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Pompeii adalah sebuah kota zaman Romawi kuno yang telah menjadi puing dekat kota Napoli dan sekarang berada di wilayah Campania, Italia. Pompeii hancur oleh letusan gunung Vesuvius pada 79 M. Debu letusan gunung Vesuvius menimbun kota Pompeii dengan segala isinya sedalam beberapa kaki menyebabkan kota ini hilang selama 1.600 tahun sebelum ditemukan kembali dengan tidak sengaja. Semenjak itu penggalian kembali kota ini memberikan pemandangan yang luar biasa terinci mengenai kehidupan sebuah kota di puncak kejayaan Kekaisaran Romawi.
Pompeii terletak pada koordinat 40°45′00″N 14°29′10″E, sebelah tenggara kota Napoli, dekat dengan kota modern Pompei saat ini. Kota ini berdiri di lokasi yang terbentuk dari aliran lava ke arah utara di hilir Sungai Sarno (zaman dulu bernama “Sarnus”). Saat ini daratan ini agak jauh letaknya di daratan, namun dahulu merupakan daerah yang dekat dengan pantai.
Pada abad pertama M, Pompeii hanyalah salah satu dari sekian kota yang berlokasi di sekitar kaki Gunung Vesuvius. Wilayah ini cukup besar jumlah penduduknya yang menjadi makmur karena daerah pertaniannya subur. Beberapa kelompok kota kecil di sekitar Pompeii seperti Herculaneum juga menderita kerusakan atau kehancuran oleh tragedi letusan Vesuvius.
Kota Pompeii didirikan sekitar abad ke-6 SM oleh orang-orang Osci atau Oscan, yaitu suatu kelompok masyarakat di Italia tengah. Saat itu, kota ini sudah digunakan sebagai pelabuhan yang aman oleh para pelaut Yunani dan Fenisia. Ketika orang-orang Etruskan mengancam melakukan serangan, kota Pompeii bersekutu dengan orang-orang Yunani yang kemudian menguasai Teluk Napoli. Pada abad ke-5 SM orang-orang Samnium mendudukinya (beserta semua kota di Campania). Para penguasa baru ini memaksakan arsitektur mereka dan memperluas wilayah kota. Diyakini juga bahwa selama pendudukan orang-orang Samnium, Roma sempat merebut kembali Pompeii untuk sementara waktu, namun teori ini belum terbuktikan.
Pompeii ikut ambil peranan dalam peperangan yang dimulai oleh kota-kota Campania melawan Roma, namun pada tahun 89 SM kota ini dikepung oleh Sulla. Walaupun tentara Liga Sosial yang dipimpin oleh Lucius Cluentius ikut membantu dalam melawan Roma, pada tahun 80 SM Pompeii dipaksa menyerah setelah Nola ditaklukkan. Pompeii lalu menjadi sebuah koloni Roma dengan nama: Colonia Cornelia Veneria Pompeianorum. Kota ini menjadi jalur penting bagi barang-barang yang datang lewat laut dan harus dikirim ke Roma atau Italia Selatan yang terletak di sepanjang Via Appia yang tidak jauh dari situ.
Pada tahun 62 M, sebuah gempa bumi hebat merusakkan Pompeii bersama banyak kota lainnya di Campania. Pada masa antara tahun 62 M hingga letusan besar Vesuvius tahun 79 M, kota ini dibangun kembali, mungkin lebih megah dalam bidang bangunan dan karya seni dari sebelumnya.
Para penduduk Pompeii, seperti mereka yang hidup di daerah itu sekarang, telah lama terbiasa dengan getaran kecil, namun pada 5 Februari 62 terjadi gempa bumi yang hebat yang menimbulkan kerusakan yang cukup besar di sekitar teluk itu dan khususnya terhadap Pompeii. Sebagian dari kerusakan itu masih belum diperbaiki ketika gunung berapi itu meletus. Namun, ini mungkin merupakan sebuah gempa tektonik daripada gempa yang disebabkan oleh meningkatnya magma yang terdapat di dalam gunung berapi.
Sebuah gempa lainnya, yang lebih ringan, terjadi pada 64; peristiwa ini dicatat oleh Suetonius dalam biografinya tentang Nero, dalam De Vita Caesarum, dan oleh Tacitus dalam Buku XV dari Annales karena hal ini terjadi ketika Nero berada di Napoli dan tampil dalam sebuah pertunjukan untuk pertama kalinya di sebuah panggung umum. Suetonius mencatat bahwa kaisar tidak memedulikan gempa itu dan terus bernyanyi hingga selesai lagunya, sementara Tacitus mencatat bahwa teater itu runtuh setelah orang-orang di dalamnya dievakuasi.
Penulis Plinius Muda menulis bahwa getaran bumi itu “tidaklah begitu menakutkan karena sering terjadi di Campania”.
Pada awal Agustus tahun 79, mata air dan sumur-sumur mengering. Getaran-getaran gempa ringan mulai terjadi pada 20 Agustus 79, dan menjadi semakin sering pada empat hari berikutnya, namun peringatan-peringatan itu tidak disadari orang, dan pada sore hari tanggal 24 Agustus, sebuah letusan gunung berapi yang mematikan terjadi. Ledakan itu merusakkan wilayah tersebut, mengubur Pompeii dan daerah-daerah permukiman lainnya. Kebetulan tanggal itu bertepatan dengan Vulcanalia, perayaan dewa api Romawi.
Laporan saksi mata satu-satunya yang bertahan dan dapat diandalkan tentang peristiwa ini dicatat oleh Plinius Muda dalam dua pucuk surat kepada sejarahwan Tacitus. Dari rumah pamannya di Misenum, sekitar 35 km dari gunung berapi itu, Plinius melihat sebuah gejala luar biasa yang terjadi di atas Gn. Vesuvius: sebuah awan gelap yang besar berbentuk seperti pohon pinus muncul dari mulut gunung itu. Setelah beberapa lama, awan itu dengan segera menuruni lereng-lereng gunung dan menutupi segala sesuatu di sekitarnya, termasuk laut yang di dekatnya.
“Awan” yang digambarkan oleh Plinius Muda itu kini dikenal sebagai aliran piroklastik, yaitu awan gas yang sangat panas, debu, dan batu-batu yang meletus dari sebuah vulkano. Plinius mengatakan bahwa beberapa gempa bumi terasa pada saat letusan itu dan diikuti oleh getaran bumi yang dahsyat. Ia juga mencatat bahwa debu juga jatuh dalam bentuk lapisan-lapisan yang sangat tebal dan desa tempat ia berada harus dievakuasi. Laut pun tersedot dan didorong mundur oleh suatu “gempa bumi”, sebuah gejala yang disebut oleh para geolog modern sebagai tsunami.
Gambarannya lalu beralih kepada fakta bahwa matahari tertutup oleh letusan itu dan siang hari menjadi gelap gulita. Pamannya, Plinius Tua mengambil beberapa kapal untuk meneliti gejala ini dan menyelamatkan orang-orang yang terperangkap di kaki gunung itu. Karena tidak dapat mendarat dekat gunungtersebut karena angin yang tidak menguntungkan dan debu yang dihasilkan letusan itu, Plinius Tua melanjutkan perjalanan ke Stabiae sekitar 4,5 km dari Pompei. Ia meninggal di sana keesokan harinya. Dalam suratnya yang pertama kepada Tacitus, kemenakannya menduga bahwa ini disebabkan karena pamannya menghirup gas beracun. Namun Stabiae 16 km jauhnya dari tempat kejadian dan rekan-rekannya tampaknya tidak terpengaruh oleh hirupan udara itu, dan karena itu kemungkinan sekali kematiannya disebabkan karena Plinius yang gemuk meninggal karena stroke atau serangan jantung.
Sejarah mencatat pada 24 Agustus tahun 79, Gunung Vesuvius meletus dahsyat. Awan panas, batuan dan abu membara menghujam ke dua kota, Pompeii dan Herculaneum. Lapisan debu tebal menutupi dua buah kota yang lokasinya dekat dengan kaki gunung Vesuvius, sehingga kedua kota ini menjadi hilang dan terlupakan.
Sekitar 1.600 tahun kemudian, secara tak sengaja keberadaan Pompeii ditemukan. Ada jasad-jasad manusia yang diawetkan oleh abu dengan segala pose. Kota Herculaneum ditemukan kembali pada 1738, dan Pompeii pada 1748. Kedua kota ini digali kembali dari lapisan debu tebal dengan membebaskan semua bangunan-bangunan dan lukisan dinding yang masih utuh.
Sebenarnya, kota ini telah ditemukan kembali pada 1599 oleh seorang arsitek bernama Fontana yang menggali sebuah jalan baru untuk sungai Sarno, namun membutuhkan lebih dari 150 tahun kemudian barulah sebuah upaya/kampanye serius dilakukan untuk membebaskan kota ini dari timbunan tanah.
Raja Charles VII dari dua Sisilia sangat tertarik dengan temuan-temuan ini bahkan hingga ia diangkat menjadi raja Spanyol. Giuseppe Fiorelli mengambil tanggung jawab ekskavasi pada 1860. Hingga saat itu Pompeii dan Herculaneum dianggap telah hilang selamanya. Di kemudian hari, Giuseppe Fiorelli adalah orang yang menyarankan penggunaan teknik injeksi plester terhadap ruangan kosong dalam tubuh korban Vesuvius yang sudah hancur untuk membentuk kembali permukaan tubuh mereka secara sempurna.
Forum (bangunan untuk keperluan sosial), pemandian, beberapa rumah/gedung dan sejumlah villa telah dapat diselamatkan dengan baik. Sebuah hotel (dengan luas 1000 meter persegi) ditemukan dekat dengan lokasi kota. Hotel ini lalu dinamakan “Grand Hotel Murecine”.
Fakta menyatakan bahwa Pompeii merupakan satu-satunya situs kota kuno di mana keseluruhan struktur topografinya dapat diketahui dengan pasti tanpa memerlukan modifikasi atau penambahan. Kota ini tidak dibagi sesuai dengan pola-pola kota Romawi pada umumnya dikarenakan permukaan tanah yang tidak datar (kota ini berada di kaki gunung). Namun jalan-jalan di kota ini dibuat lurus dan berpola pada tradisi murni Romawi kuno, permukaan jalan terdiri dari batu-batu poligon dan memiliki bangunan-bangunan rumah dan toko-toko di kedua sisi jalan, mengikuti decumanus dan cardusnya. Decumanus adalah jalan-jalan yang merentang dari timur ke barat, sementara cardus merentang dari utara ke selatan.
Sebuah bidang penelitian penting saat ini berkaitan dengan struktur-struktur, yang kini sedang diperbaiki, pada masa letusan (kemungkinan rusak pada waktu gempa pada tahun 62). Sebagian dari lukisan-lukisan tua yang rusak agaknya tertutup dengan lukisan-lukisan yang lebih baru, dan alat-alat modern digunakan untuk menemukan kembali gambaran dari fresko-fresko yang telah lama tersembunyi. Alasan tentang mengapa struktur-struktur ini masih diperbaiki 10 tahun setelah letusan itu adalah kenyataan bahwa frekuensi ledakan menjelang ledakan yang hebat itu semakin kecil.
Kebanyakan penggalian arkeologis di situs itu hanya sampai tingkat jalanan pada peristiwa vulkanik tahun 79. Penggalian-penggalian yang lebih dalam di bagian Pompeii yang lebih tua dan contoh-contoh utama dari pengeboran-pengeboran di dekatnya telah menunjukkan lapisan-lapisan dari berbagai sedimen yang menunjukkan bahwa peristiwa-peristiwa lain telah melanda kota itu sebelum terjadinya ledakan yang terkenal itu, karena ada tiga lapisan sedimen yang terletak di bawah kota itu yang ditemukan di atas lapisan lava. Bercampur dengan sedimen ini ditemukan pula oleh para arkeolog potongan-potongan kecil dari tulang-tulang binatang, potongan-potongan keramik dan potongan-potongan tumbuhan. Dengan menggunakan penanggalan karbon, lapisan yang tertua diperkirakan berasal dari abad ke-8 SM, sekitar masa pendirian kota itu. Dua lapisan lainnya dipisahkan dari lapisan-lapisan lainnya dengan lapisan tanah yang dikembangkan dengan baik atau merupakan jalan yang dibuat orang Romawi pada sekitar abad ke-4 SM dan abad ke-2 SM. Teori di balik lapisan-lapisan dari beraneka sedimen ini adalah tanah longsor yang hebat, yang mungkin didorong oleh hujan yang turun berkepanjangan. (Senatore, et al., 2004)
Pada penggalian-penggalian awal situs ini, sesekali ditemukan lubang di dalam lapisan abu yang berisi sisa-sisa tulang manusia. Giuseppe Fiorelli mengusulkan untuk mengisi ruang-ruang kosong itu dengan semen. Apa yang dihasilkan adalah bentuk-bentuk yang sangat akurat dan mengerikan dari Pompeiani (warga Pompeii) yang gagal melarikan diri, dalam saat-saat terakhir hidup mereka. Untuk sebagian dari mereka, ungkapan ketakutan itu cukup jelas kelihatan.
Para geolog telah menggunakan sifat-sifat magnetik dari batu-batu dan serpihan-serpihan yang ditemukan di Pompeii untuk memperkirakan temperatur aliran piroklaktik yang mengubur kota itu. Ketika batu yang meleleh itu membeku kembali, mineral magnetik dalam batu itu mencatat arah bidang magnet Bumi. Bila bahan itu dipanaskan melampaui temperatur tertentu, yang dikenal sebagai temperatur Curie, bidang magnetnya mungkin akan dimodivikasi atau sama sekali diatur kembali.
Analisis terhadap lebih dari 200 buah batu vulkanik dan serpihan-serpihan, seperti atap genting, menunjukkan bahwa awan debu itu panasnya hingga 850 °C ketika muncul dari mulut Vesuvius. Awan itu mendingin hingga kurang dari 350 °C pada saat tiba di kota itu. Banyak dari bahan-bahan yang dianalisis mengalami temperatur antara 240 °C hingga 340 °C. Beberapa daerah memperlihatkan temperatur yang lebih rendah, hanya 180 °C. Ada teori yang mengatakan bahwa guncangan mungkin telah menyebabkan tercampurnya udara dingin ke dalam awan debu itu. (Cioni, et al., 2004)
Kota Pompeii memberikan gambaran sesaat mengenai kehidupan kota Romawi pada abad pertama. Gambaran sesaat ini memperlihatkan bahwa Pompeii merupakan kota yang sangat hidup sebelum terjadinya letusan gunung. Bukti-bukti memberi petunjuk hingga ke hal yang amat detail dari kehidupan sehari-hari mereka. Misalnya, pada lantai sebuah rumah (rumah Sirico) sebuah tulisan terkenal Salve, lucru (Selamat datang, uang), mungkin dimaksudkan sebagai humor, menunjukkan kepada kita perusahaan perdagangan yang dimiliki oleh dua sejawat, Sirico dan Nummianus (namun nama ini mungkin hanya julukan, karena nummus berarti mata uang, uang). Di rumah-rumah lainnya, terdapat banyak gambaran terinci mengenai profesi dan kategori, seperti pekerja binatu (Fullones). Kendi-kendi anggur bertuliskan Vesuvinum (istilah permainan kata dalam perdagangan). Grafiti yang dipahat di dinding memberitahu kita akan nama suatu jalan.
Ketika letusan terjadi, kota Pompeii mungkin memiliki penduduk sejumlah 20.000 orang dan berlokasi di area di mana orang Roma memiliki vila-vila liburan mereka. Banyak pelayanan yang disediakan di kota Pompeii ditemukan, misalnya: Macellum (pasar raya menyediakan makanan), Pistrinum (penggilingan gandum), Thermopolium (sejenis bar yang menyediakan minuman dingin dan panas), cauporioe (restoran kecil), dan sebuah amfiteater.
Ketika letusan terjadi, kota Pompeii mungkin memiliki penduduk sejumlah 20.000 orang dan berlokasi di area di mana orang Roma memiliki vila-vila liburan mereka. Banyak pelayanan yang disediakan di kota Pompeii ditemukan, misalnya: Macellum (pasar raya menyediakan makanan), Pistrinum (penggilingan gandum), Thermopolium (sejenis bar yang menyediakan minuman dingin dan panas), cauporioe (restoran kecil), dan sebuah amfiteater.
Tahun 2002 penemuan lain yang tak kalah pentingnya di hilir Sungai Sarno mengungkapkan bahwa pelabuhan tersebut juga memiliki banyak penduduk dan para penduduknya tinggal di palafitte (desa dengan rumah-rumah yang menjorok di atas danau), dalam sebuah sistem kanal yang, menurut para ilmuwan, menyerupai kanal-kanal di Venesia. Namun fakta ini masih harus dipelajari lebih jauh.
Menurut Steven Ellis, salah satu tim arkeolog University of Cincinnati, penggalian situs menghasilkan analisis arkeologi terkait hunian lengkap di mana situs itu juga menyimpan pusat bisnis yang terletak disalah satu gerbang tersibuk di Pompeii, Porta Stabia. Wilayah situs mencakup 10 bidang bangunan terpisah dan memiliki 20 bangunan toko yang sebagian besar menjual makanan dan minuman. Salah satu di antara bukti yang diperiksa merupakan limbah yang diperoleh dari saluran air dan 10 kakus. Limbah makanan yang ditemukan berupa makanan mineral berasal dari dapur dan kotoran manusia, salah satunya adalah sisa makanan terutama biji-bijian. Materi yang dianalisis dari saluran air pembuangan mengungkapkan berbagai kuantitas bahan yang sangat jelas membedakan sosial dan ekonomi antara kegiatan dan kebiasaan konsumsi masing-masing properti, termasuk diantaranya limbah dari penginapan.
Temuan limbah makanan mengungkapkan jenis konsumsi murah dan elit seperti buah-buahan, kacang, zaitun, ikan lokal dan telur ayam, serta potongan daging yang harganya jauh lebih mahal. Selain itu, limbah kotoran yang ditemukan dari saluran air tetangga juga mengungkapkan adanya perbedaan sosial ekonomi antara tetangga. Saluran dari properti pusat diidentifikasi mengandung berbagai makanan kelas atas yang mungkin diperoleh secara impor dari luar Italia, salah satunya kerang, landak laut hingga kaki jerapah. Tulang kaki jerapah dianggap sebagai makanan eksotis dan ditegaskan bahwa fakta ini dianggap sebagai satu-satunya bukti yang pernah tercatat di penggalian arkeologi Romawi di Italia. Berbagai makanan saji yang disediakan oleh restoran di kota Pompeii tidak hanya menggambarkan adanya perdagangan dari wilayah jauh, tetapi juga menggambarkan kekayaan dan makanan diet kaum non elit. Salah satu bukti adanya perdagangan dari negara lain adalah impor rempah-rempah yang hanya bisa diperoleh dari wilayah Indonesia.
Ada teori tanpa bukti yang menyatakan bahwa Fontana menemukan beberapa fresko erotis selama penggalian yang dilakukannya, namun karena norma-norma kesopanan yang amat kuat saat itu ia mengubur fresko-fresko itu kembali. Hal ini diperkuat oleh laporan-laporan penggalian oleh tim lain sesudahnya yang menyatakan bahwa daerah galian tersebut menunjukkan suasana telah pernah digali dan dikuburkan kembali.
Pada saat penggalian tahun 1748, ditemukan berbagai pose erotis. Temuan ini membuat malu para sarjana dan cendekiawan era Victoria. Raja Francis I yang menghadiri pameran koleksi temuan dari Pompeii pada 1819, menjadi marah ketika melihat koleksi yang dianggap mesum kala itu. Ia pun memerintahkan barang-barang erotis dipindah di museum lain yang hanya bisa diakses para ilmuwan.
Para arkeologi menemukan phallus atau bentuk kelamin jantan yaitu dekorasi yang umum di kota sebagai perlambang keberuntungan. Simbol tersebut dilukis di banyak tempat seperti rumah, jalanan, dan pasar.
Lupanare atau Lupanar adalah rumah bordil paling terkenal di reruntuhan Pompeii. Bangunan itu terletak sekitar 2 blok dari forum atau alun-alun di pusat kota, di persimpangan Vico del Lupanare dan Vico del Balcone Pensile. Lupanare berupa bangunan berlantai dua, yang didirikan beberapa tahun setelah ‘kiamat kecil’ menimpa Pompeii. Gedung batu itu memiliki 10 kamar, 5 di lantai bawah dan sisanya di loteng yang kondisinya jauh lebih baik. Masing-masing lantai dilengkapi kakus. Salah satunya di bawah tangga. Ada tempat tidur batu di tiap kamar, yang dulunya dilapisi matras tipis.
Renovasi Lupanare membutuhkan waktu setahun penuh dan menyedot dana sekitar US$ 254 ribu atau setara Rp 3,5 miliar.
Orang Kristen di Pompeii
Adanya orang-orang Kristen di Pompeii diketahui dari penemuan sejumlah tulisan dan terutama salib-salib kuno di beberapa tempat dalam kota, dan ini telah dicatat serta dibukukan oleh Bruce Longenecker.
“Inskripsi Christianos” (Christianos Inscription) ditemukan pada tahun 1862, berupa suatu coretan dengan batu bara hitam memuat kata Latin Christianos (“Orang-orang Kristen” dalam bentuk akusatif jamak), dan tulisan yang memudar pada tahun 1864 ini sempat disaksikan serta dilaporkan secara terpisah oleh sejumlah arkeolog yaitu: Alfred Kiessling (1862), Giulio Minervini, Giuseppe Fiorelli, dan Giovanni Battista de Rossi (1864); semuanya sepakat bahwa tulisan ini jelas berkaitan dengan orang Kristen. Inskripsi itu terdapat dalam suatu rumah besar Pompeii (7.11.11), dengan lantai dasar saja seluas 3000 kaki persegi untuk ruang tinggal (tidak termasuk dapur, apartemen-apartemen untuk disewakan, dan taman-taman).
Di antara banyak graffiti yang dapat dibaca pada tembok-tembok di jalanan kota Pompeii, selain terlihat sebuah bintang Daud, yang kemungkinan mengindikasikan adanya orang Yahudi, ada suatu graffito (11 x 20 cm) yang terungkap dalam ekskavasi musim gugur tahun 1955, pada tembok suatu rumah pada insula 1.13., yang bertuliskan bahasa Latin “Viv(at) Crux” (“Hiduplah, Salib”), yang dilaporkan oleh della Corte (yang pertama kali menyaksikan dan melaporkan; 1958: 113), dan Barnard (1984: 25), dan diyakini berkaitan dengan orang Kristen.
Ukiran salib ditemukan pada beberapa tempat, misalnya dalam rumah pembuatan roti milik Paquius Proculus (lihat foto), maupun satu rumah pembuat roti lain, dan pada tembok Insula Arriana Polliana, yang dilaporkan oleh François Mazois sebagai bukti adanya devosi Kristen. Ada dekorasi di balik suatu cincin meterai Meges menunjukkan sebuah salib di atas dua lingkarang, atau angka delapan menyamping, di mana Longenecker berpendapat “artifak ini dapat dibuktikan menunjukkan seorang pengikut Yesus mengenakan cincin dengan lambang salib di baliknya sebagai lambang pengabdian agamawi”.
Pompeii dalam dunia hiburan populer
Pompeii dijadikan latar belakang novel sejarah modern The Last Days of Pompeii dan sebuah film seri televisi Inggris Up Pompeii, dan novel Robert Harris baru-baru ini, Pompeii, sebuah kisah fiksi yang terpusat pada aquarius (ahli saluran air) Marcus Attilius yang harus memperbaiki kerusakan pada akuaduk di dunia, Aqua Augusta, yang rusak di suatu tempat di sekitar Gn. Vesuvius. Dalam seni visual, The Last Day of Pompeii adalah sebuah lukisan terkenal oleh Carlo Brullo yang kelahiran Rusia.
Pada Oktober 1971, band terkenal Pink Floyd mengadakan pertunjukan di sebuah amfiteater yang kosong dan berusia 2.000 tahun di Pompeii, di hadapan penonton yang terdiri dari para kru film termasuk para kamerawan. Pertunjukan ini diedarkan sebagai sebuah film di seluruh dunia, dan belakangan dalam bentuk video. Sang sutradara belakangan menambahkan gambar-gambar ruang angkasa dan merilisnya dalam bentuk ‘potongan sutradara’, yang kini tersedia dalam bentuk DVD.
“Last Days of Pompeii” adalah sebuah opera rock tahun 1991 oleh band rok alternatif Nova Mob.
Taman bertema Busch Gardens di Williamsburg, Virginia menampilkan sebuah atraksi berjudul “Escape from Pompeii,” (Melarikan diri dari Pompeii); di situ para penumpang mengendarai kapal-kapal kecil yang konon sedang melarikan diri melalui kota Pompeii sementara reruntuhan-reruntuhan kota berguliran di sekitar mereka.
Rexford (Rex) Phillips, alias “Rexino Mondo,” menulis, menyanyikan, membacakan serta memproduksi sebuah “buku audio” 210 menit berjudul Messenger From Pei (Utusan dari Pei). Buku ini mengisahkan penugasannya di Kompi Khusus ke-10 dari Angkatan Darat AS di Korea. Di sana ia berjumpa, bersahabat dan akhirnya menjalin hubungan yang akrab dengan aktris Debbie Reynolds. Berbagai arus bolak-balik membawa mereka dalam suatu perjalanan ke kehidupan masa lampau, dan khususnya dalam pelarian mereka dari “Pei yang dekaden”, tepat sebelum kehancuran total kota itu, bersamaan dengan hari-hari terakhir “Pompeii”, bakal anaknya yang rusak akhlaknya. Karya ini dibuat pada 1992 dan diedarkan secara terbatas.
The Meteora (/ˌmɛtiˈɔːrə/ ; Greek: Μετέωρα, pronounced [meˈteora]) is a rock formation in central Greece hosting one of the largest and most precipitously built complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries, second in importance only to Mount Athos. The six (of an original twenty four) monasteries are built on immense natural pillars and hill-like rounded boulders that dominate the local area. It is located near the town of Kalambaka at the northwestern edge of the Plain of Thessaly near the Pineios river and Pindus Mountains.
Meteora is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List under criteria I, II, IV, V and VII.
The name means “lofty”, “elevated”, and is etymologically related to meteor.
Beside the Pindos Mountains, in the western region of Thessaly, these unique and enormous columns of rock rise precipitously from the ground. But their unusual form is not easy to explain geologically. They are not volcanic plugs of hard igneous rock typical elsewhere, but the rocks are composed of a mixture of sandstone and conglomerate.
The conglomerate was formed of deposits of stone, sand and mud from streams flowing into a delta at the edge of a lake, over millions of years. About 60 million years ago during the Paleogene period a series of earth movements pushed the seabedupwards, creating a high plateau and causing many vertical fault lines in the thick layer of sandstone. The huge rock pillars were then formed by weathering by water, wind and extremes of temperature on the vertical faults. It is unusual that this conglomerate formation and type of weathering are confined to a relatively localised area within the surrounding mountain formation.
This type of rock formation and weathering process has happened in many other places locally and throughout the world, but what makes Meteora’s appearance special is firstly the uniformity of the sedimentary rock constituents deposited over millions of years leaving few signs of vertical layering, and secondly the localised abrupt vertical weathering.
The cave of Theopetra is located 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) from Kalambaka. Its uniqueness from an archeological perspective is that a single site contains records of two greatly significant cultural transitions: the replacement of Neanderthals by modern humans and later, the transition from hunting-gathering to farming after the end of the last Ice Age. The cave consists of an immense 500 square metres (5,400 sq ft) rectangular chamber at the foot of a limestone hill, which rises to the northeast above the village of Theopetra, with an entrance 17 metres (56 ft) wide by 3 metres (9.8 ft) high. It lies at the foot of the Chasia mountain range, which forms the natural boundary between Thessaly and Macedonia prefectures, while the Lithaios River, a tributary of the Pineios River, flows in front of the cave. The small Lithaios River flowing literally on the doorsteps of the cave meant that cave dwellers had always easy access to fresh, clean water without the need to cover daily long distances to find it. Excavations and research and have discovered petrified diatoms, which have contributed to understanding the Palaeo-climate and climate changes. Radiocarbon dating evidences human presence dating back 50,000 years. The cave used to be open to the public, but is currently closed indefinitely, for safety inspections.
Caves in the vicinity of Meteora were inhabited continuously between 50,000 and 5,000 years ago. The oldest known example of a man-made structure, a stone wall that blocked two-thirds of the entrance to the Theopetra cave, was constructed 23,000 years ago, probably as a barrier against cold winds – the Earth was experiencing an ice age at the time – and many Paleolithic and Neolithic artifacts have been found within the caves.
Meteora are mentioned neither in the Greek mythology nor in the Ancient Greek literature. The first people to inhabit Meteora after the Neolithic Era were an ascetic group of hermit monks who, in the 9th century AD, moved up to the ancient pinnacles. They lived in hollows and fissures in the rock towers, some as high as 1800 ft (550m) above the plain. This great height, combined with the sheerness of the cliff walls, kept away all but the most determined visitors. Initially, the hermits led a life of solitude, meeting only on Sundays and special days to worship and pray in a chapel built at the foot of a rock known as Dhoupiani.
As early as the 11th century, monks occupied the caverns of Meteora. However, monasteries were not built until the 14th century, when the monks sought somewhere to hide in the face of an increasing number of Turkish attacks on Greece. At this time, access to the top was via removable ladders or windlass. Nowadays, getting up is a lot simpler due to steps being carved into the rock during the 1920s. Of the 24 monasteries, only 6 (five male, one female) are still functioning, with each housing fewer than 10 individuals.
The exact date of the establishment of the monasteries is unknown. By the late 11th and early 12th centuries, a rudimentary monastic state had formed called the Skete of Stagoi and was centered around the still-standing church of Theotokos (mother of God). By the end of the 12th century, an ascetic community had flocked to Meteora.
In 1344, Athanasios Koinovitis from Mount Athos brought a group of followers to Meteora. From 1356 to 1372, he founded the great Meteoron monastery on the Broad Rock, which was perfect for the monks; they were safe from political upheaval and had complete control of the entry to the monastery. The only means of reaching it was by climbing a long ladder, which was drawn up whenever the monks felt threatened.
At the end of the 14th century, the Byzantine Empire’s reign over northern Greece was being increasingly threatened by Turkish raiders who wanted control over the fertile plain of Thessaly. The hermit monks, seeking a retreat from the expanding Turkish occupation, found the inaccessible rock pillars of Meteora to be an ideal refuge. More than 20 monasteries were built, beginning in the 14th century. Six remain today.
In 1517 Theophanes built the monastery of Varlaam, which was reputed to house the finger of St John and the shoulder blade of St Andrew.
Access to the monasteries was originally (and deliberately) difficult, requiring either long ladders lashed together or large nets used to haul up both goods and people. This required quite a leap of faith – the ropes were replaced, so the story goes, only “when the Lord let them break”. In the words of UNESCO, “The net in which intrepid pilgrims were hoisted up vertically alongside the 373 metres (1,224 ft) cliff where the Varlaam monastery dominates the valley symbolizes the fragility of a traditional way of life that is threatened with extinction.”
Until the 17th century, the primary means of conveying goods and people from these eyries was by means of baskets and ropes.
In 1921, Queen Marie of Romania visited Meteora, becoming the first woman ever allowed to enter the Great Meteoron monastery.
In the 1920s there was an improvement in the arrangements. Steps were cut into the rock, making the complex accessible via a bridge from the nearby plateau. During World War II the site was bombed. Many art treasures were stolen.
List of Monasteries
The Monastery of Great Meteoron – This is the largest of the monasteries located at Meteora, though in 2015 there were only 3 monks in residence. It was erected in the mid-14th century and was the subject of restoration and embellishment projects in 1483 and 1552. One building serves as the main museum for tourists. The Katholikon (main church), consecrated in honour of the Transfiguration of Jesus was erected in the middle of the 14th century and 1387/88 and decorated in 1483 and 1552
The Monastery of Varlaam – The Monastery of Varlaam is the second largest monastery in the Meteora complex, and in 2015 had the largest number of monks (seven) of the male monasteries. It was built in 1541 and embellished in 1548. A church, dedicated to All Saints, is in the Athonite type (cross-in-square with dome and choirs), with spacious exonarthex (lite) is surrounded by a dome. It was built in 1541/42 and decorated in 1548, while the exonarthex was decorated in 1566. The old refectory is used as a museum while north of the church is the parekklesion of the Three Bishops, built in 1627 and decorated in 1637.
The Monastery of Rousanou/St. Barbara was founded in the middle of the 16th century and decorated in 1560. Today it is a flourishing nunnery with 13 nuns in residence in 2015.
The Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas, built in the 16th century, has a small church, decorated by the noted Cretan painter Theophanis Strelitzas, in 1527. There was one monk in residence in 2015.
The Monastery of St. Stephen has a small church built in the 16th century and decorated in 1545. This monastery rests on the plain rather than on a cliff. It was shelled by the Nazis during World War II who believed it was harboring insurgents and was abandoned. The monastery was given over to nuns in 1961 and they have reconstructed it into a flourishing nunnery, with 28 nuns in residence in 2015.
The Monastery of the Holy Trinity is on top of the cliffs. It was built in 1475 and was remodeled in 1684, 1689, 1692, 1741. There were four monks in residence in 2015.
Meteora in the early morning hours.
The Rousanou, the Nikolaos and the Grand Meteora monasteries.
The Rousanou monastery.
Panorama of the Meteora valley
Panoramic view at Meteora valley
Panoramic view at monastery Varlaam
Panoramic view at monastery Roussanou
Panoramic view at monasteries Varlaam and Grand Metereon
The monastery of Holy Trinity was a filming location in the 1981 James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only
Scenes from Tintin and the Golden Fleece were also shot at the Meteora monasteries.
Michina, the main setting of the movie Pokémon: Arceus and the Jewel of Life is based on Meteora.
Meteora is the main location in the fiction book The Spook’s Sacrifice, by Lancashire author Joseph Delaney
One of the surviving characters in Max Brooks’s zombie apocalypse novel, “World War Z” finds refuge and peace of mind in the monasteries during and after the zombie war.
The 2012 film Meteora directed by Spiros Stathoulopoulos is set in the monasteries and scenery of Meteora
Primary location and name of Volume 3 in the comic book series “Le Décalogue” by French author Frank Giroud.
The Eyrie of Vale of the House of Arryn from Game of Thrones is based on Meteora
The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 DLC Map “Sanctuary” is set in the monasteries of the Meteora.
The 2003 album by Linkin Park takes its name from the site.
The monasteries were a filming location for the 1976 action movie Sky Riders starring Susannah York, James Coburn and Robert Culp.
In The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles episode “Travels with Father”, Indiana and his father visit Meteora.
Dari Wikipedia bahasa Indonesia, ensiklopedia bebas
Petra (dari πέτρα petra, “batu” dalam bahasa Yunani; bahasa Arab: البتراء, al-Bitrā) adalah sebuah situs arkeologikal di Ma’an, Yordania. Tempat ini terkenal dengan bangunan arsitektur yang dipahat pada bebatuan serta sistem pengairannya.
Diperkirakan dibangun pada awal tahun 312 sebelum masehi, sebagai ibu kota dari Nabath, yang sekarang menjadi simbol dari Yordania, dan juga menjadi tempat kunjungan favorit para turis. Tempat ini terletak pada yang terletak di dataran rendah di antara gunung-gunung Gunung Hor yang membentuk sayap timur Wadi Araba, lembah besar yang berawal dari Laut Matisampai Teluk Aqaba.
Situs ini tidak pernah diketemukan oleh dunia barat hingga 1812, ketika pengelana dari Swiss, Johann Ludwig Burckhardtmenemukannya untuk pertama kalinya. Situs ini digambarkan seperti “sebuah kota mawar merah yang antik” dalam salah satu puisi yang menang dalam lomba Newdigate Prize, karya dari John William Burgon. Sedangkan UNESCO menyatakannya sebagai “salah satu peninggalan kultural yang paling penting dalam peradaban manusia” dan masuk sebagai Situs Warisan Dunia UNESCO sejak 6 Desember 1985. Petra dipilih oleh majalah “Smithsonian” sebagai salah satu dari “28 tempat yang harus dikunjungi sebelum meninggal dunia”.
Peta dari area tersebut
Peta dari Petra
Reruntuhan kota Romawi dan benteng batu Petra
Petra terletak ditengah-tengah antara Teluk Aqaba dan Laut Mati pada ketinggian kurang lebih 800 hingga 1.396 meter diatas permukaan laut, di sebuah lembah dari sebuah pegunungan Edom, sebelah timur dari lembah Arabah. Saat ini ia terletak kurang lebih 200 km arah selatan dari ibu kota Yordania, Amman yang dapat ditempuh dalam waktu 3 jam dengan berkendaraan mobil.
Lokasi dari Petra, tersembunyi di antara bebatuan dan tebing bertingkat dengan pasokan air yang sangat baik, menjadikannya tempat ideal untuk sebuah kota mandiri. Tempat tersebut hanya bisa dikunjungi melalui celah sempit di pegunungan dari arah barat daya atau timur melalui sebuah canyon dengan panjang kurang lebih 1,5 kilometer dan kedalaman 200 meter, yang disebut dengan Siq, sebagai akses utama, yang merupakan celah sangat sempit, dengan lebar hanya 2 meter.
Ketersediaan air dan keamaanan yang dimilikinya menjadikan Petra sebagai tempat perhentian yang layak di perlintasan jalur-jalur kafilah penghubung Mesir dengan Suriah dan Arab Selatan dengan Mediterania, yang terutama menyalurkan barang-barang mewah (rempah-rempah dan sutra dari India, gading dari Afrika, mutiara dari Laut Merah, dan kemenyan dari Arab Selatan). Damar dari “pohon kemenyan” ( Boswellia ) sangat dihargai di seluruh dunia kuno khususnya sebagai persembahan dalam upacara-upacara keagamaan, namun juga sebagai obat.
Dunia usaha yang digerakkan oleh kafilah-kafilah dan pemungutan cukai menghasilkan keuntungan besar bagi orang-orang Nabatea. Dengan demikian kota ini menjadi sebuah pasar yang penting sejak abad ke-5 SM sampai abad ke-3 SM.
Plinius yang Tua dan para penulis lainnya, menyatakan bahwa Petra adalah ibu kota dari Nabath, dan pusat dari perdagangan dengan mempergunakan karavan. Terdiri dari dinding batu dengan sistem pengairan yang baik, Petra tidak hanya memiliki banyak keuntungan sebagai benteng, tetapi ia juga mengontrol rute perdagangan utama yang melewati Gaza di Barat, ke Bushra dan Damaskus di Utara, ke Aqaba di Laut Merah, dan sepanjang gurun hingga ke Teluk Persia.
Kota di Dinding Batu
Salah satu dari 7 keajaiban dunia yang baru adalah Petra. Penetapan tujuh keajaiban dunia itu merupakan pilihan dari 100 juta orang di seluruh dunia lewat situs internet dan pesan singkat (SMS) telepon seluler, yang diadakan oleh SwissFoundation, serta diumumkan di Lisbon, Portugal, pada 07-07-07 alias 7 Juli 2007.
Petra adalah kota yang didirikan dengan memahat dinding-dinding batu di Yordania. Petra berasal dari bahasa Yunani yang berarti ‘batu’. Petra merupakan simbol teknik dan perlindungan.
Kata ini merujuk pada bangunan kotanya yang terbuat dari batu-batu di Wadi Araba, sebuah lembah bercadas di Yordania. Kota ini didirikan dengan menggali dan mengukir cadas setinggi 40 meter.
Petra merupakan ibu kota Kerajaan Nabatea. Didirikan sembilan tahun sebelum Masehi sampai dengan tahun ke-40 M oleh Raja Aretas IV sebagai kota yang sulit untuk ditembus musuh dan aman dari bencana alam seperti badai pasir.
Suku Nabatea membangun Petra dengan sistem pengairan yang luar biasa rumit. Terdapat terowongan air dan bilik air yang menyalurkan air bersih ke kota, sehingga mencegah banjir mendadak. Mereka juga memiliki teknologi hidraulik untuk mengangkat air.
Terdapat juga sebuah teater yang mampu menampung 4.000 orang. Kini, Istana Makam Hellenistis yang memiliki tinggi 42 meter masih berdiri impresif di sana.
Kotanya Suku Nabatea
Petra yang bisa ditempuh sekitar 3-5 jam perjalanan darat dari kota Amman, Yordania, dulu adalah ibu kota suku Nabatea, salah satu rumpun bangsa Arab yang hidup sebelum masuknya bangsa Romawi.
Sebenarnya, asal usul suku Nabatea tak diketahui pasti. Mereka dikenal sebagai suku pengembara yang berkelana ke berbagai penjuru dengan kawanan unta dan domba.
Warga Petra awal adalah penyembah berhala. Dewa utama mereka adalah Dushara (Dzu as-Shara/Dusares), yang disembah dalam bentuk batu berwarna hitam dan berbentuk tak beraturan. Dushara disembah berdampingan dengan Allat, dewi Bangsa Arab kuno.
Mereka sangat mahir dalam membuat tangki air bawah tanah untuk mengumpulkan air bersih yang bisa digunakan saat mereka bepergian jauh. Sehingga, di mana pun mereka berada, mereka bisa membuat galian untuk saluran air guna memenuhi kebutuhan mereka akan air bersih.
Di akhir abad ke-4 Sebelum Masehi, berkembangnya dunia perdagangan membuat suku Nabatea memberanikan diri mulai ikut dalam perdaganan dunia. Rute perdagangan dunia mulai tumbuh subur di bagian selatan Yordania dan selatan Laut Mati. Mereka lalu memanfaatkan posisi tempat tinggal mereka yang strategis itu sebagai salah satu rute perdagangan dunia.
Suku Nabatea akhirnya bisa menjadi para saudagar yang sukses, dengan berdagang dupa, rempah-rempah, dan gading yang antara lain berasal dari Arab bagian selatan dan India timur.
Letak yang strategis untuk mengembangkan usaha dan hidup, serta aman untuk melindungi diri dari orang asing itulah alasan suku Nabatea memutuskan untuk menetap di wilayah batu karang Petra.
Untuk mempertahankan kemakmuran yang telah diraih, mereka memungut bea cukai dan pajak kepada para pedagang setempat atau dari luar yang masuk ke sana. Suku Nabatea akhirnya berhasil membuat kota internasional yang unik dan tak biasa.
Pada awalnya Petra dibangun untuk tujuan pertahanan. Namun belakangan, kota ini dipadati puluhan ribu warga sehingga berkembang menjadi kota perdagangan karena terletak di jalur distribusi barang antara Eropa dan Timur Tengah.
Pada tahun 106 Masehi, Romawi mencaplok Petra, sehingga peran jalur perdagangannya melemah. Sekitar tahun 700 M, sistem hidraulik dan beberapa bangunan utamanya hancur menjadi puing. Petra pun perlahan menghilang dari peta bumisaat itu dan tinggal legenda.
Barulah pada tahun 1812, petualang Swiss, Johann Burckhardt memasuki kota itu dengan menyamar sebagai seorang muslim. Legenda Petra pun meruak kembali pada zaman modern, dikenang sebagai simbol teknik dan pertahanan.
Petra di Yordania, adalah situs purbakala. Petra dikelilingi gunung. Di sini ada gunung setinggi 1.350 meter dari permukaan laut. Inilah kawasan tertinggi di areal ini yang disebut Gunung Harun (Jabal Harun) atau Gunung Hor atau El-Barra.
Gunung Harun paling sering dikunjungi orang. Para pengunjung percaya, di puncak Jabal Harun inilah, Nabi Harun meninggal dan dimakamkan oleh Nabi Musa.
Pada abad ke-14 Masehi, sebuah masjid dibangun di sini dengan kubah berwarna putih yang terlihat dari berbagai area di sekitar Petra. Harun tiba di wilayah Yordania sekarang ketika mendampingi Nabi Musa membawa umatnya keluar dari Mesir dari kejaran Raja Fir’aun.
Pada abad ke-1 Sebelum Masehi, Kerajaan Nabatea yang kaya dan kuat, menjangkau wilayah Damaskus di utara dan Laut Mati di selatan. Saat itu, Petra telah didiami sekitar 30 ribu penduduk. Pada masa itulah dibangun kuil agung.
Tahun 100-an Masehi, Romawi pernah menguasai wilayah ini. Arsitektur di Petra pun terpengaruhi arsitektur Romawi.
Pada 600 Masehi di Petra dibangun gereja. Abad ke-7 Masehi, Islam hadir, dan pada abad ke-14, makam Nabi Harun di Jabal Harun menjadi tempat keramat dari umat Islam, selain kaum Yahudi dan Kristiani.
Saat berusia 10 tahun, Nabi Muhammad pernah berkunjung ke gunung ini bersama pamannya.
Setelah Perang Salib pada abad ke-12, Petra sempat menjadi ‘kota yang hilang’ selama lebih dari 500 tahun (lost city). Hanya penduduk lokal (suku Badui) di wilayah Arab yang mengenalnya.
Dari Wikipedia bahasa Indonesia, ensiklopedia bebas
Palenque (dalam bahasa Maya: Bàak’) adalah sebuah reruntuhan kota kuno Maya yang terletak di dekat sungai Usumacinta, munisipalitas Palenque, negara bagian Chiapas, Meksiko. Situs ini merupakan situs berukuran sedang bila dibandingkan dengan kota-kota Maya lain seperti Tikal dan Copán. Namun, Palenque dikenal akan arsitektur dan skulpturnya.
Hingga tahun 2005, wilayah reruntuhan yang telah ditemukan kurang lebih sebesar 2,5 km², tetapi diperkirakan hanya 2% wilayah kota yang telah dijelajahi, sehingga masih ada ribuan struktur yang tertutup oleh hutan rimba. Pada tahun 1981, Palenque secara resmi dijadikan taman nasional. UNESCO menjadikannya Situs Warisan Dunia pada tahun 1987.
Kota ini ditinggalkan saat penaklukan Meksiko oleh Spanyol berlangsung pada abad ke-16. Orang Eropa pertama yang berkunjung ke Palenque adalah Pedro Lorenzo de la Nada pada tahun 1567. Pada saat itu wilayah ini dikenal dengan julukan “Chol como Otolum”, atau “Tanah Rumah Kuat”, yang kemudian diterjemahkan oleh De la Nada menjadi “Palenque” (dari kata dalam bahasa Katalan “palenc”), yang berarti “benteng”.
Heraklion (/hɪˈrækliən/; Greek: Ηράκλειο, Irákleio, pronounced [iˈraklio]; is the largest city and the administrative capital of the island of Crete. It is the fourth largest city in Greece and the third largest urban area in Greece. According to the results of the 2011 census, the population of the city proper was 140,730 inhabitants, the municipality’s was 173,993 while the Heraklion urban area has a population of 225,574 and it extends over an area of 684.3 km2 (264.2 sq mi).
Heraklion is the capital of Heraklion regional unit.
The Bronze Age palace of Knossos, also known as the Palace of Minos, is located nearby.
The Arab raiders from al-Andalus (Iberia) who founded the Emirate of Crete moved the island’s capital from Gortyna to a new castle they called rabḍ al-ḫandaq (Arabic: ربض الخندق, “Castle of the Moat”) in the 820s. This was hellenized as Χάνδαξ (Chándax) or Χάνδακας (Chándakas) and Latinized as Candia, which was taken into other European languages: in Italian and Latin as Candia, in French as Candie, in English as Candy, all of which could refer to the island of Crete as a whole as well as to the city alone; the Ottoman name was Kandiye.
After the Byzantine reconquest of Crete, the city was locally known as Megalo Kastro (Μεγάλο Κάστρο, ‘Big Castle’ in Greek) and its inhabitants were called Kastrinoi(Καστρινοί, “castle-dwellers”).
The ancient name Ηράκλειον was revived in the 19th century and comes from the nearby Roman port of Heracleum (“Heracles’s city”), whose exact location is unknown. English usage formerly preferred the classicizing transliterations “Heraklion” or “Heraclion”, but the form “Iraklion” is becoming more common.
The snake goddess (c.1600 BC) in Heraklion Archaeological Museum
Heraklion is close to the ruins of the palace of Knossos, which in Minoan times was the largest centre of population on Crete. Though there is no archaeological evidence of it, Knossos might well have had a port at the site of Heraklion as early as 2000 BC.
Emirate of Crete
A monk shows the Arabs where to build Heraklion
The present city of Heraklion was founded in 824 by the Arabs under Abu Hafs Umar who had been expelled from Al-Andalus by Emir Al-Hakam I and had taken over the island from the Eastern Roman Empire. They built a moat around the city for protection, and named the city ربض الخندق, rabḍ al-ḫandaq (“Castle of the Moat”). It became the capital of the Emirate of Crete (ca. 827–961). The Saracens allowed the port to be used as a safe haven for pirates who operated against Imperial (Byzantine) shipping and raided Imperial territory around the Aegean.
In 1204, the city was bought by the Republic of Venice as part of a complicated political deal which involved, among other things, the Crusaders of the Fourth Crusade restoring the deposed Eastern Roman Emperor Isaac II Angelus to his throne. The Venetians improved on the ditch of the city by building enormous fortifications, most of which are still in place, including a giant wall, in places up to 40 m thick, with 7 bastions, and a fortress in the harbour. Chandax was renamed Candia and became the seat of the Duke of Candia, and the Venetian administrative district of Crete became known as “Regno di Candia” (Kingdom of Candia). The city retained the name of Candia for centuries and the same name was often used to refer to the whole island of Crete as well. To secure their rule, Venetians began in 1212 to settle families from Venice on Crete. The coexistence of two different cultures and the stimulus of Italian Renaissance led to a flourishing of letters and the arts in Candia and Crete in general, that is today known as the Cretan Renaissance.
The Ottoman Vezir Mosque (1856), built on the site of the church of St Titus, and now the basilica of St Titus.
Further information: Siege of Candia During the Cretan War (1645–1669), the Ottomans besieged the city for 21 years, from 1648 to 1669, perhaps the longest siege in history. In its final phase, which lasted for 22 months, 70,000 Turks, 38,000 Cretans and slaves and 29,088 of the city’s Christian defenders perished. The Ottoman army under an Albanian grand vizier, Köprülü Fazıl Ahmed Pasha conquered the city in 1669. Under the Ottomans, the city was known officially as Kandiye (again also applied to the whole island of Crete) but informally in Greek as Megalo Castro (Μεγάλο Κάστρο; “Big Castle”). During the Ottoman period, the harbour silted up, so most shipping shifted to Chania in the west of the island.
In 1898, the autonomous Cretan State was created, under Ottoman suzerainty, with Prince George of Greece as its High Commissioner and under international supervision. During the period of direct occupation of the island by the Great Powers (1898–1908), Candia was part of the British zone. At this time, the city was renamed “Heraklion”, after the Roman port of Heracleum (“Heracles’ city”), whose exact location is unknown.
In 1913, with the rest of Crete, Heraklion was incorporated into the Kingdom of Greece. Heraklion became capital of Crete in 1971, replacing Chania.
Architecture and urban sculpture
The fountain in Lions Square.
The Venetian loggia (1626–28).
Agios Minas Cathedral in honour of Saint Menas, patron saint of the city. At the port of the city dominate the Venetian constructions, such as the Koules Fortress (Rocca al Mare), the ramparts and the arsenal.
Around the city can be found several sculptures, statues and busts commemorating significant events and figures of the city’s and island’s history, like El Greco, Vitsentzos Kornaros, Nikos Kazantzakis and Eleftherios Venizelos.
Also, many fountains of the Venetian-era are preserved, such as the Bembo fountain, the Priuli fountain, Palmeti fountain, Sagredofountain and Morosini fountain (in Lions Square).
The municipality Heraklion was formed at the 2011 local government reform by the merger of the following 5 former municipalities, that became municipal units:
The municipality has an area of 244.613 km2, the municipal unit 109.026 km2.
Heraklion is an important shipping port and ferry dock. Travellers can take ferries and boats from Heraklion to destinations including Santorini, Ios Island, Paros, Mykonos, and Rhodes. There are direct ferries to Naxos, Karpathos, Kasos, Sitia, Anafi, Chalki and Diafani . There are also several daily ferries to Piraeus, the port of Athens in mainland Greece.
Panoramic view of the old harbour
Heraklion International Airport, or Nikos Kazantzakis Airport is located about 5 kilometres (3 miles) east of the city. The airport is named after Heraklion native Nikos Kazantzakis, a writer and a philosopher. It is the second busiest airport of Greece and the 67th in Europe, because of Crete being a major holiday destination with 6.742.746 travellers in 2016 List of the busiest airports in Europe.
The airfield is shared with the 126th Combat Group of the Hellenic Air Force. A project for the new airport of Heraklion in Kasteli area is starting at the end of 2017
European route E75 runs through the city and connects Heraklion with the three other major cities of Crete: Agios Nikolaos, Chania, and Rethymno.
There are a number of buses serving the city (more information visit) and connecting it to many major destinations in Crete .
From 1922 to 1937, there was a working industrial railway, which connected the Koules in Heraklion to Xiropotamos for the construction of the harbor.
A study from the year 2000 investigated the feasibility of two tram lines in Heraklion. The first line would link the Stadium to the airport, and the second the center of Heraklion and Knossos. No approval has yet been given for this proposal.
In the summer of 2007, at the Congress of Cretan emigrants, held in Heraklion, two qualified engineers, George Nathenas (from Gonies, Malevizi Province) and Vassilis Economopoulos, recommended the development of a railway line in Crete, linking Chania, Rethymno and Heraklion, with a total journey time of 50 minutes (30 minutes between Heraklion and Rethymno, 20 minutes from Chania to Rethymno) and with provision for extensions to Kissamos, Kastelli Pediados (for the planned new airport), and Agios Nikolaos. No plans exist for implementing this idea.
Heraklion has a hot-summer-Mediterranean climate (Csa in the Köppen climate classification). Summers are warm to hot and dry with clear skies. Dry hot days are often relieved by seasonal breezes. Winters are very mild with moderate rain. Because Heraklion is further south than Athens, it has a milder climate. The maximum temperature during the summer period is usually not more than 28 – 30°C (Athens normal maximum temperature is about 6°C hotter). The minimum temperature record is +0.2 °C
A new temperature record for February was set at 27.8°C, reached on 15 February 2016.
Colleges, Universities, Libraries, and Research Centers
The Battle of Crete and National Resistance Museum
Nikos Kazantzakis Museum
Lychnostatis Open Air Museum
Collection of Agia Aikaterini of Sinai
Museum of Visual Arts
The city is home to several sports clubs. Most notably, Heraklion hosts OFI and Ergotelis, two football clubs with earlier presence in the Greek Superleague, the top tier of the Greek football league system. Furthermore, the city is the headquarters of the Heraklion Football Clubs Association, which administers football in the entire region. Other notable sport clubs include Iraklio B.C. (basketball), Atsalenios (football) and Irodotos (football) in the suburbs of Atsalenio and Nea Alikarnassos respectively.
Nicholas Kalliakis was a significant Renaissance humanist, scholar and philosopher from Heraklion.
El Greco (Dominikos Theotokopoulos)
Epitaph on Nikos Kazantzakis’ grave. I hope for nothing, I fear nothing, I’m free.
Heraklion has been the home town of some of Greece’s most significant spirits, including the novelist Nikos Kazantzakis (perhaps best known for his novel Zorba the Greek), the poet and Nobel Prize winner Odysseas Elytis and the world-famous painter Domenicos Theotokopoulos (El Greco).
Elli Alexiou (1894–1988) author
Minás Dimákis (1913–1980) poet
Odysseas Elytis (1911–1996) Nobel awarded poet
Tess Fragoulis, Greek-Canadian author
Rea Galanaki (1947–present) author
Giritli Ali Aziz Efendi (1749–1798), author and diplomat
Nikos Kazantzakis (1883–1957) author
Pedro de Candia, (1485–1542) author and travel writer, recorded the Spanish
Conquest of the Americas
Vitsentzos Kornaros (1553–1613) author
Stephanos Sahlikis (1330-after 1391) poet
Lili Zografou (1922–1998) author
Scientists and Scholars
Nicholas Kalliakis (1645–1707) Greek Cretan scholar and philosopher
Niccolò Comneno Papadopoli (1655–1740) lawyer, historian and librarian
Andreas Musalus (ca. 1665–1721) Greek Cretan professor of mathematics, philosopher and architectural theorist
Francesco Barozzi (1537–1604) mathematician and astronomer
Joseph Solomon Delmedigo (1591-1655) rabbi, author, physician, mathematician and musical theorist
Fotis Kafatos biologist, President of the European Research Council
Spyros Kokotos (1933–present) architect
Maximos Margunios (1549–1602) scholar, theologian, poet and writer, titular bishop of Kythira
Marcus Musurus (Markos Mousouros) (1470–1517) scholar and philosopher
Peter of Candia also known as Antipope Alexander V: philosopher and scholar
Joseph Sifakis (1946–present) computer scientist, co-recipient of the 2007 Turing Award
Michael N. Katehakis (1952–present) applied mathematician and operations researcher at Rutgers University
Gerasimos Vlachos (1607–1685), scholar
Simone Stratigo (ca. 1733–1824), Greek mathematician and an Nautical science expert, whose family was from Heraklion (Candia)
Painting and Sculpture
Theophanes (ca.1500–1559) painter of icons
Michael Damaskinos (1530/35-1592/93) painter of icons
El Greco (1541–1614) mannerist painter, sculpturer and architect
Theodoros Poulakis (1622–1692) painter of icons
Andreas Ritzos (1422–1492) painter of icons
Emmanuel Tzanes (1610–1690) painter of icons
Aristidis Vlassis (1947–2015) painter
Konstantinos Volanakis (1837–1907) painter
Rika Diallina (1934-), actress and model, Miss Hellas
Ilya Livykou (1919–2002), actress
Sapfo Notara (1907–1985), actress
Yannis Smaragdis (1946-), film director
Rena Kyriakou (1918–1994) pianist
Francisco Leontaritis (Francesco Londarit) (1518–1572) composer
Giannis Markopoulos (1939-) composer
Manolis Rasoulis (1945–2011) lyrics writer
Nikos Xilouris (1936–1980) composer and singer
Notis Sfakianakis (1959-) singer
Nikos Machlas (1973-) footballer
Georgios Samaras (1985-) footballer
Greg Massialas (1956-), American fencer and fencing coach
Constantine Corniaktos (1517–1603) wine merchant and wealthiest man in the
Eastern European city of Lviv
Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki (1955-) business woman, lawyer and politician
Leonidas Kyrkos (1924–2011), politician
Aristidis Stergiadis (1861–1950) High Commissioner of Smyrna
Machu Picchu (Spanish pronunciation: ˈmatʃu ˈpitʃu]) (Quechua: Machu Picchu; ˈmɑtʃu ˈpiktʃu]) is a 15th-century Incacitadel situated on a mountain ridge 2,430 metres (7,970 ft) above sea level. It is located in the Cusco Region, Urubamba Province, Machupicchu District in Peru, above the Sacred Valley, which is 80 kilometres (50 mi) northwest of Cuzco and through which the Urubamba River flows.
Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was constructed as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472). Often mistakenly referred to as the “Lost City of the Incas” (a title more accurately applied to Vilcabamba), it is the most familiar icon of Inca civilization. The Incas built the estate around 1450 but abandoned it a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest. Although known locally, it was not known to the Spanish during the colonial period and remained unknown to the outside world until American historian Hiram Bingham brought it to international attention in 1911.
Machu Picchu was built in the classical Inca style, with polished dry-stone walls. Its three primary structures are the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows. Most of the outlying buildings have been reconstructed in order to give tourists a better idea of how they originally appeared. By 1976, thirty percent of Machu Picchu had been restored and restoration continues.
Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historic Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. In 2007, Machu Picchu was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide Internet poll.
In the Quechua language, machu means “old” or “old person”, while picchu means “peak; mountain or prominence with a broad base that ends in sharp peaks”, hence the name of the site means “old peak”.
View of the city of Machu Picchu in 1912 showing the original ruins after major learing and before modern reconstruction work began.
Machu Picchu was built around 1450-1460. Its construction appears to date to the period of the two great Inca rulers, Pachacutec Inca Yupanqui (1438–71) and Túpac Inca Yupanqui (1472–93). There is a consensus among archaeologists that Pachacutec ordered the construction of the royal estate for himself, most likely after his successful military campaign. Though Machu Picchu is considered to be a “royal” estate, surprisingly, the estate would not have been passed down in the line of succession. It was only used for approximately 80 years before being abandoned seemingly due to destruction of the Spanish Conquests in other parts of the Inca Empire. It is possible that most of its inhabitants died from smallpox introduced by travellers before the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the area.
Daily Life of Machu Picchu as a Royal Estate
During its use as a royal estate, it is estimated that no more than 750 people lived there at a time, most people being support staff (yanaconas, yana) who lived there permanently. Though the estate belonged to Pachacutec, religious specialists and temporary specialized workers (mayocs) lived there as well, most likely for the ruler’s well-being and enjoyment. During the harsher season, staff dropped down to around a hundred servants and a few religious specialists focused only on maintenance.
Studies show that according to their skeletal remains, most people who lived there were immigrants from diverse backgrounds. They lacked the chemical markers and osteological markers they would have if they had been living there their whole lives. Instead, there was bone damage from various species of water parasites indigenous to different areas of Peru. There were also varying osteological stressors and varying chemical densities suggesting varying long term diets characteristic of specific regions that were spaced apart. These diets are composed of varying levels of maize, potatoes, grains, legumes, and fish, but the overall most recent short-term diet for these people composed of less fish and more corn. This suggests that several of the immigrants were from more coastal areas and moved to Machu Picchu where corn was a larger portion of food intake. The skeletal remains found at Machu Picchu are also unique in their level of natural bone damage from laborious activities. Most people found at the site had lower levels of arthritis and bone fractures found in most sites of the Inca Empire. Inca individuals that have arthritis and bone fractures are typically those who performed heavy physical labor (such as the Mit’a) and/or served in the Inca military.
Llama with Machu Picchu ruins in background.
Not only people were suspected to have immigrated to Machu Picchu, there were several animal bones found that were not native to the site. Most animal bones found were from llamas and alpacas. These animals naturally live in altitudes of 14000 ft above sea level rather than the mere 8000 ft Machu Picchu rests on. Most likely, these animals were brought in from the Puna region for meat consumption and for their pelts. Guinea pigs were also found at the site in special burial caves, suggesting that they were at least used for funerary rituals as it was common throughout the Inca Empire to use them for sacrifices and meat. Six dogs were also recovered from the site. Due to their placements among the human remains, it is believed that they served as companions of the dead.
Terraces used for farming at Machu Picchu
Studies have shown that much of the farming done at Machu Picchu was done on the hundreds of man-made terraces there. These terraces were a work of considerable engineering, built to ensure good drainage and soil fertility while also protecting the mountain itself from erosion and landslides. However, the terraces were not perfect, as studies of the land show that there were landslides that happened during the construction of Machu Picchu. It can still be seen where the terraces were shifted by landslides and then stabilized by the Inca as they continued to build around the area.
It is estimated that the area around the site has received more than 72 inches of rain per year since A.D. 1450, which was more than needed to support crop growth there. Because of the large amount of rainfall at Machu Picchu, it was found that irrigation was not needed for the terraces. The terraces received so much rain that they were built specifically to allow for ample drainage of the extra water. Excavation and soil analyses done by Kenneth Wright in the 90’s showed that the terraces were built in layers, with a bottom layer of larger stones covered by loose gravel. On top of the gravel was a layer of mixed sand and gravel packed together, with rich topsoil covering all of that. It was proven that the topsoil was probably moved from the valley floor to the terraces because it was much more rich than the soil higher up the mountain.
However, it has been found that the terrace farming area makes up only about 12 acres of land, and a study of the soil around the terraces showed that what was grown there was mostly corn and potatoes, which was not enough to support the 750+ people living at Machu Picchu. Therefore, when studies were done on the food that the Incas ate at Machu Picchu, it was found that much of what they ate was imported to the area from the surrounding valleys and farther.
Although it was located only about 80 kilometers (50 mi) from the Inca capital in Cusco, the Spanish never found Machu Picchu and so did not plunder or destroy it, as they did many other sites. The conquistadors had notes of a place called Piccho, although no record of a Spanish visit exists. The types of sacred rocks defaced by the conquistadors in other locations are untouched at Machu Picchu.
Over the centuries, the surrounding jungle overgrew the site, and few outside the immediate area knew of its existence. The site may have been discovered and plundered in 1867 by a German businessman, Augusto Berns. Some evidence indicates that German engineer J. M. von Hassel arrived earlier. Maps show references to Machu Picchu as early as 1874.
In 1911 American historian and explorer Hiram Bingham travelled the region looking for the old Inca capital and was led to Machu Picchu by a local farmer. Bingham brought Machu Picchu to international attention and organized another expedition in 1912 to undertake major clearing and excavation. He returned in 1914 and 1915 to continue with excavation.
In 1981, Peru declared an area of 325.92 square kilometres (125.84 sq mi) surrounding Machu Picchu a “Historic Sanctuary”. In addition to the ruins, the sanctuary includes a large portion of the adjoining region, rich with the flora and fauna of the Peruvian Yungas and Central Andean wet puna ecoregions.
In 1983, UNESCO designated Machu Picchu a World Heritage Site, describing it as “an absolute masterpiece of architecture and a unique testimony to the Inca civilization”.
First American expedition
Bingham was a lecturer at Yale University, although not a trained archaeologist. In 1909, returning from the Pan-American Scientific Congress in Santiago, he traveled through Peru and was invited to explore the Inca ruins at Choqquequirau in the Apurímac Valley. He organized the 1911 Yale Peruvian Expedition in part to search for the Inca capital, which was thought to be the city of Vitcos. He received funding for his travels from the National Geographic Society. He consulted Carlos Romero, a historian in Lima who showed him helpful references and Father Calancha’s Chronicle.
Hiram Bingham III at his tent door near Machu Picchu in 1912
Armed with this information the expedition went down the Urubamba River. En route Bingham asked local people to show them Inca ruins. By the time they camped at Mandor Pampa, with Huayna Picchu 2000 feet above them on the opposite bank, they had already examined several ruins, but none fit the descriptions of Vitcos.
At Mandor Pampa, Bingham asked farmer and innkeeper Melchor Arteaga if he knew of any nearby ruins. Arteaga said he knew of excellent ruins on the top of Huayna Picchu. The next day, 24 July, Arteaga led Bingham and Sergeant Carrasco across the river on a log bridge and up the Huayna Picchu mountain. At the top of the mountain they came across a small hut occupied by a couple of Quechua, Richarte and Alvarez, who were farming some of the original Machu Picchu agricultural terraces that they had cleared four years earlier. Alvarez’s 11-year-old son, Pablito, led Bingham along the ridge to the main ruins.
The ruins were mostly covered with vegetation except for the cleared agricultural terraces and clearings used by the farmers as vegetable gardens. Because of the vegetation Bingham was not able to observe the full extent of the site. He took preliminary notes, measurements and photographs, noting the fine quality of Inca stonework of several principal buildings. Bingham was unclear about the original purpose of the ruins, but decided that there was no indication that it matched the description of Vitcos.
The expedition continued down the Urubamba and up the Vilcabamba Rivers examining all the ruins they could find. Guided by locals Bingham rediscovered and correctly identified the site of the old Inca capital, Vitcos (then called Rosaspata), and the nearby temple of Chuquipalta. He then crossed a pass and into the Pampaconas Valley where he found more ruins heavily buried in the jungle undergrowth at Espíritu Pampa, which he named “Eromboni Pampa”. As was the case with Machu Picchu, the site was so heavily overgrown that Bingham could only note a few of the buildings. In 1964, Gene Savoy further explored the ruins at Espiritu Pampa and revealed the full extent of the site, identifying it as Vilcabamba Viejo where the Incas fled after the Spanish drove them from Vitcos.
On the return of the expedition up the Urubamba River, Bingham sent two men to clear and map the site he referred to as Machu Picchu. As Bingham failed to identify the ruins at Espiritu Pampa as Vilcabamba Viejo, he erroneously theorized that Machu Picchu was Vilcabamba Viejo. Machu Picchu features spectacular workmanship and a dramatic site, while Vilcabamba was built while the short-lived remnant Neo-Inca State was being vanquished by the Spanish; it was built quickly and features crude workmanship.
Bingham returned to Machu Picchu in 1912 under the sponsorship of Yale University and National Geographic again and with full support of Peruvian President Leguia. The expedition undertook a four-month clearing of the site with local labor, which was expedited with the support of the Prefect of Cuzco. Excavation started in 1912 with further excavation undertaken in 1914 and 1915. Bingham focused on Machu Picchu because of its fine Inca stonework and well-preserved nature, which had lain undisturbed since the site was abandoned. None of Bingham’s several hypotheses explaining the site held up. During his studies, he carried various artifacts back to Yale. One prominent artifact was a set of 15th-century, ceremonial Incan knives made from bismuth bronze; they are the earliest known artifact containing this alloy.
Although local institutions initially welcomed the exploration, they soon accused Bingham of legal and cultural malpractice. Rumors arose that the team was stealing artifacts and smuggling them out of Peru through Bolivia. (In fact, Bingham removed many artifacts, but openly and legally; they were deposited in the Yale University Museum. Bingham was abiding by the 1852 Civil Code of Peru; the code stated that “archaeological finds generally belonged to the discoverer, except when they had been discovered on private land.” (Batievsky 100) Local press perpetuated the accusations, claiming that the excavation harmed the site and deprived local archaeologists of knowledge about their own history. Landowners began to demand rent from the excavators. By the time Bingham and his team left Machu Picchu, locals had formed coalitions to defend their ownership of Machu Picchu and its cultural remains, while Bingham claimed the artifacts ought to be studied by experts in American institutions.
Human Sacrifice and Mysticism
Little information describes human sacrifices at Machu Picchu, though many sacrifices were never given a proper burial, and their skeletal remains succumbed to the elements. However, there is evidence that retainers were sacrificed to accompany a deceased noble in the afterlife. Animal, liquid and dirt sacrifices to the gods were much more common, made at the Altar of the Condor. The tradition is upheld by members of the New Age Andean religion.
Map of Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu lies in the southern hemisphere, 13.164 degrees south of the equator. It is 80 kilometres (50 miles) northwest of Cusco, on the crest of the mountain Machu Picchu, located about 2,430 metres (7,970 feet) above mean sea level, over 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) lower than Cusco, which has an elevation of 3,600 metres (11,800 ft). As such, it had a milder climate than the Inca capital. It is one of the most important archaeological sites in South America, one of the most visited tourist attractions in Latin America and the most visited in Peru.
Machu Picchu has wet and dry seasons, with the majority of annual rain falling from October through to April.
Machu Picchu is situated above a bow of the Urubamba River, which surrounds the site on three sides, where cliffs drop vertically for 450 metres (1,480 ft) to the river at their base. The area is subject to morning mists rising from the river. The location of the city was a military secret, and its deep precipices and steep mountains provided natural defenses. The Inca Bridge, an Inca grass rope bridge, across the Urubamba River in the Pongo de Mainique, provided a secret entrance for the Inca army. Another Inca bridge was built to the west of Machu Picchu, the tree-trunk bridge, at a location where a gap occurs in the cliff that measures 6 metres (20 ft). It could be bridged by two tree trunks, but with the trees removed, there was a 570 metres (1,870 ft) fall to the base of the cliffs.
The city sits in a saddle between the two mountains Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu, with a commanding view down two valleys and a nearly impassable mountain at its back. It has a water supply from springs that cannot be blocked easily. The hillsides leading to it were terraced, to provide more farmland to grow crops, and to steepen the slopes that invaders would have to ascend. The terraces reduced soil erosion and protected against landslides. Two high-altitude routes from Machu Picchu cross the mountains back to Cusco, one through the Sun Gate, and the other across the Inca bridge. Both could be blocked easily, should invaders approach along them.
Terraced fields in the upper agricultural sector
Temple of the Sun or Torreon
The site is roughly divided into an urban sector and an agricultural sector, and into an upper town and a lower town. The temples are in the upper town, the warehouses in the lower.
The architecture is adapted to the mountains. Approximately 200 buildings are arranged on wide parallel terraces around an east-west central square. The various compounds, called kanchas, are long and narrow in order to exploit the terrain. Sophisticated channeling systems provided irrigation for the fields. Stone stairways set in the walls allowed access to the different levels across the site. The eastern section of the city was probably residential. The western, separated by the square, was for religious and ceremonial purposes. This section contains the Torreón, the massive tower which may have been used as an observatory.
Located in the first zone are the primary archaeological treasures: the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun and the Room of the Three Windows. These were dedicated to Inti, their sun god and greatest deity.
The Popular District, or Residential District, is the place where the lower-class people lived. It includes storage buildings and simple houses.
The royalty area, a sector for the nobility, is a group of houses located in rows over a slope; the residence of the amautas (wise persons) was characterized by its reddish walls, and the zone of the ñustas (princesses) had trapezoid-shaped rooms. The Monumental Mausoleum is a carved statue with a vaulted interior and carved drawings. It was used for rites or sacrifices.
The Guardhouse is a three-sided building, with one of its long sides opening onto the Terrace of the Ceremonial Rock. The three-sided style of Inca architecture is known as the wayrona style.
In 2005 and 2009, the University of Arkansas made detailed laser scans of the entire site and of the ruins at the top of the adjacent Huayna Picchu mountain. The scan data is available online for research purposes.
Intihuatana is believed to have been designed as an astronomic clock or calendar by the Incas
The sculpture carved from the rock bottom of the sun temple is interpreted as “Water mirrors for observing the sky”.
The Intihuatana stone is one of many ritual stones in South America. These stones are arranged to point directly at the sun during the winter solstice. The name of the stone (perhaps coined by Bingham) derives from Quechua language: inti means “sun”, and wata-, “to tie, hitch (up)”. The suffix -na derives nouns for tools or places. Hence Intihuatana is literally an instrument or place to “tie up the sun”, often expressed in English as “The Hitching Post of the Sun”. The Inca believed the stone held the sun in its place along its annual path in the sky. The stone is situated at 13°9’48” S. At midday on 11 November and 30 January, the sun stands almost exactly above the pillar, casting no shadow. On 21 June, the stone casts the longest shadow on its southern side, and on 21 December a much shorter shadow on its northern side.
Inti Mach’ay and the Royal Feast of the Sun
Inti Mach’ay is a special cave used to observe the Royal Feast of the Sun. This festival was celebrated during the Incan month of Qhapaq Raymi. It began earlier in the month and concluded on the December solstice. On this day, noble boys were initiated into manhood by an ear-piercing ritual as they stood inside the cave and watched the sun rise.
Architecturally, Inti Mach’ay is the most significant structure at Machu Picchu. Its entrances, walls, steps and windows are some of the finest masonry in the Incan Empire. The cave also includes a tunnel-like window unique among Incan structures, which was constructed to only allow sunlight into the cave during several days around the December solstice. For this reason, the cave was inaccessible for much of the year. Inti Mach’ay is located on the eastern side of Machu Picchu, just north of the “Condor Stone.” Many of the caves surrounding this area were prehistorically used as tombs, yet there is no evidence that Mach’ay was a burial ground.
View of the residential section of Machu Picchu
Interior of an Inca building, featuring trapezoidal windows
Funerary Stone in upper cemetery
The central buildings use the classical Inca architectural style of polished dry-stone walls of regular shape. The Incas were masters of this technique, called ashlar, in which blocks of stone are cut to fit together tightly without mortar.
The section of the mountain where Machu Picchu was built provided various challenges that the Incas solved with local materials. One issue was the seismic activity due to two fault lines. It made mortar and similar building methods nearly useless. Instead, the Inca mined stones from the quarry at the site, lined them up and shaped them to fit together perfectly, stabilizing the structures. Inca walls have many stabilizing features: doors and windows are trapezoidal, narrowing from bottom to top; corners usually are rounded; inside corners often incline slightly into the rooms; and outside corners were often tied together by “L”-shaped blocks; walls are offset slightly from row to row rather than rising straight from bottom to top.
Heavy rainfall required terraces and stone chips to drain rain water and prevent mud slides, landslides, erosion and flooding. Terraces were layered with stone chips, sand, dirt and top soil, to absorb water and prevent it from running down the mountain. Similar layering protected the large city center from flooding. Multiple canals and reserves provide water throughout the city that could be supplied to the terraces for irrigation and to prevent erosion and flooding.
The Incas never used wheels in a practical way, although their use in toys shows that they knew the principle. The use of wheels in engineering may have been limited due to the lack of strong draft animals, steep terrain and dense vegetation. The approach to moving and placing the enormous stones remains uncertain, probably involving hundreds of men to push the stones up inclines. A few stones have knobs that could have been used to lever them into position; the knobs were generally sanded away, with a few overlooked.
Roads and Transportation
The Inca road system included a route to the Machu Picchu region. The people of Machu Picchu were connected to long-distance trade, as shown by non-local artifacts found at the site. For example, Bingham found unmodified obsidian nodules at the entrance gateway. In the 1970s, Burger and Asaro determined that these obsidian samples were from the Titicaca or Chivay obsidian source, and that the samples from Machu Picchu showed long-distance transport of this obsidian type in pre-Hispanic Peru.
Thousands of tourists walk the Inca Trail to visit Machu Picchu each year. They congregate at Cusco before starting on the one-, two-, four- or five-day journey on foot from Kilometer 82 (or 77 or 85, four/five-day trip) or Kilometer 104 (one/two-day trip) near the town of Ollantaytambo in the Urubamba valley, walking up through the Andes to the isolated city.
Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, both cultural and natural. Since its discovery in 1911, growing numbers of tourists visit the site yearly, reaching 400,000 in 2000. As Peru’s most visited tourist attraction and major revenue generator, it is continually exposed to economic and commercial forces. In the late 1990s, the Peruvian government granted concessions to allow the construction of a cable car and a luxury hotel, including a tourist complex with boutiques and restaurants and a bridge to the site. Many people protested the plans, including Peruvians and foreign scientists, saying that more visitors would pose a physical burden on the ruins. A no-fly zone exists above the area. UNESCO is considering putting Machu Picchu on its List of World Heritage in Danger.
During the 1980s a large rock from Machu Picchu’s central plaza was moved to a different location to create a helicopter landing zone. In the 1990s, the government prohibited helicopter landings. In 2006, a Cusco-based company, Helicusco, sought approval for tourist flights over Machu Picchu. The resulting license was soon rescinded.
Authorities have struggled to maintain tourist safety. Tourist deaths have been linked to altitude sickness, floods and hiking accidents. UNESCO received criticism for allowing tourists at the location given high risks of landslides, earthquakes and injury due to decaying structures.
Nude tourism is a recent trend, to the dismay of Peruvian officials. In several incidents, tourists were detained for posing for nude pictures or streaking across the site. Peru’s Ministry of Culture denounced these acts for threatening Peru’s cultural heritage. Cusco’s Regional Director of Culture increased surveillance to end the practice.
January 2010 Evacuation
In January 2010, heavy rain caused flooding that buried or washed away roads and railways to Machu Picchu, trapping more than 2,000 locals and more than 2,000 tourists, later airlifted out. Machu Picchu was temporarily closed, reopening on 1 April 2010.
In July 2011, the Dirección Regional de Cultura Cusco (DRC) introduced new entrance rules to the citadel of Machu Picchu. The tougher entrance rules attempted to reduce the effect of tourism. The entrance was limited to 2,500 visitors per day, and the entrance to Huayna Picchu (within the citadel) was further restricted to 400 visitors per day, in two-time slots, at 7 and 10 AM.
In May 2012, a team of UNESCO conservation experts called upon Peruvian authorities to take “emergency measures” to further stabilize the site’s buffer zone and protect it from damage, particularly in the nearby town of Aguas Calientes, which had grown rapidly.
Cultural artifacts: Dispute between Peru and Yale University
In 1912, 1914 and 1915, Bingham removed thousands of artifacts from Machu Picchu—ceramic vessels, silver statues, jewelry and human bones—and took them to Yale University for further study, supposedly for 18 months. Yale instead kept the artifacts until 2012, arguing that Peru lacked the infrastructure and systems to care for them. Eliane Karp, an anthropologist and wife of former Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo, accused Yale of profiting from Peru’s cultural heritage. Many of the articles were exhibited at Yale’s Peabody Museum.
In 2006, Yale returned some pieces but kept the rest, claiming this was supported by federal case law of Peruvian antiquities. In 2007, Peru and Yale had agreed on a joint traveling exhibition and construction of a new museum and research center in Cusco advised by Yale. Yale acknowledged Peru’s title to all the objects, but would share rights with Peru in the research collection, part of which would remain at Yale for continuing study. On 21 November 2010, Yale agreed to return the disputed artifacts. The third and final batch of artifacts was delivered November 2012. The artifacts are permanently exhibited at La Casa Concha (“The Shell House”) close to Cusco’s colonial center. Owned by the National University of San Antonio Abad del Cusco, La Casa Concha also features a study area for local and foreign students.
The Paramount Pictures film Secret of the Incas (1955), with Charlton Heston and Ima Sumac, was filmed on location at Cusco and Machu Picchu, the first time that a major Hollywood studio filmed on site. Five hundred indigenous people were hired as extras in the film.
The opening sequence of the film Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) was shot in the Machu Picchu area and on the stone stairway of Huayna Picchu.
Machu Picchu was featured prominently in the film, The Motorcycle Diaries (2004), a biopic based on the 1952 youthful travel memoir of Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara.
The NOVA television documentary “Ghosts of Machu Picchu” presents an elaborate documentary on the mysteries of Machu Picchu.
Contemporary multimedia artist Kimsooja used Macchu Picchu as the primary setting for the first episode of her film series Thread Routes, shot in 2010.
The song “Kilimanjaro”, from the South Indian Tamil film Enthiran (2010), was filmed in Machu Picchu. The sanction for filming was granted only after direct intervention from the Indian government.
Panoramic view of Machu Picchu
Panoramic view of Machu Picchu from Huayna Picchu
Panoramic view of Machu Picchu
Up-close view of Incan ruins on Machu Picchu
Panoramic view of Machu Picchu from Machu Picchu mountain surrounded by the Urubamba River
Helike(/ˈhɛlɪkiː/; Greek: Ἑλίκη, pronounced [heˈlikɛː], modern Greek pronunciation: [eˈlici]) was an ancient Greek city that was submerged by a tsunami in the winter of 373 BC. It was located in Achaea, Northern Peloponnesos, two kilometres (12 stadia) from the Corinthian Gulf and near the city of Boura, which, like Helike, was a member of the Achaean League. Modern research attributes the catastrophe to an earthquake and accompanying tsunami which destroyed and submerged the city. In an effort to protect the site from destruction, the World Monuments Fund included Helike in its 2004 and 2006 List of 100 Most Endangered Sites.
Excavations at the site of Helike. In this case, a Hellenistic-era building; possibly used as a dye-works
Shown within Greece
Contents 1 History 1.1 Subsequent events 2 Research efforts 3 Rediscovery 4 See also 5 References 6 External links
A coin from Helike.
Helike was founded in the Bronze Age, becoming the principal city of Achaea. The poet Homer states that the city of Eliki participated in the Trojan War as a part of Agamemnon’s forces. Later, following its fall to the Achaeans, Eliki led the Achaean League, an association that joined twelve neighboring cities in an area including today’s town of Aigio. Eliki, also known as Dodekapolis (from the Greek words dodeka meaning twelve and polis meaning city), became a cultural and religious center with its own coinage. Finds from ancient Eliki are limited to two 5th-century copper coins, now housed in Bode Museum, Berlin. The obverse shows the head of Poseidon, the city’s patron, and the reverse his trident. There was a temple dedicated to the Helikonian Poseidon.
Helike founded colonies including Priene in Asia Minor and Sybaris in South Italy. Its panhellenic temple and sanctuary of Helikonian Poseidon were known throughout the Classical world, and second only in religious importance to Delphi.
The city was destroyed in 373 BC, two years before the Battle of Leuctra, during a winter night. Several events were construed in retrospect as having warned of the disaster: some “immense columns of flame” appeared, and five days previously, all animals and vermin fled the city, going toward Keryneia. The city and a space of 12 stadia below it sank into the earth and were covered over by the sea. All the inhabitants perished without a trace, and the city was obscured from view except for a few building fragments projecting from the sea. Ten Spartan ships anchored in the harbour were dragged down with it. An attempt involving 2000 men to recover bodies was unsuccessful. Aigion took possession of its territory.
The catastrophe was attributed to the vengeance of Poseidon, whose wrath was incited because the inhabitants of Helike had refused to give their statue of Poseidon to the Ionian colonists in Asia, or even to supply them with a model. According to some authorities, the inhabitants of Helike and Bura had even murdered the Ionian deputies.
About 150 years after the disaster, the philosopher Eratosthenes visited the site and reported that a standing bronze statue of Poseidon was submerged in a “poros”, “holding in one hand a hippocamp”, where it posed a hazard to those who fished with nets.
Around AD 174 the traveler Pausanias visited a coastal site still called Helike, located 7 km southeast of Aigio, and reported that the walls of the ancient city were still visible under water, “but not so plainly now as they were once, because they are corroded by the salt water”.
For centuries after, its submerged ruins could still be seen. Roman tourists frequently sailed over the site, admiring the city’s statuary. Later the site silted over and the location was lost to memory.
Adalberto Giovannini[de] argued that the submergence of Helike might have inspired Plato to write his story about Atlantis. Ancient scholars and writers who visited the ruins include the Greeks Strabo, Pausanias and Diodoros of Sicily, and the Romans Aelian and Ovid.
On 23 August 1817, a similar disaster, an earthquake followed by a tsunami, occurred on the same spot. The earthquake was preceded by a sudden explosion, like that produced by a battery of cannon. The aftershock was said to have lasted a minute and a half, during which the sea rose at the mouth of the Selinous River and extended to cover all the ground immediately below Vostitza (the ancient Aigion). After its retreat, not a trace was left of some artillery depots which had stood on the shore, and the beach was carried away completely. In Vostitza, 65 people lost their lives and two thirds of its buildings were entirely ruined, as were five villages in the plain.
The submerged town was long one of the biggest targets for underwater archaeology. Scientists were divided in their opinions about the exact location of Helike. Numerous archaeologists, historians, professors and explorers wrote, studied and actively searched, trying to discover any trace of the ancient town, with little success. But their work, essays, observations and studies contributed to an important and growing body of knowledge. Among them are the following:
In 1826, François Pouqueville, French diplomat and archaeologist, who wrote the Voyage en Grèce; in 1851 Ernst Curtius the German archaeologist and historian who speculated about its location; in 1879 J. F. Julius Schmidt, the director of Athens Observatory, issuing a study comparing the Aegeion earthquake which occurred 26 December 1861 with an earthquake which might have destroyed Helike; in 1883 Spiros Panagiotopoulos, the mayor of Aegeion city, wrote about the ancient city; in 1912 the Greek writer P. K. Ksinopoulos wrote The City of Aegeion Through the Centuries and in 1939 Stanley Casson, an English art scholar and army officer who studied classical archaeology and served in Greece as liaison officer, addressed the problem.
Other investigators include in 1948 the German archaeologist Georg Karo; in 1950 Robert Demangel, who was from 1933 to 1948 the director of the French School of Archaeology in Athens; in 1950 Alfred Philippson, German geologist and geographer; in 1952 Spiros Dontas, Greek writer and member of the Academy of Athens; in 1954 Aristos Stauropoulos, a Greek writer who published the History of the city of Aegeion; in 1956 the Greek Professor N. Κ. Moutsopoulos; in 1967 Spyros Marinatos, a Greek archaeologist who wrote the Research about Helike and in 1968 Helike-Thira-Thieves; in 1962 George K. Georgalas, the Greek writer; and in 1967 Nikos Papahatzis, a Greek archaeologist who published Pausanias’ Description of Greece.
Spyridon Marinatos, emphasizing the importance of the discovery of Helike, said that only the declaration of a third world war would obscure the discovery of Helike. He pointed out Helike as an unresolved problem of Greek archaeology in 1960. In 1967, Harold Eugene Edgerton worked with the American researcher Peter Throckmorton. They were convinced that Helike was to be found on the seabed of the Gulf of Corinth. Edgerton perfected special sonar equipment for this research but permission to search was not granted by the Greek authorities. In 1967 and in 1976, Jacques Cousteau made some efforts with no result. In 1979 in the Corinthian Gulf, the Greek undersea explorer Alexis Papadopoulos discovered a sunken town and recorded his findings in a documentary film which shows walls, fallen roofs, roof tiles, streets, etc. at a depth of between 25 and 45 m. “Whether or not this town can be identified with Helike is a question to be answered by extensive underwater research. In any case, the discovery of this town can be regarded as an extremely interesting find”, according to the Greek scientific journal Archaeology.
In 1988, the Greek archaeologist Dora Katsonopoulou, president of the Helike Society, and Steven Soter of the American Museum of Natural History launched the Helike Project to locate the site of the lost city. Ancient texts, telling the story of Helike, said that the city had sunk into a poros, which everyone interpreted as the Corinthian Gulf. However, Katsonopoulou and Soter raised the possibility that poros could have meant an inland lagoon. If an earthquake caused soil liquefaction on a large scale, the city would have been taken downward below the sea level. Also, if an earthquake caused the sections of coastline to fall into the sea, this would have created a tsunami, which in turn would have flooded the inland lagoon with the city in it. Over time, the river sediment coming down from the mountains would have filled in the lagoon hiding the city remains beneath the solid ground.
Before Helike was rediscovered, a few false starts came along the way. In 1994, in collaboration with the University of Patras, a magnetometer survey carried out in the midplain of the delta revealed the outlines of a buried building. This target (now known as the Klonis site) was excavated and a large Roman building with standing walls was found. Also a well-preserved settlement of an early bronze age was uncovered. Finally, in 2001, the city of Helike was rediscovered buried in an ancient lagoon near the village of Rizomylos. To further confirm that the discovered site belongs to Helike, the earthquake destruction layer consisting of cobblestones, clay roof tiles, and pottery was uncovered in 2012. This destruction layer is in good agreement with ancient texts on the location of Helike and earthquake effects to the city.
Excavations are being carried out in the Helike delta each summer and have brought to light significant archeological finds dating from prehistoric times when Helike was founded up until its revival in Hellenistic and Roman times.
Angkor(Khmer: អង្គរ, “Capital City”) was the capital city of the Khmer Empire, which also recognized as Yasodharapura (Khmer: យសោធរបុរៈ ;Sanskrit: यशोधरपुर) and flourished from approximately the 9th to 15th centuries. Angkor was a megacity supporting at least 0.1% of the global population during 1010-1220. The city houses the magnificent Angkor Wat, one of Cambodia’s popular tourist attractions.
The word Angkor is derived from the Sanskrit nagara (नगर), meaning “city”. The Angkorian period began in AD 802, when the Khmer Hindu monarch Jayavarman II declared himself a “universal monarch” and “god-king”, and lasted until the late 14th century, first falling under Ayutthayan suzerainty in 1351. A Khmer rebellion against Siamese authority resulted in the 1431 sacking of Angkor by Ayutthaya, causing its population to migrate south to Longvek.
The ruins of Angkor are located amid forests and farmland north of the Great Lake (Tonlé Sap) and south of the Kulen Hills, near modern-day Siem Reap city (13°24′N, 103°51′E), in Siem Reap Province. The temples of the Angkor area number over one thousand, ranging in scale from nondescript piles of brick rubble scattered through rice fields to the Angkor Wat, said to be the world’s largest single religious monument. Many of the temples at Angkor have been restored, and together, they comprise the most significant site of Khmer architecture. Visitors approach two million annually, and the entire expanse, including Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom is collectively protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The popularity of the site among tourists presents multiple challenges to the preservation of the ruins.
In 2007, an international team of researchers using satellite photographs and other modern techniques concluded that Angkor had been the largest pre-industrial city in the world, with an elaborate infrastructure system connecting an urban sprawl of at least 1,000 square kilometres (390 sq mi) to the well-known temples at its core. Angkor is considered to be a “hydraulic city” because it had a complicated water management network, which was used for systematically stabilizing, storing, and dispersing water throughout the area. This network is believed to have been used for irrigation in order to offset the unpredictable monsoon season and to also support the increasing population. Although the size of its population remains a topic of research and debate, newly identified agricultural systems in the Angkor area may have supported up to one million people.
Contents 1 Historical overview 1.1 Seat of the Khmer Empire 1.2 Construction of Angkor Wat 1.3 Jayavarman VII 1.4 Zhou Daguan 1.5 End of the Angkorian period 1.5.1 War with the Ayutthaya Kingdom 1.5.2 Erosion of the state religion 1.5.3 Neglect of public works 1.5.4 Natural disaster 1.6 Restoration, preservation, and threats 1.6.1 Water-table dropping 1.6.2 Looting 1.6.3 Unsustainable tourism 2 Religious history 2.1 Pre-Angkorian religion 2.2 Shiva and the lingam 2.3 Vaishnavism 2.4 Mahayana Buddhism 2.5 Hindu restoration 2.6 Religious pluralism 2.7 Theravada Buddhism 3 Archaeological sites 4 Terms and phrases
Seat of the Khmer Empire
Gate into Angkor Thom
The Angkorian period may have begun shortly after 800 AD, when the Khmer King Jayavarman II announced the independence of Kambujadesa (Cambodia) from Java and established his capital of Hariharalaya (now known as Roluos) at the northern end of Tonlé Sap. Through a program of military campaigns, alliances, marriages and land grants, he achieved a unification of the country bordered by China to the north, Champa (now Central Vietnam) to the east, the ocean to the south and a place identified by a stone inscription as “the land of cardamoms and mangoes” to the west. In 802, Jayavarman articulated his new status by declaring himself “universal monarch” (chakravartin) and, in a move that was to be imitated by his successors and that linked him to the cult of Siva, taking on the epithet of “god-king” (devaraja). Before Jayavarman, Cambodia had consisted of a number of politically independent principalities collectively known to the Chinese by the names Funan and Chenla.
Angkor Wat at sunrise
In 889, Yasovarman ascended to the throne. A great king and an accomplished builder, he was celebrated by one inscription as “a lion-man; he tore the enemy with the claws of his grandeur; his teeth were his policies; his eyes were the Veda.” Near the old capital of Hariharalaya, Yasovarman constructed a new city, called Yaśodharapura. In the tradition of his predecessors, he also constructed a massive reservoir called baray. The significance of such reservoirs has been debated by modern scholars, some of whom have seen in them a means of irrigating rice fields, and others of whom have regarded them as religiously charged symbols of the great mythological oceans surrounding Mount Meru, the abode of the gods. The mountain, in turn, was represented by an elevated temple, in which the “god-king” was represented by a lingam. In accordance with this cosmic symbolism, Yasovarman built his central temple on a low hill known as Phnom Bakheng, surrounding it with a moat fed from the baray. He also built numerous other Hindu temples and ashrams, or retreats for ascetics.
Over the next 300 years, between 900 and 1200, the Khmer Empire produced some of the world’s most magnificent architectural masterpieces in the area known as Angkor. Most are concentrated in an area approximately 15 miles (24 km) east to west and 5 miles (8.0 km) north to south, although the Angkor Archaeological Park, which administers the area, includes sites as far away as Kbal Spean, about 30 miles (48 km) to the north. Some 72 major temples or other buildings are found within this area, and the remains of several hundred additional minor temple sites are scattered throughout the landscape beyond. Because of the low-density and dispersed nature of the medieval Khmer settlement pattern, Angkor lacks a formal boundary, and its extent is therefore difficult to determine. However, a specific area of at least 1,000 km2 (390 sq mi) beyond the major temples is defined by a complex system of infrastructure, including roads and canals that indicate a high degree of connectivity and functional integration with the urban core. In terms of spatial extent (although not in terms of population), this makes it the largest urban agglomeration in recorded history prior to the Industrial Revolution, easily surpassing the nearest claim by the Mayan city of Tikal. At its peak, the city occupied an area greater than modern Paris, and its buildings use far more stone than all of the Egyptian structures combined.
Construction of Angkor Wat
Buddhist monks at Angkor
The principal temple of the Angkorian region, Angkor Wat, was built between 1113 and 1150 by King Suryavarman II. Suryavarman ascended to the throne after prevailing in a battle with a rival prince. An inscription says that, in the course of combat, Suryavarman leapt onto his rival’s war elephant and killed him, just as the mythical bird-man Garuda slays a serpent.
After consolidating his political position through military campaigns, diplomacy, and a firm domestic administration, Suryavarman launched into the construction of Angkor Wat as his personal temple mausoleum. Breaking with the tradition of the Khmer kings, and influenced perhaps by the concurrent rise of Vaisnavism in India, he dedicated the temple to Vishnu rather than to Siva. With walls nearly half a mile long on each side, Angkor Wat grandly portrays the Hindu cosmology, with the central towers representing Mount Meru, home of the gods; the outer walls, the mountains enclosing the world; and the moat, the oceans beyond. The traditional theme of identifying the Khmer devaraja with the gods, and his residence with that of the celestials, is very much in evidence. The measurements themselves of the temple and its parts in relation to one another have cosmological significance. Suryavarman had the walls of the temple decorated with bas reliefs depicting not only scenes from mythology, but also from the life of his own imperial court. In one of the scenes, the king himself is portrayed as larger in size than his subjects, sitting cross-legged on an elevated throne and holding court, while a bevy of attendants make him comfortable with the aid of parasols and fans.
Portrait of Jayavarman VII on display at Musee Guimet, Paris
Following the death of Suryavarman around 1150 AD, the kingdom fell into a period of internal strife. Its neighbors to the east, the Cham of what is now southern Vietnam, took advantage of the situation in 1177 to launch a water-borne invasion up the Mekong River and across Tonlé Sap. The Cham forces were successful in sacking the Khmer capital of Yaśodharapura and in killing the reigning king. However, a Khmer prince who was to become King Jayavarman VII rallied his people and defeated the Cham in battles on the lake and on the land. In 1181, Jayavarman assumed the throne. He was to be the greatest of the Angkorian kings. Over the ruins of Yaśodharapura, Jayavarman constructed the walled city of Angkor Thom, as well as its geographic and spiritual center, the temple known as the Bayon. Bas-reliefs at the Bayon depict not only the king’s battles with the Cham, but also scenes from the life of Khmer villagers and courtiers. Jayavarman oversaw the period of Angkor’s most prolific construction, which included building of the well-known temples of Ta Prohm and Preah Khan, dedicating them to his parents. This massive program of construction coincided with a transition in the state religion from Hinduism to Mahayana Buddhism, since Jayavarman himself had adopted the latter as his personal faith. During Jayavarman’s reign, Hindu temples were altered to display images of the Buddha, and Angkor Wat briefly became a Buddhist shrine. Following his death, the revival of Hinduism as the state religion included a large-scale campaign of desecrating Buddhist images, and continued until Theravada Buddhism became established as the land’s dominant religion from the 14th century.
The year 1296 marked the arrival at Angkor of the Chinese diplomat Zhou Daguan. Zhou’s one-year sojourn in the Khmer capital during the reign of King Indravarman III is historically significant, because he penned a still-surviving account, The Customs of Cambodia, of approximately 40 pages detailing his observations of Khmer society. Some of the topics he addressed in the account were those of religion, justice, kingship, agriculture, slavery, birds, vegetables, bathing, clothing, tools, draft animals, and commerce. In one passage, he described a royal procession consisting of soldiers, numerous servant women and concubines, ministers and princes, and finally, “the sovereign, standing on an elephant, holding his sacred sword in his hand.” Together with the inscriptions that have been found on Angkorian stelae, temples and other monuments, and with the bas-reliefs at the Bayon and Angkor Wat, Zhou’s journal is the most important source of information about everyday life at Angkor. Filled with vivid anecdotes and sometimes incredulous observations of a civilization that struck Zhou as colorful and exotic, it is an entertaining travel memoir as well.
Bas-reliefs of Angkor
End of the Angkorian Period
The end of the Angkorian period is generally set as 1431, the year Angkor was sacked and looted by Ayutthaya invaders, though the civilization already had been in decline in the 13th and 14th centuries. During the course of the 15th century, nearly all of Angkor was abandoned, except for Angkor Wat, which remained a Buddhist shrine. Several theories have been advanced to account for the decline and abandonment of Angkor:
War with the Ayutthaya Kingdom
Map of the Khmer Empire (in red) in 900 AD
It is widely believed that the abandonment of the Khmer capital occurred as a result of Ayutthaya invasions. Ongoing wars with the Siamese were already sapping the strength of Angkor at the time of Zhou Daguan toward the end of the 13th century. In his memoirs, Zhou reported that the country had been completely devastated by such a war, in which the entire population had been obligated to participate. After the collapse of Angkor in 1431, many statues were taken to the Ayutthaya capital of Ayutthaya in the west, while others departed for the new center of Khmer society at Longvek further south, though the official capital later moved, first to Oudong around 45 kilometres (28 mi) from Phnom Penh in Ponhea Leu District, and then to the present site of Phnom Penh.
Erosion of the State Religion
Some scholars have connected the decline of Angkor with the conversion of the Khmer Empire to Theravada Buddhism following the reign of Jayavarman VII, arguing that this religious transition eroded the Hindu conception of kingship that undergirded the Angkorian civilization. According to Angkor scholar George Coedès, Theravada Buddhism’s denial of the ultimate reality of the individual served to sap the vitality of the royal personality cult which had provided the inspiration for the grand monuments of Angkor. The vast expanse of temples required an equally large body of workers to maintain them; at Ta Prohm, a stone carving states that 12,640 people serviced that single temple complex. Not only could the spread of Buddhism have eroded this workforce, but it could have also affected the estimated 300,000 agricultural workers required to feed them all.
Neglect of Public Works
According to George Coedès, the weakening of Angkor’s royal government by ongoing war and the erosion of the cult of the devaraja undermined the government’s ability to engage in important public works, such as the construction and maintenance of the waterways essential for irrigation of the rice fields upon which Angkor’s large population depended for its sustenance. As a result, Angkorian civilization suffered from a reduced economic base, and the population was forced to scatter.
Chau Say Tevoda
Other scholars attempting to account for the rapid decline and abandonment of Angkor have hypothesized natural disasters such as disease (Bubonic Plague), earthquakes, inundations, or drastic climate changes as the relevant agents of destruction. A study of tree rings in Vietnam, produced a record of early monsoons that passed through this area. From this study, we can tell that during the 14th-15th centuries monsoons were weakened and eventually followed by extreme flooding. Their inability to adapt their flooding infrastructure may have led to its eventual decline. Recent research by Australian archaeologists suggests that the decline may have been due to a shortage of water caused by the transition from the Medieval Warm Period to the Little Ice Age. LDEO dendrochronological research has established tree-ring chronologies indicating severe periods of drought across mainland Southeast Asia in the early 15th century, raising the possibility that Angkor’s canals and reservoirs ran dry and ended expansion of available farmland.
Restoration, Preservation, and Threats
A 16th century Portuguese friar, António da Madalena, was the first European visitor to visit Angkor Wat in 1586. By the 17th century, Angkor Wat was not completely abandoned. Fourteen inscriptions from the 17th century testify to Japanese settlements alongside those of the remaining Khmer. The best-known inscription tells of Ukondafu Kazufusa, who celebrated the Khmer New Year there in 1632.
While Angkor was known to the local Khmer and was shown to European visitors; Henri Mouhot in 1860 and Anna Leonowens in 1865, it remained cloaked by the forest until the end of the 19th century. European archeologists such as Louis Delaporte and ethnologists such as Adolf Bastian visited the site and popularized the site in Europe. This eventually led to a long restoration process by French archaeologists. From 1907 to 1970, work was under the direction of the École française d’Extrême-Orient, which cleared away the forest, repaired foundations, and installed drains to protect the buildings from water damage. In addition, scholars associated with the school including George Coedès, Maurice Glaize, Paul Mus, Philippe Stern and others initiated a program of historical scholarship and interpretation that is fundamental to the current understanding of Angkor.
Work resumed after the end of the Cambodian Civil War and, since 1993, has been jointly co-ordinated by India, Germany, Japan and UNESCO through the International Co-ordinating Committee on the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor (ICC), while Cambodian work is carried out by the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap (APSARA), created in 1995. Some temples have been carefully taken apart stone by stone and reassembled on concrete foundations, in accordance with the method of anastylosis. World Monuments Fund has aided Preah Khan, the Churning of the Sea of Milk (a 49-meter-long bas-relief frieze in Angkor Wat), Ta Som, and Phnom Bakheng. International tourism to Angkor has increased significantly in recent years, with visitor numbers reaching around 2 million a year by 2014; this poses additional conservation problems but has also provided financial assistance to the restoration effort.
With the increased growth in tourism at Angkor, new hotels and restaurants are being built to accommodate such growth. Each new construction project drills underground to reach the water table, which has a limited storage capacity. This demand on the water table could undermine the stability of the sandy soils under the monuments at Angkor, leading to cracks, fissures and collapses. Making matters worse, the peak tourist season corresponds with Cambodia’s dry season, which leads to excessive pumping of ground water when it is least replenished naturally.
Looting has been an ever-growing threat to the Angkor archaeological landscape. According to APSARA, the official Cambodian agency charged with overseeing the management of Angkor, “vandalism has multiplied at a phenomenal rate, employing local populations to carry out the actual thefts, heavily armed intermediaries transport objects, often in tanks or armored personnel carriers, often for sale across the Cambodian border.”
The increasing number of tourists, around two million per year, exerts pressure on the archaeological sites at Angkor by walking and climbing on the (mostly) sandstone monuments at Angkor. This direct pressure created by unchecked tourism is expected to cause significant damage to the monuments in the future.
In sites such as Angkor, tourism is inevitable. Therefore, the site management team cannot exclusively manage the site. The team has to manage the flow of people. Millions of people visit Angkor each year, making the management of this flow vital to the quickly decaying structures. Western tourism to Angkor began in the 1970s. The sandstone monuments and Angkor are not made for this type of heightened tourism. Moving forward, UNESCO and local authorities at the site are in the process of creating a sustainable plan for the future of the site. Since 1992, UNESCO has moved towards conserving Angkor. Thousands of new archaeological sites have been discovered by UNESCO, and the organization has moved towards protected cultural zones. Two decades later, over 1000 people are employed full-time at the site for cultural sensitivity reasons. Part of this movement to limit the impacts of tourism has been to only open certain areas of the site. However, much of the 1992 precautionary measures and calls for future enforcement have fallen through. Both globally and locally the policy-making has been successful, but the implementation has failed for several reasons. First, there are conflicts of interest in Cambodia. While the site is culturally important to them, Cambodia is a poor country. Its GDP is marginally larger than Afghanistan’s. Tourism is a vital part to the Cambodian economy, and shutting down parts of Angkor, the largest tourist destination in the country, is not an option. A second reason stems from the government’s inability to organize around the site. The Cambodian government has failed in organizing a robust team of cultural specialists and archaeologists to service the site.
Historical Angkor was more than a site for religious art and architecture. It was the site of vast cities that served all the needs of the Khmer people. Aside from a few old bridges, however, all of the remaining monuments are religious edifices. In Angkorian times, all non-religious buildings, including the residence of the king himself, were constructed of perishable materials, such as wood, “because only the gods had a right to residences made of stone.” Similarly, the vast majority of the surviving stone inscriptions are about the religious foundations of kings and other potentates. As a result, it is easier to write the history of Angkorian state religion than it is to write that of just about any other aspect of Angkorian society.
Several religious movements contributed to the historical development of religion at Angkor:
Indigenous religious cults mixed with Shaivism, including those centered on worship of the ancestors and of the lingam;
A royal cult of personality, identifying the king with the deity, characteristic not only of Angkor, but of other Hindu civilizations in southeast Asia, such as Champa and Java;
Hinduism, especially Shaivism, the form of Hinduism focused on the worship of Shiva and the lingam as the symbol of Shiva, but also Vaishnavism, the form of Hinduism focussed on the worship of Vishnu;
Buddhism, in both its Mahayana and Theravada varieties.
Dedicated by Rajendravarman in 948 A.D., Baksei Chamkrong is a temple-pyramid that housed a statue of Shiva
The religion of pre-Angkorian Cambodia, known to the Chinese as Funan (1st century AD to ca. 550) and Chenla (ca. 550 – ca. 800 AD), included elements of Hinduism, Buddhism and indigenous ancestor cults.
Temples from the period of Chenla bear stone inscriptions, in both Sanskrit and Khmer, naming both Hindu and local ancestral deities, with Shiva supreme among the former. The cult of Harihara was prominent; Buddhism was not, because, as reported by the Chinese pilgrim Yi Jing, a “wicked king” had destroyed it. Characteristic of the religion of Chenla also was the cult of the lingam, or stone phallus that patronized and guaranteed fertility to the community in which it was located.
Shiva and the Lingam
The Khmer king Jayavarman II, whose assumption of power around 800 AD marks the beginning of the Angkorian period, established his capital at a place called Hariharalaya (today known as Roluos), at the northern end of the great lake, Tonlé Sap. Harihara is the name of a deity that combines the essence of Vishnu (Hari) with that of Shiva (Hara) and that was much favored by the Khmer kings. Jayavarman II’s adoption of the epithet “devaraja” (god-king) signified the monarch’s special connection with Shiva.
The beginning of the Angkorian period was also marked by changes in religious architecture. During the reign of Jayavarman II, the single-chambered sanctuaries typical of Chenla gave way to temples constructed as a series of raised platforms bearing multiple towers. Increasingly impressive temple pyramids came to represent Mount Meru, the home of the Hindu gods, with the moats surrounding the temples representing the mythological oceans.
An 11th- or 12th-century Cambodian bronze statue of Vishnu
Typically, a lingam served as the central religious image of the Angkorian temple-mountain. The temple-mountain was the center of the city, and the lingam in the main sanctuary was the focus of the temple. The name of the central lingam was the name of the king himself, combined with the suffix -esvara, which designated Shiva. Through the worship of the lingam, the king was identified with Shiva, and Shaivism became the state religion. Thus, an inscription dated 881 AD indicates that king Indravarman I erected a lingam named Indresvara. Another inscription tells us that Indravarman erected eight lingams in his courts and that they were named for the “eight elements of Shiva”. Similarly, Rajendravarman, whose reign began in 944 AD, constructed the temple of Pre Rup, the central tower of which housed the royal lingam called Rajendrabhadresvara.
In the early days of Angkor, the worship of Vishnu was secondary to that of Shiva. The relationship seems to have changed with the construction of Angkor Wat by King Suryavarman II as his personal mausoleum at the beginning of the 12th century. The central religious image of Angkor Wat was an image of Vishnu, and an inscription identifies Suryavarman as “Paramavishnuloka,” or “he who enters the heavenly world of Vishnu.” Religious syncretism, however, remained thoroughgoing in Khmer society: the state religion of Shaivism was not necessarily abrogated by Suryavarman’s turn to Vishnu, and the temple may well have housed a royal lingam. Furthermore, the turn to Vaishnavism did not abrogate the royal personality cult of Angkor. by which the reigning king was identified with the deity. According to Angkor scholar Georges Coedès, “Angkor Wat is, if you like, a vaishnavite sanctuary, but the Vishnu venerated there was not the ancient Hindu deity nor even one of the deity’s traditional incarnations, but the king Suryavarman II posthumously identified with Vishnu, consubstantial with him, residing in a mausoleum decorated with the graceful figures of apsaras just like Vishnu in his celestial palace.” Suryavarman proclaimed his identity with Vishnu, just as his predecessors had claimed consubstantiation with Shiva.
Face towers of the Bayon represent the king as the Bodhisattva Lokesvara.
In the last quarter of the 12th century, King Jayavarman VII departed radically from the tradition of his predecessors when he adopted Mahayana Buddhism as his personal faith. Jayavarman also made Buddhism the state religion of his kingdom when he constructed the Buddhist temple known as the Bayon at the heart of his new capital city of Angkor Thom. In the famous face towers of the Bayon, the king represented himself as the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara moved by compassion for his subjects. Thus, Jayavarman was able to perpetuate the royal personality cult of Angkor, while identifying the divine component of the cult with the bodhisattva rather than with Shiva.
The Hindu restoration began around 1243 AD, with the death of Jayavarman VII’s successor, Indravarman II. The next king, Jayavarman VIII, was a Shaivite iconoclast who specialized in destroying Buddhist images and in reestablishing the Hindu shrines that his illustrious predecessor had converted to Buddhism. During the restoration, the Bayon was made a temple to Shiva, and its central 3.6 meter tall statue of the Buddha was cast to the bottom of a nearby well. Everywhere, cultist statues of the Buddha were replaced by lingams.
When Chinese traveller Zhou Daguan came to Angkor in AD 1296, he found what he took to be three separate religious groups. The dominant religion was that of Theravada Buddhism. Zhou observed that the monks had shaven heads and wore yellow robes. The Buddhist temples impressed Zhou with their simplicity. He noted that the images of Buddha were made of gilded plaster. The other two groups identified by Zhou appear to have been those of the Brahmans and of the Shaivites. About the Brahmans, Zhou had little to say, except that they were often employed as high officials. Of the Shaivites, whom he called “Taoists”, Zhou wrote, “the only image which they revere is a block of stone analogous to the stone found in shrines of the god of the soil in China.”
During the course of the 13th century, Theravada Buddhism transmitted through the Mon kingdoms of Dvaravati and Haripunchai made its appearance at Angkor. Gradually, it became the dominant religion of Cambodia, displacing both Mahayana Buddhism and Shaivism. The practice of Theravada Buddhism at Angkor continues until this day.
The area of Angkor has many significant archaeological sites, including the following: Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat, Baksei Chamkrong, Banteay Kdei, Banteay Samré, Banteay Srei, Baphuon, the Bayon, Chau Say Tevoda, East Baray, East Mebon, Kbal Spean, the Khleangs, Krol Ko, Lolei, Neak Pean, Phimeanakas, Phnom Bakheng, Phnom Krom, Prasat Ak Yum, Prasat Kravan, Preah Khan, Preah Ko, Preah Palilay, Preah Pithu, Pre Rup, Spean Thma, Srah Srang, Ta Nei, Ta Prohm, Ta Som, Ta Keo, Terrace of the Elephants, Terrace of the Leper King, Thommanon, West Baray, West Mebon. Another city at Mahendraparvata was discovered in 2013.
Terms and Phrases
Angkor (អង្គរ) is a Khmer word meaning “city”. It is a corrupted form of nokor which derives from the Sanskrit nagara.
Banteay (បន្ទាយ) is a Khmer term meaning “citadel” or “fortress” that is also applied to walled temples.
Baray (បារាយណ៍) literally means “open space” or “wide plain” but in Khmer architecture refers to an artificial reservoir.
Esvara, or Isvara, (ឦស្វរៈ ~ ឥស្សរៈ) is a suffix referring to the god Shiva, especially its omnipotence, freedom and independence.
Gopura is a Sanskrit term (गोपुर) meaning “entrance pavilion” or “gateway”.
Jaya (ជយ ~ ជ័យ) is a prefix derived from Sanskrit meaning “victory”.
Phnom (ភ្នំ) is a Khmer word meaning “mountain”.
Prasat (ប្រាសាទ) is a Khmer term derived from Sanskrit prāsāda and usually meaning “monument” or “palace” and, by extension, “ancient temple”.
Preah (ព្រះ) is a Khmer term meaning “God”, “King” or “exalted”. It can also be a prefix meaning “sacred” or “holy”. Derived from Sanskrit vara. (Preah Khan means “sacred sword”.)
Srei (ស្រី) is a Khmer term with two possible meanings. Derived from Sanskrit strī (ស្រ្តី) it means “woman”, derived from Sanskrit sirī (សិរី) it means “beauty”, “splendor” or “glory”.
Ta (តា) is a Khmer word meaning “grandfather,” or under some circumstances “ancestor.” (Ta Prohm means “Ancestor Brahma”. Neak ta means “ancestors” or “ancestral spirits”.) Thom (ធំ) is a Khmer word meaning “large”. (Angkor Thom means “large city”.) Varman (វរ្ម័ន) is a suffix, from Sanskrit varman, meaning “shield” or “protector”. (Suryavarman means “protected by Surya, the sun-god”.) Wat (វត្ត) is a Khmer word, derived from the Pali वत्त, vatta, meaning (Buddhist) “temple”. (Angkor Wat means “temple city”.)
Borobudur, or Barabudur, is a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist temple in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia. The monument consists of nine stacked platforms, six square and three circular, topped by a central dome. The temple is decorated with 2,672 reliefpanels and 504 Buddha statues. The central dome is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues, each seated inside a perforated stupa. It is the world’s largest Buddhist temple, as well as one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world.
Built in the 9th century during the reign of the Sailendra Dynasty, the temple was designed in Javanese Buddhist architecture, which blends the Indonesian indigenous cult of ancestor worship and the Buddhist concept of attaining Nirvana. The temple also demonstrates the influences of Gupta art that reflects India’s influence on the region, yet there are enough indigenous scenes and elements incorporated to make Borobudur uniquely Indonesian. The monument is both a shrine to the Lord Buddha and a place for Buddhist pilgrimage. The journey for pilgrims begins at the base of the monument and follows a path around the monument and ascends to the top through three levels symbolic of Buddhist cosmology: Kāmadhātu (the world of desire), Rupadhatu (the world of forms) and Arupadhatu (the world of formlessness). The monument guides pilgrims through an extensive system of stairways and corridors with 1,460 narrative relief panels on the walls and the balustrades. Borobudur has the largest and most complete ensemble of Buddhist reliefs in the world.
Evidence suggests Borobudur was constructed in the 9th century and abandoned following the 14th-century decline of Hindukingdoms in Java and the Javanese conversion to Islam. Worldwide knowledge of its existence was sparked in 1814 by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, then the British ruler of Java, who was advised of its location by native Indonesians. Borobudur has since been preserved through several restorations. The largest restoration project was undertaken between 1975 and 1982 by the Indonesian government and UNESCO, following which the monument was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Borobudur is still used for pilgrimage; once a year, Buddhists in Indonesia celebrate Vesak at the monument, and Borobudur is Indonesia’s single most visited tourist attraction.
Note on UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN). Its declared purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through educational, scientific, and cultural reforms in order to increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom proclaimed in the United Nations Charter. It is the heir of the League of Nations’ International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation.
UNESCO has 195 member states and nine associate members. Most of its field offices are “cluster” offices covering three or more countries; national and regional offices also exist.
In Indonesian, ancient temples are referred to as candi; thus locals refer to “Borobudur Temple” as Candi Borobudur. The term candi also loosely describes ancient structures, for example gates and baths. The origins of the name Borobudur, however, are unclear, although the original names of most ancient Indonesian temples are no longer known. The name Borobudur was first written in Sir Thomas Raffles’s book on Javan history. Raffles wrote about a monument called Borobudur, but there are no older documents suggesting the same name. The only old Javanese manuscript that hints the monument called Budur as a holy Buddhist sanctuary is Nagarakretagama, written by Mpu Prapanca, a Buddhist scholar of Majapahit court, in 1365.
Most candi are named after a nearby village. If it followed Javanese language conventions and was named after the nearby village of Bore, the monument should have been named “BudurBoro”. Raffles thought that Budur might correspond to the modern Javanese word Buda(“ancient”)—i.e., “ancient Boro”. He also suggested that the name might derive from boro, meaning “great” or “honourable” and Budur for Buddha. However, another archaeologist suggests the second component of the name (Budur) comes from Javanese termbhudhara (“mountain”).
Another possible etymology suggests that Borobudur is a corrupted simplified local Javanese pronunciation of Biara Beduhur written in Sanskrit as Vihara Buddha Uhr. The termBuddha-Uhr could mean “the city of Buddhas”, while another possible term Beduhur is probably an Old Javanese term, still survived today in Balinese vocabulary, which means “a high place”, constructed from the stem word dhuhur or luhur (high). This suggests that Borobudur means vihara of Buddha located on a high place or on a hill.
The construction and inauguration of a sacred Buddhist building—possibly a reference to Borobudur—was mentioned in two inscriptions, both discovered in Kedu, Temanggung Regency. The Karangtengah inscription, dated 824, mentioned a sacred building named Jinalaya (the realm of those who have conquered worldly desire and reached enlightenment), inaugurated by Pramodhawardhani, daughter of Samaratungga. The Tri Tepusan inscription, dated 842, is mentioned in the sima, the (tax-free) lands awarded by Çrī Kahulunnan (Pramodhawardhani) to ensure the funding and maintenance of a Kamūlān called Bhūmisambhāra. Kamūlān is from the word mula, which means “the place of origin”, a sacred building to honor the ancestors, probably those of the Sailendras. Casparis suggested that Bhūmi Sambhāra Bhudhāra, which in Sanskrit means “the mountain of combined virtues of the ten stages of Boddhisattvahood”, was the original name of Borobudur.
The Three Temples
Borobudur Temple is surrounded by mountains nearby
Approximately 40 kilometres (25 mi) northwest of Yogyakarta and 86 kilometres (53 mi) west of Surakarta, Borobudur is located in an elevated area between two twin volcanoes, Sundoro-Sumbing and Merbabu-Merapi, and two rivers, the Progo and the Elo. According to local myth, the area known as Kedu Plain is a Javanese “sacred” place and has been dubbed “the garden of Java” due to its highagricultural fertility. During the restoration in the early 20th century, it was discovered that three Buddhist temples in the region, Borobudur, Pawon and Mendut, are positioned along a straight line. A ritual relationship between the three temples must have existed, although the exact ritual process is unknown.
Straight-line arrangement of Borobudur, Pawon, and Mendut
Speculation about the lake’s existence was the subject of intense discussion among archaeologists in the 20th century. In 1931, a Dutch artist and scholar of Hindu and Buddhist architecture, W.O.J. Nieuwenkamp, developed a theory that the Kedu Plain was once a lake and Borobudur initially represented a lotus flower floating on the lake. It has been claimed that Borobudur was built on a bedrock hill, 265 m (869 ft) above sea level and 15 m (49 ft) above the floor of a dried-out paleolake.
Dumarçay together with Professor Thanikaimoni had taken soil samples in 1974 and again in 1977 from trial trenches that had been dug into the hill, as well as from the plain immediately to the south. These samples were later analysed by Professor Thanikaimoni, who examined their pollen and spore content in order to identify the type of vegetation that had grown in the area around the time of Borobudur’s construction. They were unable to discover any pollen or spore samples that were characteristic of any vegetation known to grow in an aquatic environment such as a lake, pond or marsh. The area surrounding Borobudur appears to have been surrounded by agricultural land and palm trees at the time of the monument’s construction, as is still the case today. Caesar Voûte and the geomorphologist Dr J.J. Nossin in 1985–86 field studies re-examined the Borobudur lake hypothesis and concluded the absence of a lake around Borobudur at the time of its construction and active use as a sanctuary. These findings A New Perspective on Some Old Questions Pertaining to Borobudur were published in the 2005 UNESCO publication titled “The Restoration of Borobudur”.
A painting by G.B. Hooijer (c. 1916—1919) reconstructing the scene of Borobudur during its heyday
There is no written record of who built the Borobudur or of its intended purpose. The construction time has been estimated by comparison between carved reliefs on the temple’s hidden foot and the inscriptions commonly used in royal charters during the 8th and 9th centuries. Borobudur was likely founded around 800 CE. This corresponds to the period between 760 and 830 CE, the peak of the Sailendra dynasty rule of Mataram kingdom in central Java, when it was under the influence of the Srivijayan Empire. The construction has been estimated to have taken 75 years and was completed during the reign of Samaratungga in 825.
There is confusion between Hindu and Buddhist rulers in Java around that time. The Sailendras were known as ardent followers of Buddhism, though stone inscriptions found at Sojomerto suggest they may have been Hindus. It was during this time that many Hindu and Buddhist monuments were built on the plains and mountains around the Kedu Plain. The Buddhist monuments, including Borobudur, were erected around the same period as the Hindu Shiva Prambanan temple compound. In 732 CE, the Shivaite King Sanjaya commissioned a Shivalinga sanctuary to be built on the Wukir hill, only 10 km (6.2 mi) east of Borobudur.
Construction of Buddhist temples, including Borobudur, at that time was possible because Sanjaya’s immediate successor,Rakai Panangkaran, granted his permission to the Buddhist followers to build such temples. In fact, to show his respect, Panangkaran gave the village of Kalasan to the Buddhist community, as is written in the Kalasan Charter dated 778 CE. This has led some archaeologists to believe that there was never serious conflict concerning religion in Java as it was possible for a Hindu king to patronize the establishment of a Buddhist monument; or for a Buddhist king to act likewise. However, it is likely that there were two rival royal dynasties in Java at the time—the Buddhist Sailendra and the Saivite Sanjaya—in which the latter triumphed over their rival in the 856 battle on the Ratubaka plateau. This confusion also exists regarding the Lara Jonggrang temple at the Prambanan complex, which was believed to have been erected by the victor Rakai Pikatan as the Sanjaya dynasty’s reply to Borobudur, but others suggest that there was a climate of peaceful coexistence where Sailendra involvement exists in Lara Jonggrang.
Borobudur stupas overlooking a mountain. For centuries, it was deserted.
Borobudur lay hidden for centuries under layers of volcanic ash and jungle growth. The facts behind its abandonment remain a mystery. It is not known when active use of the monument and Buddhist pilgrimage to it ceased. Sometime between 928 and 1006, King Mpu Sindok moved the capital of the Medang Kingdom to the region of East Java after a series of volcanic eruptions; it is not certain whether this influenced the abandonment, but several sources mention this as the most likely period of abandonment. The monument is mentioned vaguely as late as c. 1365, in Mpu Prapanca’s Nagarakretagama, written during the Majapahit era and mentioning “the vihara in Budur”.[Soekmono (1976) also mentions the popular belief that the temples were disbanded when the population converted to Islam in the 15th century.
The monument was not forgotten completely, though folk stories gradually shifted from its past glory into more superstitious beliefs associated with bad luck and misery. Two old Javanese chronicles (babad) from the 18th century mention cases of bad luck associated with the monument. According to the Babad Tanah Jawi (or the History of Java), the monument was a fatal factor for Mas Dana, a rebel who revolted against Pakubuwono I, the king of Mataram in 1709. It was mentioned that the “Redi Borobudur” hill was besieged and the insurgents were defeated and sentenced to death by the king. In the Babad Mataram (or the History of the Mataram Kingdom), the monument was associated with the misfortune of Prince Monconagoro, the crown prince of the Yogyakarta Sultanate in 1757. In spite of a taboo against visiting the monument, “he took what is written as the knight who was captured in a cage (a statue in one of the perforated stupas)”. Upon returning to his palace, he fell ill and died one day later.
Following its capture, Java was under British administration from 1811 to 1816. The appointed governor was Lieutenant Governor-General Thomas Stamford Raffles, who took great interest in the history of Java. He collected Javanese antiques and made notes through contacts with local inhabitants during his tour throughout the island. On an inspection tour to Semarang in 1814, he was informed about a big monument deep in a jungle near the village of Bumisegoro. He was not able to make the discovery himself and sent H.C. Cornelius, a Dutch engineer, to investigate. In two months, Cornelius and his 200 men cut down trees, burned down vegetation and dug away the earth to reveal the monument. Due to the danger of collapse, he could not unearth all galleries. He reported his findings to Raffles, including various drawings. Although the discovery is only mentioned by a few sentences, Raffles has been credited with the monument’s recovery, as one who had brought it to the world’s attention.
Hartmann, a Dutch administrator of the Kedu region, continued Cornelius’s work, and in 1835, the whole complex was finally unearthed. His interest in Borobudur was more personal than official. Hartmann did not write any reports of his activities, in particular, the alleged story that he discovered the large statue of Buddha in the main stupa. In 1842, Hartmann investigated the main dome, although what he discovered is unknown and the main stupa remains empty.
The Dutch East Indies government then commissioned F.C. Wilsen, a Dutch engineering official, who studied the monument and drew hundreds of relief sketches. J.F.G. Brumund was also appointed to make a detailed study of the monument, which was completed in 1859. The government intended to publish an article based on Brumund’s study supplemented by Wilsen’s drawings, but Brumund refused to cooperate. The government then commissioned another scholar, C. Leemans, who compiled a monograph based on Brumund’s and Wilsen’s sources. In 1873, the first monograph of the detailed study of Borobudur was published, followed by its French translation a year later. The first photograph of the monument was taken in 1872 by a Dutch-Flemish engraver, Isidore van Kinsbergen.
Appreciation of the site developed slowly, and it served for some time largely as a source of souvenirs and income for “souvenir hunters” and thieves. In 1882, the chief inspector of cultural artifacts recommended that Borobudur be entirely disassembled with the relocation of reliefs into museums due to the unstable condition of the monument. As a result, the government appointed Groenveldt, an archeologist, to undertake a thorough investigation of the site and to assess the actual condition of the complex; his report found that these fears were unjustified and recommended it be left intact.
Borobudur was considered as the source of souvenirs, and parts of its sculptures were looted, some even with colonial-government consent. In 1896 King Chulalongkorn of Siamvisited Java and requested and was allowed to take home eight cartloads of sculptures taken from Borobudur. These include thirty pieces taken from a number of relief panels, five buddha images, two lions, one gargoyle, several kala motifs from the stairs and gateways, and a guardian statue (dvarapala). Several of these artifacts, most notably the lions, dvarapala, kala, makara and giant waterspouts are now on display in the Java Art room in The National Museum in Bangkok.
Borobudur after Van Erp’s restoration in 1911. Note the reconstructed chhatra pinnacle on top of the main stupa (now dismantled).
Borobudur attracted attention in 1885, when Yzerman, the Chairman of the Archaeological Society in Yogyakarta, made a discovery about the hidden foot. Photographs that reveal reliefs on the hidden foot were made in 1890–1891. The discovery led the Dutch East Indies government to take steps to safeguard the monument. In 1900, the government set up a commission consisting of three officials to assess the monument: Brandes, an art historian, Theodoor van Erp, a Dutch army engineer officer, and Van de Kamer, a construction engineer from the Department of Public Works.
In 1902, the commission submitted a threefold plan of proposal to the government. First, the immediate dangers should be avoided by resetting the corners, removing stones that endangered the adjacent parts, strengthening the first balustrades and restoring several niches, archways, stupas and the main dome. Second, after fencing off the courtyards, proper maintenance should be provided and drainage should be improved by restoring floors and spouts. Third, all loose stones should be removed, the monument cleared up to the first balustrades, disfigured stones removed and the main dome restored. The total cost was estimated at that time around 48,800 Dutch guilders.
The Unfinished Buddha from the main stupa of Borobudur at Karmawibhangga Museum, to which the Buddhists give offerings, along with the main stupa’s chhatra on its back.
The restoration then was carried out between 1907 and 1911, using the principles of anastylosis and led by Theodor van Erp. The first seven months of restoration were occupied with excavating the grounds around the monument to find missing Buddha heads and panel stones. Van Erp dismantled and rebuilt the upper three circular platforms and stupas. Along the way, Van Erp discovered more things he could do to improve the monument; he submitted another proposal, which was approved with the additional cost of 34,600 guilders. At first glance, Borobudur had been restored to its old glory. Van Erp went further by carefully reconstructing the chhatra (three-tiered parasol) pinnacle on top of the main stupa. However, he later dismantled the chhatra, citing that there were not enough original stones used in reconstructing the pinnacle, which means that the original design of Borobudur’s pinnacle is actually unknown. The dismantled chhatra now is stored in Karmawibhangga Museum, a few hundred meters north from Borobudur.
Due to the limited budget, the restoration had been primarily focused on cleaning the sculptures, and Van Erp did not solve the drainage problem. Within fifteen years, the gallery walls were sagging, and the reliefs showed signs of new cracks and deterioration. Van Erp used concrete from which alkali salts and calcium hydroxide leached and were transported into the rest of the construction. This caused some problems, so that a further thorough renovation was urgently needed.
Embedding concrete and pvc pipe to improve Borobudur’s drainage system during the 1973 restoration
Small restorations have been performed since then, but not sufficient for complete protection. During World War II and Indonesian National Revolution in 1945 to 1949, Borobudur restoration efforts were halted. The monument suffered further from the weather and drainage problems, which caused the earth core inside the temple to expand, pushing the stone structure and tilting the walls. By 1950s some parts of Borobudur were facing imminent danger of collapsing. In 1965, Indonesia asked the UNESCO for advice on ways to counteract the problem of weathering at Borobudur and other monuments. In 1968 Professor Soekmono, then head of the Archeological Service of Indonesia, launched his “Save Borobudur” campaign, in an effort to organize a massive restoration project.
A 1968 Indonesian stamp promoting restoration of Borobudur
In the late 1960s, the Indonesian government had requested from the international community a major renovation to protect the monument. In 1973, a master plan to restore Borobudur was created. The Indonesian government and UNESCO then undertook the complete overhaul of the monument in a big restoration project between 1975 and 1982. In 1975, the actual work began. Over one million stones were dismantled and removed during the restoration, and set aside like pieces of a massive jig-saw puzzle to be individually identified, catalogued, cleaned and treated for preservation. Borobudur became a testing ground for new conservation techniques, including new procedures to battle the microorganisms attacking the stone. The foundation was stabilized, and all 1,460 panels were cleaned. The restoration involved the dismantling of the five square platforms and the improvement of drainage by embedding water channels into the monument. Both impermeable and filter layers were added. This colossal project involved around 600 people to restore the monument and cost a total of US$6,901,243
After the renovation was finished, UNESCO listed Borobudur as a World Heritage Site in 1991. It is listed under Cultural criteria (i) “to represent a masterpiece of human creative genius”, (ii) “to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design”, and (vi) “to be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance”.
Buddhist pilgrims meditate on the top platform
Following the major 1973 renovation funded by UNESCO, Borobudur is once again used as a place of worship and pilgrimage. Once a year, during the full moon in May or June, Buddhists in Indonesia observe Vesak (Indonesian: Waisak) day commemorating the birth, death, and the time when Siddhārtha Gautama attained the highest wisdom to become the Buddha Shakyamuni. Vesak is an officialnational holiday in Indonesia, and the ceremony is centered at the three Buddhist temples by walking from Mendut to Pawon and ending at Borobudur.
Vesak ceremony at Borobudur
The monument is the single most visited tourist attraction in Indonesia. In 1974, 260,000 tourists, of whom 36,000 were foreigners, visited the monument. The figure climbed to 2.5 million visitors annually (80% were domestic tourists) in the mid-1990s, before the country’s economic crisis. Tourism development, however, has been criticized for not including the local community, giving rise to occasional conflicts. In 2003, residents and small businesses around Borobudur organized several meetings and poetry protests, objecting to a provincial government plan to build a three-story mall complex, dubbed the “Java World”.
International tourism awards were given to Borobudur archaeological park, such as PATA Grand Pacific Award 2004, PATA Gold Award Winner 2011, and PATA Gold Award Winner 2012. In June 2012, Borobudur was recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest Buddhist archaeological site.
Location of Borobudur relative to Mount Merapi and Yogyakarta
UNESCO identified three specific areas of concern under the present state of conservation: (i) vandalism by visitors; (ii) soil erosion in the south-eastern part of the site; and (iii) analysis and restoration of missing elements. The soft soil, the numerous earthquakes and heavy rains lead to the destabilization of the structure. Earthquakes are by far the most important contributing factors, since not only do stones fall down and arches crumble, but the earth itself can move in waves, further destroying the structure. The increasing popularity of the stupa brings in many visitors, most of whom are from Indonesia. Despite warning signs on all levels not to touch anything, the regular transmission of warnings over loudspeakers and the presence of guards, vandalism on reliefs and statues is a common occurrence and problem, leading to further deterioration. As of 2009, there is no system in place to limit the number of visitors allowed per day or to introduce mandatory guided tours only.
In August 2014, the Conservation Authority of Borobudur reported some severe abrasion of the stone stairs caused by the scraping of visitors’ footwear. The conservation authority planned to install wooden stairs to cover and protect the original stone stairs, just like those installed in Angkor Wat.
Borobudur was heavily affected by the eruption of Mount Merapi in October and November 2010. Volcanic ash from Merapi fell on the temple complex, which is approximately 28 kilometres (17 mi) west-southwest of the crater. A layer of ash up to 2.5 centimetres (1 in) thick fell on the temple statues during the eruption of 3–5 November, also killing nearby vegetation, with experts fearing that the acidic ash might damage the historic site. The temple complex was closed from 5 to 9 November to clean up the ashfall.
UNESCO donated US$3 million as a part of the costs towards the rehabilitation of Borobudur after Mount Merapi’s 2010 eruption. More than 55,000 stone blocks comprising the temple’s structure were dismantled to restore the drainage system, which had been clogged by slurry after the rain. The restoration was finished in November.
In January 2012, two German stone-conservation experts spent ten days at the site analyzing the temples and making recommendations to ensure their long-term preservation. In June, Germany agreed to contribute $130,000 to UNESCO for the second phase of rehabilitation, in which six experts in stone conservation, microbiology, structural engineering and chemical engineering would spend a week in Borobudur in June, then return for another visit in September or October. These missions would launch the preservation activities recommended in the January report and would include capacity building activities to enhance the preservation capabilities of governmental staff and young conservation experts.
On 14 February 2014, major tourist attractions in Yogyakarta and Central Java, including Borobudur, Prambanan and Ratu Boko, were closed to visitors, after being severely affected by the volcanic ash from the eruption of Kelud volcano in East Java, located around 200 kilometers east from Yogyakarta. Workers covered the iconic stupas and statues of Borobudur temple to protect the structure from volcanic ash. The Kelud volcano erupted on 13 February 2014 with an explosion heard as far away as Yogyakarta.
On 21 January 1985, nine stupas were badly damaged by nine bombs. In 1991, a blind Muslim preacher, Husein Ali Al Habsyie, was sentenced to life imprisonment for masterminding a series of bombings in the mid-1980s, including the temple attack. Two other members of the right-wing extremist group that carried out the bombings were each sentenced to 20 years in 1986, and another man received a 13-year prison term.
On 27 May 2006, an earthquake of 6.2 magnitude struck the south coast of Central Java. The event caused severe damage around the region and casualties to the nearby city ofYogyakarta, but Borobudur remained intact.
In August 2014, Indonesian police and security forces tightened the security in and around Borobudur temple compound, as a precaution to a threat posted in the social media by a self-proclaimed Indonesian branch of ISIS, citing that the terrorists planned to destroy Borobudur and other statues project in Indonesia. The security improvements included the repair and increased deployment of CCTV monitors and the implementation of a night patrol in and around the temple compound. The jihadist group follows a strict interpretation of Islam that condemns any anthropomorphic representations such as sculptures as idolatry.
Visitor Overload Problem
The high volume of visitors ascending the Borobudur’s narrow stairs, has caused a severe wear out on the stone of the stairs, eroding the stones surface and made them thinner and smoother. Overall, Borobudur has 2,033 surfaces of stone stairs, spread over four cardinal directions; including the west side, the east, south and north. There are around 1,028 surfaces of them, or about 49.15 percent are severely worn out.
To avoid further wear of stairs’ stones, since November 2014, two main sections of Borobudur stairs — the eastern (ascending route) and northern (descending route) sides — are covered with wooden structures. The similar technique has been applied in Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Egyptian Pyramids. In March 2015, Borobudur Conservation Center proposed further to seal the stairs with rubber cover. Proposals have also been made that visitors be issued special sandals.
The archeological excavation into Borobudur during reconstruction suggests that adherents of Hinduism or a pre-Indic faith had already begun to erect a large structure on Borobudur’s hill before the site was appropriated by Buddhists. The foundations are unlike any Hindu or Buddhist shrine structures, and therefore, the initial structure is considered more indigenous Javanese than Hindu or Buddhist.
Borobudur Ground Plan taking the form of a Mandala
Borobudur is built as a single large stupa and, when viewed from above, takes the form of a giant tantric Buddhist mandala, simultaneously representing the Buddhist cosmology and the nature of mind. The original foundation is a square, approximately 118 metres (387 ft) on each side. It has nine platforms, of which the lower six are square and the upper three are circular. The upper platform features seventy-two small stupas surrounding one large central stupa. Each stupa is bell-shaped and pierced by numerous decorative openings. Statues of the Buddha sit inside the pierced enclosures.
Notes on Mandala
A Mandala (Sanskrit: मण्डल, lit, circle) is a spiritual and ritual symbol in Indian religions, representing the universe. In common use, “mandala” has become a generic term for any diagram, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmosmetaphysically or symbolically; a microcosm of the universe.
The basic form of most mandalas is a square with four gates containing a circle with a center point. Each gate is in the general shape of a T. Mandalas often exhibit radial balance.
The term appears in the Rigveda as the name of the sections of the work, but is also used in other religions and philosophies, particularly Buddhism.
In various spiritual traditions, mandalas may be employed for focusing attention of practitioners and adepts, as a spiritual guidance tool, for establishing a sacred space, and as an aid to meditation and trance induction.
Borobudur Architectural Model
The design of Borobudur took the form of a step pyramid. Previously, the prehistoric Austronesian megalithic culture in Indonesia had constructed several earth mounds and stone step pyramid structures called punden berundak as discovered in Pangguyangan, Cisolok and Gunung Padang, West Java. The construction of stone pyramids is based on native beliefs that mountains and high places are the abode of ancestral spirits or hyangs. The punden berundak step pyramid is the basic design in Borobudur, believed to be the continuation of older megalithic tradition incorporated with Mahayana Buddhist ideas and symbolism.
The monument’s three divisions symbolize the three “realms” of Buddhist cosmology, namelyKamadhatu (the world of desires), Rupadhatu (the world of forms), and finally Arupadhatu (the formless world). Ordinary sentient beings live out their lives on the lowest level, the realm of desire. Those who have burnt out all desire for continued existence leave the world of desire and live in the world on the level of form alone: they see forms but are not drawn to them. Finally, full Buddhas go beyond even form and experience reality at its purest, most fundamental level, the formless ocean of nirvana. The liberation from the cycle of Saṃsāra where the enlightened soul had no longer attached to worldly form corresponds to the concept of Śūnyatā, the complete voidness or the nonexistence of the self. Kāmadhātu is represented by the base, Rupadhatu by the five square platforms (the body), and Arupadhatu by the three circular platforms and the large topmost stupa. The architectural features between the three stages have metaphorical differences. For instance, square and detailed decorations in the Rupadhatu disappear into plain circular platforms in the Arupadhatu to represent how the world of forms—where men are still attached with forms and names—changes into the world of the formless.
Congregational worship in Borobudur is performed in a walking pilgrimage. Pilgrims are guided by the system of staircases and corridors ascending to the top platform. Each platform represents one stage of enlightenment. The path that guides pilgrims was designed to symbolize Buddhist cosmology.
In 1885, a hidden structure under the base was accidentally discovered. The “hidden footing” contains reliefs, 160 of which are narratives describing the real Kāmadhātu. The remaining reliefs are panels with short inscriptions that apparently provide instructions for the sculptors, illustrating the scenes to be carved. The real base is hidden by an encasement base, the purpose of which remains a mystery. It was first thought that the real base had to be covered to prevent a disastrous subsidence of the monument into the hill. There is another theory that the encasement base was added because the original hidden footing was incorrectly designed, according to Vastu Shastra, the Indian ancient book about architecture and town planning. Regardless of why it was commissioned, the encasement base was built with detailed and meticulous design and with aesthetic and religious consideration.
Half cross-section with 4:6:9 height ratio for foot, body and head, respectively
Approximately 55,000 cubic metres (72,000 cu yd) of andesite stones were taken from neighbouring stone quarries to build the monument. The stone was cut to size, transported to the site and laid without mortar. Knobs, indentations and dovetails were used to form joints between stones. Reliefs were created in situ after the building had been completed.
Stairs of Borobudur through arches of Kala
The monument is equipped with a good drainage system to cater to the area’s high stormwater run-off. To prevent flooding, 100 spouts are installed at each corner, each with a unique carved gargoyle in the shape of a giant or makara.
A narrow corridor with reliefs on the wall
Borobudur differs markedly from the general design of other structures built for this purpose. Instead of being built on a flat surface, Borobudur is built on a natural hill. However, construction technique is similar to other temples in Java. Without the inner spaces seen in other temples, and with a general design similar to the shape of pyramid, Borobudur was first thought more likely to have served as a stupa, instead of a temple. A stupa is intended as ashrine for the Buddha. Sometimes stupas were built only as devotional symbols of Buddhism. A temple, on the other hand, is used as a house of worship. The meticulous complexity of the monument’s design suggests that Borobudur is in fact a temple.
Little is known about Gunadharma, the architect of the complex. His name is recounted from Javanese folk tales rather than from written inscriptions.
The basic unit of measurement used during construction was the tala, defined as the length of a human face from the forehead’s hairline to the tip of the chin or the distance from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the middle finger when both fingers are stretched at their maximum distance. The unit is thus relative from one individual to the next, but the monument has exact measurements. A survey conducted in 1977 revealed frequent findings of a ratio of 4:6:9 around the monument. The architect had used the formula to lay out the precise dimensions of the fractal and self-similar geometry in Borobudur’s design. This ratio is also found in the designs of Pawon and Mendut, nearby Buddhist temples. Archeologists have conjectured that the 4:6:9 ratio and the tala have calendrical, astronomical and cosmological significance, as is the case with the temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
The main structure can be divided into three components: base, body, and top. The base is 123 m × 123 m (404 ft × 404 ft) in size with 4 metres (13 ft) walls. The body is composed of five square platforms, each of diminishing height. The first terrace is set back 7 metres (23 ft) from the edge of the base. Each subsequent terrace is set back 2 metres (6.6 ft), leaving a narrow corridor at each stage. The top consists of three circular platforms, with each stage supporting a row of perforated stupas, arranged in concentric circles. There is one main dome at the center, the top of which is the highest point of the monument, 35 metres (115 ft) above ground level. Stairways at the center of each of the four sides give access to the top, with a number of arched gates overlooked by 32 lion statues. The gates are adorned with Kala’s head carved on top of each and Makaras projecting from each side. This Kala-Makara motif is commonly found on the gates of Javanese temples. The main entrance is on the eastern side, the location of the first narrative reliefs. Stairways on the slopes of the hill also link the monument to the low-lying plain.
The position of narrative bas-reliefs stories on Borobudur wall
Borobudur is constructed in such a way that it reveals various levels of terraces, showing intricate architecture that goes from being heavily ornamented with bas-reliefs to being plain in Arupadhatu circular terraces. The first four terrace walls are showcases for bas-relief sculptures. These are exquisite, considered to be the most elegant and graceful in the ancient Buddhist world.
The bas-reliefs in Borobudur depicted many scenes of daily life in 8th-century ancient Java, from the courtly palace life, hermit in the forest, to those of commoners in the village. It also depicted temple, marketplace, various flora and fauna, and also native vernacular architecture. People depicted here are the images of king, queen, princes, noblemen, courtier, soldier, servant, commoners, priest and hermit. The reliefs also depicted mythical spiritual beings in Buddhist beliefs such as asuras, gods, boddhisattvas, kinnaras, gandharvas and apsaras. The images depicted on bas-relief often served as reference for historians to research for certain subjects, such as the study of architecture, weaponry, economy, fashion, and also mode of transportation of 8th-century Maritime Southeast Asia. One of the famous renderings of an 8th-century Southeast Asian double outrigger ship is Borobudur Ship. Today, the actual-size replica of Borobudur Ship that had sailed from Indonesia to Africa in 2004 is displayed in the Samudra Raksa Museum, located a few hundred meters north of Borobudur.
The Borobudur reliefs also pay close attention to Indian aesthetic discipline, such as pose and gesture that contain certain meanings and aesthetic value. The reliefs of noblemen, and noble women, kings, or divine beings such as apsaras, taras and boddhisattvas are usually portrayed in tribhanga pose, the three-bend pose on neck, hips, and knee, with one leg resting and one upholding the body weight. This position is considered as the most graceful pose, such as the figure of Surasundari holding a lotus.
During Borobudur excavation, archeologists discovered colour pigments of blue, red, green, black, as well as bits of gold foil, and concluded that the monument that we see today — a dark gray mass of volcanic stone, lacking in colour — was probably once coated with varjalepa white plaster and then painted with bright colors, serving perhaps as a beacon of Buddhist teaching. The same vajralepa plaster can also be found in Sari, Kalasan and Sewu temples. It is likely that the bas-reliefs of Borobudur was originally quite colourful, before centuries of torrential tropical rainfalls peeled-off the colour pigments.
Borobudur contains approximately 2,670 individual bas reliefs (1,460 narrative and 1,212 decorative panels), which cover the façades and balustrades. The total relief surface is 2,500 square metres (27,000 sq ft), and they are distributed at the hidden foot (Kāmadhātu) and the five square platforms (Rupadhatu).
The narrative panels, which tell the story of Sudhana and Manohara, are grouped into 11 series that encircle the monument with a total length of 3,000 metres (9,800 ft). The hidden foot contains the first series with 160 narrative panels, and the remaining 10 series are distributed throughout walls and balustrades in four galleries starting from the eastern entrance stairway to the left. Narrative panels on the wall read from right to left, while those on the balustrade read from left to right. This conforms with pradaksina, the ritual of circumambulation performed by pilgrims who move in a clockwise direction while keeping the sanctuary to their right.
The hidden foot depicts the workings of karmic law. The walls of the first gallery have two superimposed series of reliefs; each consists of 120 panels. The upper part depicts the biography of the Buddha, while the lower part of the wall and also the balustrades in the first and the second galleries tell the story of the Buddha’s former lives. The remaining panels are devoted to Sudhana’s further wandering about his search, terminated by his attainment of the Perfect Wisdom.
The Law of Karma (Karmavibhangga)
The 160 hidden panels do not form a continuous story, but each panel provides one complete illustration of cause and effect. There are depictions of blameworthy activities, from gossip to murder, with their corresponding punishments. There are also praiseworthy activities, that include charity and pilgrimage to sanctuaries, and their subsequent rewards. The pains of hell and the pleasure of heaven are also illustrated. There are scenes of daily life, complete with the full panorama of samsara (the endless cycle of birth and death). The encasement base of the Borobudur temple was dissembled to reveal the hidden foot, and the reliefs were photographed by Casijan Chepas in 1890. It is these photographs that are displayed in Borobudur Museum (Karmawibhangga Museum), located just several hundred meters north of the temple. During the restoration, the foot encasement was reinstalled, covering the Karmawibhangga reliefs. Today, only the southeast corner of the hidden foot is revealed and visible for visitors.
The Karmavibangga scene on Borobudur’s hidden foot, on the right depicting sinful act of killing and cooking turtles and fishes, on the left those who make living by killing animals will be tortured in hell, by being cooked alive, being cut, or being thrown into burning house.
The Story of Prince Siddhartha and the Birth of Buddha (Lalitavistara)
Prince Siddhartha Gautama became an ascetic hermit.
Queen Maya riding horse carriage retreating to Lumbini to give birth to Prince Siddhartha Gautama
The story starts with the descent of the Lord Buddha from the Tushita heaven and ends with his first sermon in the Deer Park near Benares. The relief shows the birth of the Buddha as Prince Siddhartha, son of King Suddhodana and Queen Maya of Kapilavastu (in present-day Nepal).
The story is preceded by 27 panels showing various preparations, in the heavens and on the earth, to welcome the final incarnation of the Bodhisattva. Before descending from Tushita heaven, the Bodhisattva entrusted his crown to his successor, the future Buddha Maitreya. He descended on earth in the shape of white elephants with six tusks, penetrated to Queen Maya’s right womb. Queen Maya had a dream of this event, which was interpreted that his son would become either a sovereign or a Buddha.
While Queen Maya felt that it was the time to give birth, she went to the Lumbini park outside the Kapilavastu city. She stood under a plaksatree, holding one branch with her right hand, and she gave birth to a son, Prince Siddhartha. The story on the panels continues until the prince becomes the Buddha.
The stories of Buddha’s previous life (Jataka) and other legendary persons (Avadana)
Jatakas are stories about the Buddha before he was born as Prince Siddhartha. They are the stories that tell about the previous lives of the Buddha, in both human and animal form. The future Buddha may appear in them as a king, an outcast, a god, an elephant—but, in whatever form, he exhibits some virtue that the tale thereby inculcates. Avadanas are similar to jatakas, but the main figure is not the Bodhisattva himself. The saintly deeds in avadanas are attributed to other legendary persons. Jatakas and avadanas are treated in one and the same series in the reliefs of Borobudur.
The first twenty lower panels in the first gallery on the wall depict the Sudhanakumaravadana, or the saintly deeds of Sudhana. The first 135 upper panels in the same gallery on the balustrades are devoted to the 34 legends of the Jatakamala. The remaining 237 panels depict stories from other sources, as do the lower series and panels in the second gallery. Some jatakas are depicted twice, for example the story of King Sibhi (Rama’s forefather).
Sudhana’s search for the Ultimate Truth (Gandavyuha)
Gandavyuha is the story told in the final chapter of the Avatamsaka Sutra about Sudhana’s tireless wandering in search of the Highest Perfect Wisdom. It covers two galleries (third and fourth) and also half of the second gallery, comprising in total of 460 panels. The principal figure of the story, the youth Sudhana, son of an extremely rich merchant, appears on the 16th panel. The preceding 15 panels form a prologue to the story of the miracles during Buddha’s samadhi in the Garden of Jeta at Sravasti.
During his search, Sudhana visited no fewer than thirty teachers, but none of them had satisfied him completely. He was then instructed by Manjusri to meet the monk Megasri, where he was given the first doctrine. As his journey continues, Sudhana meets (in the following order) Supratisthita, the physician Megha (Spirit of Knowledge), the banker Muktaka, the monk Saradhvaja, the upasika Asa (Spirit of Supreme Enlightenment), Bhismottaranirghosa, the Brahmin Jayosmayatna, Princess Maitrayani, the monk Sudarsana, a boy called Indriyesvara, the upasika Prabhuta, the banker Ratnachuda, King Anala, the god Siva Mahadeva, Queen Maya, Bodhisattva Maitreya and then back to Manjusri. Each meeting has given Sudhana a specific doctrine, knowledge and wisdom. These meetings are shown in the third gallery.
After the last meeting with Manjusri, Sudhana went to the residence of Bodhisattva Samantabhadra, depicted in the fourth gallery. The entire series of the fourth gallery is devoted to the teaching of Samantabhadra. The narrative panels finally end with Sudhana’s achievement of the Supreme Knowledge and the Ultimate Truth.
A Buddha statue with the hand position of dharmachakra mudra
Apart from the story of the Buddhist cosmology carved in stone, Borobudur has many statues of various Buddhas. The cross-legged statues are seated in a lotus position and distributed on the five square platforms (the Rupadhatu level), as well as on the top platform (the Arupadhatu level).
Head from a Borobudur Buddha statue in Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam.
The Buddha statues are in niches at the Rupadhatu level, arranged in rows on the outer sides of the balustrades, the number of statues decreasing as platforms progressively diminish to the upper level. The first balustrades have 104 niches, the second 104, the third 88, the fourth 72 and the fifth 64. In total, there are 432 Buddha statues at the Rupadhatu level. At the Arupadhatu level (or the three circular platforms), Buddha statues are placed inside perforated stupas. The first circular platform has 32 stupas, the second 24 and the third 16, which adds up to 72 stupas. Of the original 504 Buddha statues, over 300 are damaged (mostly headless), and 43 are missing. Since the monument’s discovery, heads have been acquired as collector’s items, mostly by Western museums. Some of these Buddha heads are now displayed in numbers of museums, such as the Tropen museum in Amsterdam and The British Museum in London.
Headless Buddha statue in Borobudur, since its discovery numbers of Buddha’s head has been stolen and ended up in museums abroad.
At first glance, all the Buddha statues appear similar, but there is a subtle difference between them in the mudras,or the position of the hands. There are five groups of mudra: North, East, South, West and Zenith, which represent the five cardinal compass points according to Mahayana. The first four balustrades have the first four mudras: North, East, South and West, of which the Buddha statues that face one compass direction have the correspondingmudra. Buddha statues at the fifth balustrades and inside the 72 stupas on the top platform have the same mudra: Zenith. Each mudra represents one of the Five Dhyani Buddhas; each has its own symbolism.
Lion gate guardian
Following the order of Pradakshina (clockwise circumumbulation) starting from the East, the mudras of the Borobudur buddha statues are:
Sukarno took Nehru to visit Borobudur in June 1950.
The aesthetic and technical mastery of Borobudur, and also its sheer size, has evoked the sense of grandeur and pride for Indonesians. Just like Angkor Wat for Cambodian, Borobudur has become a powerful symbol for Indonesia — to testify for its past greatness. Sukarnomade a point of showing the site to foreign dignitaries. While Suharto regime — realized its important symbolic and economic meanings — diligently embarked on a massive project to restore the monument with the help from UNESCO. Many museums in Indonesia contain a scale model replica of Borobudur. The monument has become almost an icon, grouped with the wayang puppet play and gamelan music into a vague classical Javanese past from which Indonesians are to draw inspiration.
Emblem of Central Java displaying Borobudur.
Several archaeological relics taken from Borobudur or its replica, has been displayed in some museums in Indonesia and abroad. Other than Karmawibhangga Museum within Borobudur temple ground, some museums boast to host relics of Borobudur, such as Indonesian National Museum in Jakarta,Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam, British Museum in London, and Thai National Museum in Bangkok. Louvremuseum in Paris, Malaysian National Museum in Kuala Lumpur, and Museum of World Religions in Taipei also displayed the replica of Borobudur. The monument has drawn global attention to the classical Buddhist civilization of ancient Java.
The rediscovery and reconstruction of Borobudur has been hailed by Indonesian Buddhist as the sign of the Buddhist revival in Indonesia. In 1934,Narada Thera, a missionary monk from Sri Lanka, visited Indonesia for the first time as part of his journey to spread the Dharma in Southeast Asia. This opportunity was used by a few local Buddhists to revive Buddhism in Indonesia. A bodhi tree planting ceremony was held in Southeastern side of Borobudur on 10 March 1934 under the blessing of Narada Thera, and some Upasakas were ordained as monks. Once a year, thousands of Buddhist from Indonesia and neighboring countries flock to Borobudur to commemorate national Vesak ceremony.
The emblem of Central Java province and Magelang Regency bears the image of Borobudur. It has become the symbol of Central Java, and also Indonesia on a wider scale. Borobudur has become the name of several establishments, such as Borobudur University, Borobudur Hotel in Central Jakarta, and several Indonesian restaurants abroad. Borobudur has been featured in Rupiah banknote, stamps, numbers of books, publications, documentaries and Indonesian tourism promotion materials. The monument has become one of the main tourism attraction in Indonesia, vital for generating local economy in the region surrounding the temple. The tourism sector of the city ofYogyakarta for example, flourish partly because of its proximity to Borobudur and Prambanan temples.