I will be concentrating this art paper on monasteries, particularly Buddhist monasteries. Monasteries are beautiful, often very complex, buildings that comprise the domestic quarters and workplaces of monastics. Monasteries generally include a place reserved for prayer such as a chapel, church, or temple. And even more particularly, I will concentrate on more of a temple rather than a monastery but one that could be considered both: the Borobudur. The Borobudur is located on the Indonesian island of Java. The Borobudur is the largest, most famous Buddhist temple in the world. This gorgeous, intricate temple was build over a time period of 75 years, and was abandoned sometime in the 14th century but now is one of Indias most popular tourist attractions.
Modeled like a stepped pyramid, Borobudur is constructed of two million volcanic block stones and consists of six rectangular terraces crowned by three circular terraces. On the top platform, the main dome is enclosed by 72 Buddha statues. Borobudur is decorated with a total of 504 Buddha statues and more than 2,600 elaborately carved relief panels representing the teachings of Buddha and everyday life in ancient Java. The whole monument is constructed from dark grey andesite stone, which attracts a lot of heat upping the difficulty of climbing the temple as a adventuring tourist.
You can think of Borobudur as a very large teaching graphic reteaching the life story of the Buddha, his teachings and his progress towards Nirvana. In summary, over 2,700 reliefs tell four important sets of anecdotes in the form of carved illustrations and Sanskrit engravings on the temple. The first is the law of karma. These are mostly concealed by the post-original construction masking at the foot of the enormous statue. The reliefs tell stories and give examples of the nature of karma with illustrations of both commendable (including co-operative working practices and planned parenthood) and reprehensible (like rape, theft and torture) activities. The masking was taken apart in 1890 before being thoroughly rebuilt, and pictures were taken of the reliefs at this time. Second is the birth of Buddha. Before the story starts, there are about 27 panels showing preparations for the closing earthly incarnation. The narrative then starts with the descent of the Lord Buddha from heaven, and continues until his first terrestrial address as Prince Siddhartha where he was shown nothing but complete perfectness and happiness. Next the Jatakas and avadanas are shown. Jatakas are stories about the Buddha before he was born as Prince Siddhartha. Avadanas are similar to jatakas, but the main figure is not Buddha himself. Both are depicted in the same series of reliefs. Lastly the journey of Siddhartha in finding the ultimate truth. This is the story told in the last part of the Avatamsaka Sutra about Siddhartha’s determined wandering in search of the highest perfect wisdom and enlightenment.
Besides being the biggest symbol of...