Update of the Gaṇḍavyūha Reliefs at Borobudur

Last year I published a book with the Indonesian publisher Ehipassiko of photographs showing all the Lalitavistara reliefs on the Inner Wall of Level 1 at Borobudur. It came complete with descriptive captions and an illustrated Introduction to the work in both English and Indonesian. That book was republished again this year, and in a much larger format.

I was then requested to produce a follow-up book on the Gaṇḍavyūha reliefs, which cover the top five walls at the monument, with around 470 reliefs in all to be published in a similar large format. For the most part I already had the photographs ready and they were online, but it required a lot of research to write the Introduction and update the captions for the new book.

The Gaṇḍavyūha tells the story of a young man, Sudhana, who is singled out by Mañjuśrī as someone with potential to be a Bodhisattva. Mañjuśrī sends Sudhana to the first of his spiritual friends, who will give him guidance in his quest. On his pilgrimage he eventually will meet with 53 friends, including the most important one, Maitreya, who enables Sudhana to see the nature of the Dharmadhātu. The meeting with Maitreya covers the most part of three walls at Borobudur.

This work differs from the Lalitavistara work, in that many of the Gaṇḍavyūha reliefs are still not properly identified, so it required checking, and cross-checking the various authorities who have written and speculated on the identification of the reliefs, and eventually deciding on the most likely interpretation. I mainly consulted the previous work of Krom and Fontein for the IDs; and Osto, McMahan and Gifford for understanding the work better, besides reading and translating from the Sanskrit text.

The captions are a mixture of relating the story, together with translations from the text, and descriptions of the relief, pointing out how it relates to its source, and interesting features of the relief work itself. It is not as concise, or as well-known, as the Lalitavistara work, but it has much of interest, and some of the finest reliefs at the monument are also shown in the photos.

Eventually all the work has been completed, and it can be read online (follow the link below). The work is now being translated into Indonesian, and we hope to have it out by the end of the year. The book will be around 500 pages when complete, as we have one relief to a page, and there are circa 470 reliefs. For now then the work can be accessed online, and I will update here later when the book is published in hard copy.

I have bow also updated the Lalitavistara photos and captions online to follow the same style as the Gaṇḍavyūha, which meant remaking all the pages. I now have it in mind to work on the Jātakamālā stories from Borobudur, as the next project for this monument, but maybe that should be held over till next year.



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