed view to the surrounding area. Even if you’re not coming here to see the sunrise, you can still see the silhouette of the Borobudur Temple surrounded in lush greeneries and verdant forests.
If you want to chase the sunrise, you need to wake up really early as the journey to the hill is quite a distance from the nearby settlement or lodging area. You probably need to hire a trustworthy guide before venturing to this hill if you don’t really know the way, in order to avoid some pestering “locals” trying to offer you a guide service that is actually not quite helpful at all.
6. Visit the Limanjawi Art House
Limanjawi Art House is a gallery that houses the works of aspiring local artists from around the Borobudur Temple. Lots of paintings, antique items, traditional batik cloths, and other art objects are being displayed in here. Sometimes, they collaborate with foreign artists from abroad and hosts an exhibition.
What makes the art house so famous is their renowned Burning Painting Technique. It is a unique method to paint using various burning objects such as cigarettes and mosquito repellent incense to alter a normal painting. The result is an extremely distinctive form of painting. The art house is open for the public to visit and browse through the wide array of collections that were being housed in the gallery.
7. Pray and watch sunrise at Chicken Church
Chicken Church or known in Indonesia as”Gereja Ayam” is actually neither a church nor a chicken. This structure was originally built by a Daniel Alamsjah after the image of a dove. But the local people mistook it as a chicken, and since Daniel himself is a devout Christian, people think he is building a church. Daniel actually built this place as a symbol of peace, hence the dove image, a place where people from all religion and culture could come and pray without any interference.
As time goes by, the building garnered quite a reputation among tourists, who’ve enjoyed the sunrise seen from this place. Nowadays, it has become a major tourist attraction in Magelang area, and its closeness to Borobudur Temple made it another famous destination after the Borobudur Temple. It is absolutely one of the most famous things to do in Borobudur Temple, so try and visit it if you can while you are in the area.
8. Ship Museum Samudraraksa
This museum was born from the inspiration of a British ex-navy Phillip Beale after visiting the Borobudur Temple and looking at the relief about ships on its walls. He deduces that if the relief contains ship images, then the Indonesians must be skilled sailors who can build amazing seafaring ships in the past. He ventured back to his homeland and did some research about it. Inspired by his research, a team spearheaded by As’ad Abdullah, a local fisherman from Madura Island, tries to recreate and rebuilt ships that might be used by the Indonesians at that time. As’ad is accompanied by Phillip and Nick Burningham, a ship architect from Australia.
The result is the legendary ship that once sailed the seas and used by the Indonesian people in the past to trade with foreign countries. The ship itself has proven its seaworthiness by re-simulating the journey that the Indonesian sailors did in the past, sailing from Java through Madagascar and Cape Town until it reaches the coast of Ghana to sell some cinnamons. After its maiden voyage, the ship was disassembled and sent back to Indonesia to be rebuilt and displayed in the Samudraraksa Museum.
10. Saung Makan Bu Empat
If you’re craving for a local food experience, Saung Makan Bu Empat is one of the best choices around Borobudur Temple that you can choose. Best known for their shrimp and fish dishes, the restaurant is located about 5 km east of Borobudur Temple Village. You can enjoy the sensation of dining in a traditional atmosphere, accompanied by the sound of a rushing river while dining under their wooden and bamboo structure.
They offer a wide selection of menu but the most favorites are their Udang Galah Bakar Madu or Honey Grilled Prawn, Grilled Parrot Fish, Oseng Kangkung or Stir Fried Water Spinach, and Gourami Fish Soup. Guests should also try the affordable fresh juice that they serve. It is truly a delicious drink worthy of ordering in here.
11. Rafting at Elo River
If you’re up for some challenge, you can try rafting at the nearby Elo River. The swift river current is challenging yet still manageable by a beginner, making the stream a popular destination for tourists from all ages and backgrounds. Enjoy a 10-kilometer ride full of excitement and thrills aboard the inflatable raft along the rushing waters of Elo River. The river starts from the Merbabu, Telomoyo, and Ungaran mountain, so it is safe from the volcanic debris, ashes, and other materials from the Mount Merapi. The streams of Elo River are graded from Grade I to III’s, with I being the lowest, and it means the river is only of moderate difficulty to traverse. There are also other thrilling adventures and attractions such as bungee jumping, flying fox, and more, provided by the same company in the nearby area.
Other Temples to Visit in Borobudur Temple
Other than Borobudur Temple, the outlying area possesses several other temples as well, and these temples are often incorporated into the procession or religious ceremony that mainly held in Borobudur Temple. For instance, the Vesak Day includes walking from the Mendut to Pawon temple before ends up at the Borobudur Temple.
The Prambanan Temple is a Hindu Temple located not far from the Borobudur Temple. It was built during an era of Hindu Kingdoms in Java before it was replaced by the Buddhist Kingdom who built the Borobudur Temple. This temple complex is the largest Hindu Temple in Indonesia and Southeast Asia, standing tall at 47-meter height. There are a lot of Hindu-related festivals held here every year, for example, the colossal Ramayana ballet that is performed every full moon night. The Prambanan Temple is really a sight to behold and contains a lot of attractions just like the Borobudur Temple. Nevertheless, due to the closeness of this two temples, many tourists chose to visit the both the Borobudur and Prambanan Temple altogether.
This temple is part of the series of temples built by the Shailendra Dynasty that still remains to this day. It is the farthest from the Borobudur Temple, which is why it was used as the starting point during the Vesak Day march to Borobudur Temple.
The Pawon Temple is located between the Mendut and Borobudur Temple. The local civet coffee from this area is exceptionally tasty and famous. You should definitely give it a try when visiting this site in your Borobudur Temple trip.
Meanwhile, Borobudur Temple Yogyakarta is the largest temple in the world that has been build since thousands years ago. By visiting Borobudur temple, you would learn about history, religion, culture, and more incredible things. As a result, let’s visit Indonesia and explore Borobudur sunrise and Borobudur history.