It is on the island of Java, in Indonesia, that the gigantic enigma of stone that is Borobudur. Pyramid-shaped, the building is the largest Buddhist monument ever built. Against the backdrop of active volcanoes, this stupa giant emerges from a fertile plain. At the time of its multichrome and golden splendor, it was perhaps surrounded by a lake, from which it emerged like a titanic lotus flower, at the end of a causeway which would have acted as a stem, along which believers progressed. .
It is hard to believe that this mega-construction could ever have been forgotten. Colonial history tells that it was an English explorer, Stanford Raffles, who brought to light this superstructure buried like a mound under the vegetation, in the heart of an island that had long been converted to Islam. When Borobudur was erected, in the VIIIe century, Southeast Asia and the Indonesian archipelago were covered with alternately Hindu, Buddhist and animist kingdoms.
The archives are almost silent. Three quotations evoke kings of the Shailendra dynasty, coming from the kingdom of Srivijaya, in Sumatra, who would have carved out a fief around the current Jogyakarta. They would have built Borobudur while a neighboring Hindu dynasty began forty kilometers away the construction of another religious mega-complex, the temples of Prabanam.
In fact, two Buddhist temples dating back to that time are still in use, not far away. Buddhism has not totally disappeared from Indonesia. Pilgrims now come from all over the world to mingle with tourists and local schoolchildren to survey this paradoxical testimony of impermanence that has become eternal.
A labyrinthine journey to measure up to the unpredictable
Because in our human eyes, by its very gigantism, the monument sends us back to our finitude. Never mind that its creators have been forgotten. They bequeathed us a gigantic puzzle that holds for the ants that we are from the educational booklet. Tons and tons of lava have been expertly sequenced to reconstruct the life of the Buddha and the message of Buddhist texts, over miles of bas-reliefs. The lover of artistic quotation has enough to take care of for weeks of erudite riddles.
The course is labyrinthine, it forces the visitor to measure up to the unpredictable. One can never perceive the entire structure as one wanders along its sides. Then as our convolutions, clockwise, take us on the ascent of the artificial mountain, the shackles of the mind are erased. Borobudur demonstrates a scholarly use of geometry. At the first levels, square shapes and an iconographic overload distract us at leisure from the terrestrial progression of the beginnings. The sweat reminds us of our mortal condition, swarms of children swirl around the strangers, a pleasant distraction at first, then quickly haunting at their smiling energy. The forms are rounded, the artistic motifs are lightened at the same time as the body of the visitor, the children get tired. The light hits ever harder, the course becomes celestial.
The creators of Borobudur have bequeathed us a gigantic puzzle that holds for the ants that we are from the educational booklet.
Attention must then be focused on the essential, reaching the upper terraces. There, we will be able to meditate on this structure with forms too perfect for our mortal understanding. A scholarly compiler of Asian art, Louis Frédéric had fortunately laid the groundwork for understanding the work: "Conceived on a square plan in which a circle is inscribed, the Borobudur symbolizes both the earth and the sky. Its successive floors suggest the slow ascent towards spiritual Awakening, first of all strewn with difficulties (multiple detours of the square galleries), then freed from worldly preoccupations (rounded terraces) to finally reach the center of the universe, which, in definitive, is only the point of convergence of the individual with the cosmic Reality, represented by the central stupa. »