Believed to be the most sophisticated structure of its time, predating classic European architecture by centuries, Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple ever constructed. Work began on the temple around 780 A.D. and was finished in the ninth century. Many consider it worthy of being named “eighth wonder of the world,” and the history of its rediscovery is detailed in The Lost Temple of Java(A BBC Time Watch production), scheduled to be released on DVD February 28, 2012, by Seventh Art.
The temple itself is incredible—it’s a solid structure with no inner chambers, shaped like a pyramid with four square terraces leading to three circular terraces, and covered with three miles of sacred carvings (there are 1460 reliefs). At the top level there are 72 stupas, each housing a statue of Buddha, surrounding a central dome. 1.6 million blocks of volcanic stone were used in the construction of Borobudur. The intricacy of the carvings and the complexity of the architecture suggest a culturally- and sociologically-advanced civilization.
It is believed that Borobudur was abandoned in the fourteenth century, and gradually became the underpinnings of a hill, covered in volcanic ash, soil, and vegetation, and obscured by jungle. It wasn’t until Thomas Stamford Raffles of London’s India Trading Company was installed as governor of Java in the early-19th century, following a British takeover, that the temple again saw the light of day. Raffles authorized an expedition into the center of Java after hearing rumors and seeing sketches of the legendary temple.
With the participation of historians, archaeologists, and Buddhist monks, The Lost Temple of Java is a fascinating, inspiring look at the history of Borobudur, and an intriguing glimpse into the life of Thomas Stamford Raffles, who was not the typical colonial governor (he rejected slavery and embraced self-government), which led to his early dismissal from the post. He would go on to found the city of Singapore.