During the 8th century, the spiritual tradition called Vajrāyana came rather suddenly into prominence in the Buddhist world; it spread into many countries, including Java, and there is strong evidence that Borobudur was built under its influence.

This splendid edifice immediately became a place of pilgrimage and of instruction to the Buddhist nations of the world. The architect of Borobudur was Gunadharma, a Hindu-Buddhist from the borders of Nepal.

But in the year 915 A.D. there occurred a terrible volcanic outburst. The great volcano of Krakatau (then called the Rahata or Cancer-volcano) broke out into an eruption so tremendous that it split the whole island into two parts—now called Java and Sumatra respectively – and brought into existence the Straits of Sunda.

This appalling catastrophe is mentioned in the inscriptions of King Airlanggga (sometimes called Jala-langgha (“he who walks over the waters”)) apparently because he escaped from the devasting floods caused by the eruption, and took refuge on the flank of the great Lawu mountain in Surakarta.

At the same time, the volcano Merapi threw out an incredible amount of sand and ashes, destroying almost the whole of Airlanggha’s kingdom, and entirely burying Borobudur, Mendut and Prambanan temples.

The dāgοba at the top of Borobudur and a good many of the other projections were broken, but on the other hand the general shape of the edifice was preserved and the stones were held more or less in position.

Airlanggha, thus suddenly deprived at once of his kingdom and his revenues, seems to have lived a private life with a few retainers for some years on the slopes of Gunung Lawu, where be met some Brahmans who were living in the woods there as ascetics.

After some time, however, he came forth from his seclusion and made his way into East Java, where he had eventually the good fortune to marry the daughter of the King of Kediri, and so in due course inherited another throne.

Under his auspices, Sanskrit learning made great advances in the Kediri and Janggala regions, extending up to the Brantas Delta, near where Surabaya now is. Buddhism and Hinduism flourished equally under his rule, and were equally respected; in fact, to a large extent they seem to have blended.

The present royal families of Bali and Lombok are descended from Airlanggha.

Borobudur can be divided into 3 levels from the bottom to the top:

• Kamadhatu (Bhurloka) – The outer courtyard and the foot (base) part of the temple represents the lowest realm of common mortals; humans, animals and also demons. Where humans are still binded by their lust, desire and unholy way of life.

• Rupadhatu (Bhuvarloka) – The middle courtyard and the body of the temple represents life on earth in which the soul has been purged of all desires. The middle realm of holy people, rishis and lesser gods. People here began to see the light of truth.

• Arupadhatu (Svargaloka) – The inner courtyard and the roof of the temple represents the soul’s departure from the body and uniting with the gods in Nirvana. This is the highest and holiest realm of gods, also known as svargaloka.

In Java temple architecture, ratna is Hindu counterpart of the Buddhist stupa, and serves as the temple’s pinnacle.

Borobudur Temple