Good Example Of The Ancient Lost City Of Borobudur Literature Review

Type of paper: Literature Review

Topic: History, Context, Structure, World, City, Religion, Life, Culture

Pages: 8

Words: 2200

Published: 2023/04/10


The writing delves deep into the structure known as Borobudur. The historical, cultural and religious significance of this architectural structure is explored in the course of the writing so as to comprehend how the temple complex is important even in the present times. In relation to the theoretical concept of flaneur as explicated by the famous theorist Walter Benjamin, the images of the structures present inside the temple complex of Borobudur are explored. (Benjamin, 1929) It is further explored how Borobudur could have in reality been a city. Indeed, this place was the focus of Buddhist worship and scholarship during the ancient times in human history. (UNESCO, n.d.) Apart from this, there is a very good possibility that this was the dwelling place of the people living in the region. The absence of similar construction supplements the argument that Borobudur could have been a city. As such, the enigma of the place has been deciphered in this writing.
The ancient structures of the world have always been the focus of discussion and analysis for the anthropologists and historians. It needs to be reckoned that the ancient structures in context can be seen as the cultural and historical marker of the past times and provide an intriguing window to the civilization, existence and heritage. One can take into consideration the case of the ancient lost city of Borobudur so as to comprehend the intricacies of the ancient construction. A critical analysis of the structure in context in relation to the theoretical perspective institutionalized by the eminent philosopher, Walter Benjamin, would enable one and all to have a much better understanding of the structure in context.
Thesis: The precision and engineering of the construction reflects the Buddhist philosophy and points to the richness of culture and heritage of the Buddhist society in the ancient times. : One can find the video tour of Borobudur complex here. (Worldsiteguide, 2011)
It has to be taken into consideration in context of the discussion that Indonesia, where the structure is situated, is a nation with the largest Islamic population in the globe. However, before the coming of the Islamic faith in this country, the archipelago was hugely dominated by Buddhism and Hinduism. As shown in Fig. 1, the Borobudur Temple Compound that is situated in the Kedu Valley on the southern region of Central Java can be reckoned as one of the most iconic structures that goes back to the pre-Islamic times in the country. The temple compound in context consists of as many as three monuments. There are two smaller temples that are present alongside the Temple of Borobudur on the east on a straight axis of the main structure in context. (Buddhist Art and Architecture, n.d.) Now, it needs to be reckoned that this main temple is the greatest Buddhist temple in the entire world. The monument is spanned across 60 thousand cubic meters with a height of as much as 34.5 meters. Moreover, this monument has a square base of 123x123 meters.
It needs to be taken into consideration that Borobudur went on to be built in three tiers. The temple’s base consists of this pyramid that is formed by as many as five concentric square terraces. There is a trunk of this cone that has three platforms. The monumental stupa is located at the very top, while the balustrades and walls are adorned with very fine low reliefs that depict a number of Buddhist scenes. It has to be remembered that the contextual temple compounds were constructed back in the ninth century around a natural hill. As such, one can very well comprehend that this temple compound was built with extensive planning and placement- something that has contributed to its existence in the present times withstanding the ravages of time. Indeed, this temple compound has been built with a planning that is at par with the prefect planning of a city. (National Geographic, 1991)
One needs to reckon the fact that Borobudur is constructed as a single huge stupa that goes on to take the form of this gigantic tantric Buddhist mandala when it is viewed from the overhead position. This structure is representative of the nature of mind and Buddhist cosmology. This site in context was rediscovered in the 19th century, and it was restored in the early years of the 20th century. UNESCO went on to fund a major renovation of this site in the year 1973. As such, one can very well comprehend the utmost importance and historical significance of Borobudur in the discourse of anthropology and history. There can be no doubt about the fact that this site is one of the most flabbergasting ones in the entire globe.
For instance, one can consider the Buddha sculpture in Fig. 2. The sculpture can be found to be in a seated position with the hands folded. The Buddha sculpture is seen with eyes closed in a posture of meditation. This signifies that this place was meant for meditative worship as per the norms of the Buddhist religion. The scholars and the worshippers would come to this place for meditation and find their peace of mind. In Buddhist philosophy, the peace of mind and piety are intertwined. The artwork portraying the hair of the Buddha idol and the long texture of the eyes of the idol endow the sculpture the look of a hermit. The intricacy of the artwork and the extensive planning of the temple of Borobudur speak for its uniqueness and importance in the pages of human history. It has a special place in the history of archeology as its significance needs to be taken into account so as to comprehend the greatness and relevance of the structure in the modern day world. The sculpture of Lord Buddha in context is representative of the Buddhist philosophy of dissemination of peace among the people of the world. The idol portrays the true essence of the religion of Buddhism. (Ancient Origins, 2014)
In the context of exploration and comprehension of this archaic structure in context, one can very well take into consideration the concept of flaneur as explicated by Walter Benjamin in his seminal work. While the early concept of the flaneur was coined by the celebrated poet, Baudelaire, Walter Benjamin worked on the concept so as to provide a clearer explanation of the matter. The significant work, The Arcades Project, penned by Benjamin goes on to delve deep into the investigation and subsequent explication of the concept of the flaneur. Here, the conceptual notion of Baudelaire was used by the theorist as a starting point for comprehending the immense impact of the modern city life on the perspective and psyche of the individual. One needs to comprehend the effect of the modern city life so as to understand the matter in context with utmost clarity.
Benjamin goes on to travel the urban space or the space of modernity. Nonetheless, Benjamin talks of the flaneur that is forever looking into the past. In this context, it needs to be reckoned that the past holds the key to the understanding of culture, civilizations, life and existence. (Benjamin, 1929) While the human body is transient and only lives for a short span of years in context of the world and its heritage, the worldly constructions stay on for long as the cultural and historical markers of the civilizations and the way of lives and beliefs. Now, it needs to be understood that Walter Benjamin went on to cry foul over the practices of modernity that work to disregard the heritage and aura of the things of the past. As such, he goes on to reject the self-enunciation and authority of any sort of technically or mechanically reproduced image. (Bacal, 2011)
One can take into consideration the picture of the stupas (Fig.3). The entire temple complex of Borobudur has the presence of these stupas. The structures in context are uniform in shape- something that points to the supreme engineering and designing prowess of the people who were involved in the construction of these structures back in the ancient times. In the conceptual explication of Benjamin, flaneur goes on to take up a stance that enables him to have an embodiment of simultaneous attitude of involvement and detachment. The flaneur is disengaged from the street, crowd or the other characteristics of the modern day city life. Rather, the flaneur goes on to engage him with the city from a distance that enables him to probe the environment and surroundings and gaze at the things. The intricate designing of the base of every structure points to the perfection of work. The stones that have been used for construction are uniform in shape and sizes. They are properly placed in the shape of a circle so as to form the structures. The upper parts of the structures have rectangular shaped openings that are uniformly designed along the body of the stupas. This gives the structures a decorative look. On the very top of every stupa, a pointed stone is placed on a rectangular platform. The design and the making of these structures point to the precision with which the work has been done. (Bacal, 2011)
As such, the flaneur is able to experience the landscape and constructions around in a better way with the privilege of involvement as well as distance. In this process, a number of overlooked textures of the life come into the view of the flaneur. Now, Benjamin devised the concept of the flaneur in context in relation to the modern life and constructions of the world. However, one can very well relate the same perspective of the flaneur to the deciphering and exploration of the lost structure of Borobudur. Borobudur had been lost for a considerable span of time in the history of mankind only to be rediscovered in the recent times in human history. (Seal, 2013) The presence of this ruling dynasty in Java went on to make this island as a famous center of Buddhist scholarship as well as worship. The greatness and planned construction and architecture of the complex of the temple testifies the fact that this structure can be taken to be the vehement expression of the place being of primary importance in context of worship and scholarship related to the religion of Buddhism. (Ancient Origins, 2014)
One can take into context the philosophical argument of Henri Lefebvre as portrayed in The Production of Space. He goes on to opine that space is in fact a social product that goes on to affect perceptions. It needs to be reckoned that the philosopher goes on to explicate that the social production of this urban space in context is very fundamental to the construction of the society. It can be said that the hegemony of the dominant community is reflected in the social production of space. One can relate this argument to the case of the complex of Borobudur. The temple complex points to the hegemony and massive influence of the Buddhist community during the ancient times. Lefebvre further opined that every society creates its own space. The spatial practice of the temple complex of Borobudur speaks of the cultural hegemony, Buddhist beliefs and worldview. As such, the intellectual climate of the people of the then Buddhist society is reflected in the construction of the temple complex. This space as portrayed in the temple complex speaks of the culture of the Buddhists during the ancient times A close scrutiny can make one and all comprehend the intricacies with perfection. (, n.d.)
The temple and the entire complex for that matter exude detailed work of architecture that testifies to the amount of effort and engineering that was put into making this structure. The very detailed nature of construction points to the fact that Borobudur might have been a city during the ancient times. It can be said with considerable surety that this structure in context was a place of human existence. People from many corners of the world might have come here for the purpose of religious worship and scholarship. The fact that this temple is the largest of its kind in the entire globe pertaining to the religion of Buddhism is something that points to its importance as a place. One can surmise quite well how eminent the temple complex might have been during the 9th century when it was constructed and publicized. This complex can be understood to be the place of confluence of Buddhist monks, scholars and followers of the religion. (Sacred Destinations, n.d.)
The abandonment of the city of Borobudur points to the religious hegemony of the Islamic population that came to find its way into the island in context. Also, many Buddha heads along with some other treasures were removed by people, thus hampering the original construction of the place as it was during the reign of the Sailendra dynasty. (Sacred Destinations, n.d.) The construction of the complex points to the fact that the place could have been a city. It is vast in its presence and has been constructed with extensive planning. Religion has always been the driving force of human civilizations and the immense influence and popularity of Buddhism in the region cannot be denied. (World Heritage Site, 2014) As such, Borobudur could have been a city where life and religion found a confluence in the truest sense of the word. The temple complex was built with advanced engineering so as to ensure its longevity. This shows that the construction was done with utmost care and importance. However, after the lost city of Borobudur was found in the recent century in human history, the interest over the site has been catapulted to paramount heights owing to the significance of the construction. Considerable wealth has been spent for the eight year-long restoration work that was undertaken in the 1970s so as to reconstruct the damaged parts of the site and maintain the holistic architecture. (UNESCO, n.d.)
Even if one decries over the claim that Borobudur was actually a city in the ancient times, there can be no denial of the fact that the place is of immense importance. Hence, even in a country that is predominantly comprised of Muslim population, this Buddhist structure has been protected and treasured in the best possible manner. It is the sheer cultural as well as historical significance of this structure that ascribes it the status of being the iconic architectural work in the nation of Indonesia and even in the entire world. It is not hard for the flaneur to comprehend that the temple complex was the epicenter of the civilization. There is no evidence of any other major architectural work in the region in context. As such, the question comes in the mind seeking answer to the place of dwelling of the people of the place. While one might argue that the dwellings are lost in history and time, it might very well be a possibility that the people used to dwell in the temple complex. The enormity of the site testifies the fact that this place might have been used for day-to-day living purpose. (UNESCO, n.d.)
As one travels through the structure, it is not hard to realize that the iconicity of the work is of insurmountable importance. As a flaneur, this construction bears marks of the ancient civilization that lived in the region. The enormity and perfection of structural work and architecture speaks of the richness of culture and skill of the people of the time. The primary importance of Buddhism is reflected in this temple complex and as it stands tall, it acts as a testimony to the greatness of the Buddhist culture, cosmology and philosophy. The photographic images show the perfection of work. The apotheosis of Lord Buddha is echoed in the sculptural works in context. It would be correct to conclude with the comment that the ancient lost city of Borobudur speaks for itself with all its heritage, structure and significance. It is a widow to the past times and stands tall to educate the future generations as well.


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