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Rulers of the Sailendra dynasty built Borobudur some time between AD 750 and AD 850. Little else is known about Borobudur’s early history, but the Sailendras must have recruited a huge workforce, as some 60, 000 cubic metres of stone had to be hewn, transported and carved during its construction. The name Borobudur is possibly derived from the Sanskrit words ‘Vihara Buddha Uhr’, which mean ‘Buddhist Monastery on the Hill’.

With the decline of Buddhism and the shift of power to East Java, Borobudur was abandoned soon after completion and for centuries lay forgotten, buried under layers of volcanic ash. It was only in 1815, when Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles governed Java, that the site was cleared and the sheer magnitude of the builders’ imagination and technical skill was revealed. Early in the 20th century the Dutch began to tackle the restoration of Borobudur, but over the years the supporting hill had become waterlogged and the whole immense stone mass started to subside. A mammoth US$25 million restoration project was under­taken between 1973 and 1983 to finally finish the job.

On 21 January 1985, bombs planted by opponents of Soeharto exploded on the upper layers of Borobudur. Many of the smaller stupas were damaged, but it has once again been fully restored, demonstrating the structure’s timeless resilience. In 1991 Borobudur gained the status of a World Heritage site.