Complete Set of Photographs of the Gandavyuha Panels at Borobudur

Although the Life of the Buddha, Jātaka and Avadāna panels at Borobudur are very well known, the largest set of illustrations by far, taking up around 40% of the space, are the panels illustrating the story of the young man Sudhana, which is told in the Gaṇḍavyūha Sūtra, which is itself now the culminating part of one of the most important Mahāyāna Sūtras, the Avataṁsaka.

This story tells of Sudhana’s meeting with 52 masters in his quest for Awakening, which include Bodhisattvas, Bhikṣus and Bhikṣuṇīs, lay men and lay women, who each teach him a part of the truth until the story reaches its fulfilment in the Bhadracaryā Praṇidhāna hymn. It is featured on five of the walls near the top of the monument, located on three of the levels, and covers 460 panels; the dividers, which are sometimes integral to the composition, make up the further 140 photographs in the collection.

I have now managed to get a full set of photographs of these panels, and with the help of Jan Fontein’s book Entering the Dharmadhātu, which discusses them, have managed to identify nearly all of them and have just published them on the Photo Dharma website, replacing my early set which only had very partial coverage of the panels. The identification of the panels proved to be sometimes very difficult to make, and Fontein often has long discussions of the correct interpretation, but in my captions I have just accepted the IDs provided.

As far as I know this is the first time a complete set of photographs of the panels has been published anywhere, and together with the other photographs from Borobudur, means I now have around 90-95% of the monument photographed and available in high-definition photographs for further research and study. The set is published in five different albums, all of which are linked together, and contain further information about the story and the hymn.




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