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Borobudur is a ninth-century Mahayana Buddhist monument in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia. The monument comprises six square platforms topped by three circular platforms, and is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. A main dome, located at the center of the top platform, is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues seated inside perforated stupa.

Stupas and Statues
Stupas and Statues

These bell-shaped stupas are perforated and have no relief's or other decoration. Each encloses a statue and in the centre of the highest terrace there is only one stupa, the main stupa, supreme among the others, overlooking the surrounding landscape. This stupa has solid walls with no decoration. One will find the atmosphere on these circular terraces very tranquil and peaceful. There is no picture nor from which will detract from inner meditation. In fact, it is as though one is being led to assume the same attitude as the statues in the perforated stupas.

The statues are of the Buddha (the Dhyani Buddha, the Buddha that is ethereal and eternal), in the sila position is sitting straight, with the legs crossed, the right foot above the left one. All the statues here have their hands in the same position, both hands raised to the height of chest, the left hand faces up and the right hand down. This position of the hands similar to that of a moving wheel, called Dharmacakra Mudra (Mudra means position of hands, cakra means wheel, dharma means the teachings of Buddha), which can be interpreted as the attitude of the Buddha when he turn round or spreads his teachings.

Buddha Statues

While all statues of the Buddha (Dhyani Buddha) are in the sila position, the position of the hands differs according to the place of the statue, and from the position of the hands, we can see what each Buddha statue represents. There are five Mudras or position of the hands namely bhumi-sparsa-mudra, wara-mudra, dhyana-mudra, abhaya-mudra, and dharmacakra-mudra (sometimes witarka-mudra).

Bhumi Sparsa Mudra

This position of the hands symbolizes the scene when Buddha summons Dewi Bumi as witness, when he wards off all the attacks of Mara, the Devil. The position is the left hand laid open on the lap, the right hand on the right knee with the fingers pointed downward. This hand position is held by the Dhyani Buddha Aksobhya.

Wara Mudra

This position symbolizes charity. The position is the left hand laid open on the lap and the right hand facing up with the fingers placed on the right knee. At first glance this position resembles the bhumisparsa-mudra. This hand position is held by the Dhyani Buddha Ratnasambhawa.

Dhyana Mudra

This position symbolizes meditation. The position is both hands placed on the lap, the right hand above the left, both palms facing up and the two thumbs meeting. This attitude is especially for the Dhyani Buddha Amitabha.

Abhaya Mudra

This position symbolizes an attitude of reassurance, as though saying, "Do not Worry". The position of left hand facing up on the lap, the right hand slightly raised above the right knee with the palm facing the front. This hand position is especially for Dhyani Buddha Amogasiddhi.

Dharmacakra Mudra

This position symbolizes the attitude of turning the Roda Dharma as has been described above. This position of hands is shown by the Dhyani Buddha Wairocana. Especially in the Borobudur Temple, Wairocana is represented in the Witarka Mudra attitude, with the hands gesticulating as though explaining. The statue is in the niche on the outer side of the balustrade on the fifth square terrace.

With this knowledge it can be seen that of all the statues of Buddha of the Borobudur which fill the niches of the outer balustrade on the first to the fourth terrace, the ones facing the east are Absobhyas, the ones facing the west are Amithabas, and those facing the north are Amogaiddhis. Each direction of the wind is controlled by one Dhyani Buddha: Aksobhya controls the East, Ratnasambhawa the South, Amitabha the East and Amogasiddhi the North, while Wairocana controls the zenith.

This large number of statues gives the impression that the terraces with the passages are guarded by 92 aksobhyas in the east, 92 Ratnasambhawas in the South, 92 Amithabas in the West, and 92 Amogasiddhis in the north, surrounded by 64 Wairocana on the fifth terrace, the other 72 Wairocanas sitting on the circular terraces above.

The circular terraces with undecorated stupas are called the sphere at Arupadhatu (dhatu means world, A-rupa means without form) while the square terraces with the walls full of decoration are the spheres of Rupadhatu (rupa means picture, form).

There is another sphere which is called Kamadhatu (dhatu means world, Kama means desire), on the foot of the original temple. The foot of the temple is also covered with, reliefs depicting the everyday life of ordinary people in their relationship with workings of the law of Karma based on the manuscript of Maha-Kharmawibangga, the essence of which is that every act of man in this transitory world will have a result in the next world.

Good deeds will rewarded with good, and bad deeds will have commensurate punishment. The reliefs on the Kamadhatu, 160 in number, cannot be seen by visitors, as the foot of the temple is buried; however, pictures of them can be seen in the Temple Park Museum. The foot is covered by a stone foundation which functions as a platform for processions. If this platform is counted as and additional terrace, Borobudur has ten terraces.

According to cosmology of Buddhism, the universe comprises three parts. The first is the sphere of Kasatmata, the world we live in, called Kamadhatu. The second is the sphere of forms, called Rupadhatu, a level higher than the first. The third is the highest sphere, called Arupadhatu. The arupadatu sphere symbolizes the world of the holy man, and the Kamadhatu the world of ordinary men. The stratification represents the level of the Universe as explained above. The Borobudur, therefore, is the highest symbols of Buddhism and at the same time depicts the universe. The way to reach the highest peak, proceeding level by level, also mirrors the teaching of Buddhism, that the attainment of freedom and the entrance to Nirwana must be reached stage by stage.

Last revised on September 10, 2009
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