Borobudur is surrounded by hills and mountains: in the south by the Menoreh chain of hills, where Prince Diponegoro fought against the Dutch (1825 1830), in the west by Mt. Sumbing, Mt.Prahu and Mt.Sindoro, in the north is the Ungaran – Andong – Telomoyo range of hills and in the east the active Merapi (api = fire) and Merbabu (abu = ash).
Before its restoration Borobudur was covered with earth and forests to such an extent that only a small part of it was visible. And yet, in spite of this, it was not unknown. In a Javanese historical work is recorded how about in the middle of the 19th century a Yogya prince went to Borobudur to see “the thousand statues”, standing on a natural hill and also “a holy man in a cage”.
Borobudur is a creation of the Hindu Javanese art, that’s to say a product of the mixed Indian and Indonesian culture as it has developed since the beginning of the Christian era in this part of the Indonesian archipelago. The monument is probably erected in the 8th century as a central sanctuary of the Buddhist religion.
The shape is immediately connected with its religious meaning: it is not a temple, which can be entered, but a massive monument, a so-called stupa. Such an edifice was originally put on a relic of the Buddha or on the spot, where an important event had taken place in his life. In the long run the stupa itself became a sacred monument, symbolizing the Buddhist doctrine and spreading its beneficial influence far and wide around. And at the same time it had also to give the image of the cosmos according to the Buddhist conception.
In order to obtain the required shape the designer of Borobudur, who according to tradition had the name of Gunadharma, has wrapped as it were a natural hill with a mantle of stone. The sides of that hill were flattened in the form of terraces for the purpose and in this way, each time at a higher level, running round the monument, came first five square galleries and above them three round terraces. On the walls of the galleries rise temple shaped niches, on the terraces are little clock-shaped edifices, in the walls of which diamond and square holes have been left. In the centre of the top terrace, on the central but also on the highest point of the sanctuary, has been erected a large clock-shaped stupa, the walls of which are completely closed.
Usually old monuments on the form of a chandi are given the name of the village or the Javanese Period” of the Hindu – Javanese history, i.e. 732 – 928 A.D.
Thirdly: the Borobudur monument is a reflection of what is called the Vajrayana sect of the Tantric School. This sect emerged during the 7th century and found acceptance in Indonesia about 700 A.D.
All these indications have given a key to trace back the date of Borobudur, and it can be fixed at about 850 A.D. This monument was built by Indonesians themselves under the influence of the Hindu – Javanese cultures. The mixture of cultures commenced with the migration of Hindus into Indonesian territory. From several linguistic peculiarities the conclusions may be drawn that it was the two highest castes, the Brahmins and the Ksatryas, that introduced the Hindu culture into Indonesia.
The ruling dynasty during the above-mentioned Central Javanese period were the monarchs bearing the title of Rakai or the Rakarayan. These Rakais wielded their sceptre and feudal landlords in Central Java until a Prince, not belonging to the Rakai, overthrew their power and established a new dynasty, and adopted the title of Sang Ratu. History has it that Sang Ratu conducted a successful expedition beyond his borders and even into Indo-China (Viet Nan).
The term Rakarayan comprises the honorific Ra and Karayan, the latter being a substantial form of Raja (which means high or foremost), Rakai originates from the words Ra and Kaya, substantive of Aya (high or honourable). Thus the two mentioned titles stand for His or Her Highness. It is to be compared with the still existing title of nobility in South Sulawesi “Karaeng” who believe themselves to be descendants of the To Manurung (He who descends from Kahyangan – Heaven).
The Buddhist prasastis record that the kings who ruled in Central Java were called Çailendras (king from the Mountains: Caila – Mountain; Indra – King).
A prasasti found in 732 A. D. records that King Sanjaya himself professed the Civaitic religion; he confirmed the founding of his kingdom by erecting a lingga a symbolic image of a phallus. In the stone inscription he was referred to as Mount Meru, the legendary origin of kings (Chandi Canggal, sub-district of Ngluwar district of Muntilan, regency of Magelang).
Sang Ratu Sanjaya’s successor Sri Maharaja of the Cailendra dynasty, had brought Buddhism to prosperity in Central Java. No wonder that. Rakai Panangkaran, the first Buddhist king was referred to as “an ornament of the Sailendra dynasty” in the Buddhist prasasti.
It might be that an alliance by marriage with a scion of the Sri Wijaya dynasty in Sputh Sumatra resulted in a change in the Sailendra Hose. In the years afterwards, since the Sri Wijaya dynasty had reggined power in Central Java, the kings of this House considered themselves as descendants of Sailendra.
The rapid progress of Buddhism in Java coincided with the flourish of this religion in Nalanda (near Tajgir city of today) under the protection of the Pala kings from Bengal.
A prasasti found in Kelurak, near Prambanan, dating from 782 A.D., probabbly decreed by Rakay Panangkaran, makes mention of a Teacher from Bengal whom the king held in high esteem.
International relations carried out by experienced missions had brought upon changes within the dynasty in Central Java. Sri Maharaja Rakai Panangkaran’s successors also professed the Buddhist religion, but in the second half of the 9th century there was a sudden rise of Sivaism (+856 A.D.) as is recorded in prasastis and monuments of that period.
Scholars call this a “Restoration” of Civaisrn. This phenomenon is called “syncretism” (a mixture of two religions as it is to be found in Java and Bali.
Spectacular monuments such as Borobudur, Sewu and Loro Jonggrang of the Prambanan temple complex cannot possibly be accomplished by one king alone.
Borobudur was the symbol of power and glory of the then ruling monarch. According to the Hindu culture, the proportions of a temple denoted the degree of power of the king. Borobudur also reflected the ardour of the newly converted proselytes. This monument was meant not only as a propaganda medium of Buddhism, but it also exercised a beneficial influence upon Mankind. To the king Borobudur constituted the fulfilling of his highest plight towards the Creator, or a dharma in order to-receive a reward in the hereafter. The larger the temple the greater the reward would be! Seen in this light, Borobudur was not only built for the benefit of the Buddhist religion, but also for the worship of the ancestral spirits.
The founder of the Buddhist religion was Prince Siddharta of Kapilavastu (in Nepak Tarai), a scion of the Saka clan, born about 560 B.C. As an ascete he was called Sakyamuni or Gautama, and after having received the Bodhi (Supreme Wisdom) he was given the name of Buddha (One who has achieved the Bodhi).