Forty kilometres west of Yogya, surrounded on three sides by volcanoes and on the fourth by jagged limestone cliffs, is the largest Buddhist monument in the southern hemisphere. This is the temple of Borobudur, the greatest single piece of classical architecture in the entire archipelago. The temple is actually a colossal multi-tiered Buddhist stupa lying at the western end of a four-kilometre-long chain of temples (one of which, the nearby Candi Mendut, is also worth visiting), built in the ninth century by the Saliendra dynasty. At 34.5m tall, however, and covering an area of some 200 square metres, Borobudur is on a different scale altogether, dwarfing all the other candi in the chain. Abandoned and neglected for almost a thousand years, Borobudur was “rediscovered” by the English in 1815, though nothing much was done until 1973, when UNESCO began to take the temple apart, block by block, in order to replace the waterlogged hill with a concrete substitute.

Borobudur is pregnant with symbolism, and precisely oriented so that its four sides face the four points of the compass; the ticket office lies to the southeast.

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