New Album: Buddhas and Bodhisattvas on Level 1 at Borobudur

As reported earlier, I was recently back at Borobudur checking the captions I had written for the Gaṇḍavyūha sequences against the reliefs on five walls of the monument. That work was completed a couple of weeks ago, and is now online, and with the publisher.

While I was there I also took time to take some more photographs. One was of a sequence of Buddha statues, and Bodhisattva reliefs which separate them, on the outer balustrade of Level 1, and these are now published on Photo Dharma.

The Buddhas are four of the five Dhāni Buddhas, which appear at the four quarters. They can be summarised so:

East: Akṣobya Buddha in Bhūmiśparṣa Mudrā (Calling the Earth to Witness Posture)
South: Ratnasambhava Buddha in Vara Mudrā (Blessing Posture)
West: Amitābhā Buddha in Dhyāna Mudrā (Meditation Posture)
North: Amoghasiddhi Buddha in Abhaya Mudrā (Fearless Posture)

(The fifth Dhyāni Buddha, Vairochana, who displays the Dharmacakra Mudrā, and is shown at the zenith, is not figured in this collection.)

One very sad feature of this collection is just how many of the Buddhas’ heads have been broken off, leaving a body, in perfect classical proportions. It is unclear to me why just so many are missing (55 heads out of 94 total), but many have of course found their way to museums in the west.

It is also the case that nearly all the arms that were showing the blessing posture on the Ratnasambahava statues are also broken off, as we can be sure these didn’t end up in museums, it really looks like they were broken maliciously.

Still the collection is a really fine sample of the Buddha statues at Borobudur, and also shows how many master craftsmen were at work on the monument when it was being built. Nearly every one is sculpted to a perfect, but not slavish, design pattern.

Besides the Buddha statues, there is also an interesting collection of 54 male and female Bodhisattvas which are carved in reliefs between the Buddha statues. I have not at this point been able to identify who they represent specifically, and if anyone does know who they are, then please do leave a comment.

I should emphasise that these are all sequentially on just one level of the monument, but there are other sequences on four more levels, making a huge collection of Buddha statues on the outer balustrades; which together with the Vairochana statues inside the checkered stūpas at the top of the monument, make this one of the finest collections of original Buddha statuary in the world.



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2 comments to New Album: Buddhas and Bodhisattvas on Level 1 at Borobudur

  • Avery

    This morning I visited Borobodur and was surprised to discover there was no guide to the reliefs being sold in the gift shop. In particular, I wanted a walkthrough for the Gaṇḍavyūha sequence which is completely new to me. I located your website on my phone and walked my Javanese fiancee and in-laws through part of the story, which impressed them very much. Afterwards I read this quotation from Julie Gifford: “If the architects of Borobudur focused on certain passages of the Gaṇḍavyūha to the extent of others, it is because these parts of the text describe a meditative visualization of purified Buddha field.” I certainly felt the impact of this visualization as together we located the flowers, incense, diamonds, etc. still visible on the reliefs.

    I’m glad for your effort and I hope Ehipassiko’s publications of your work will make their way into the official gift shop somehow.

  • Anandajoti

    Thank you, Avery, for your kind comment. We are indeed hoping to make a mobile app. from the books as they are published, and will also add in various languages as and when we can. Then hopefully people can enjoy the richness of Borobudur even more. As for the books they will be printed for free distribution.

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