Top Ten Archaeological Ruins

Asia: Borobudu, Indonesia

In central Java resides the world's largest Buddhist temple where you can take stairs that spiral upward from the everyday world to the nirvanic state of absolute nothingness. Borobudur is visited by Buddhists from all over the world, especially at Waisak, a time commemorating Buddha's birth, death, and ultimate enlightenment on the full moon of the fourth month—usually in May. On the lower levels of the monument, the pilgrim walks through 2,000 pictorial and decorative relief panels depicting human life, beginning with the lower forms and progressing through higher states of being. Get closer to Nirvana as you spiral to the top levels called stupas, each containing sculptures of the meditating Buddha. On the tenth and final level an empty stoop awaits, symbolizing Nirvana. Borobudur's initial construction was planned and executed by Hindu builders around 775 A.D. and not too long after a Buddhist dynasty continued and finally completed the great stoop. During the 10th and 11th centuries there was a transfer of power from central Java to the east, and the great stoop fell into decline. For centuries the site lay forgotten, buried under layers of volcanic ash and jungle growth. In 1815, Europeans cleared the site, and in the early 1900s the Dutch began its restoration, and a U.S. project begun in 1973 completed the work.

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