Relief of a Large Ship Sailing at Borobudur Temple

Sriwijaya Kingdom was one of the great kingdoms on the island of Sumatra in the past. The origin of this kingdom from the Sailendra Dynasty spread in Sumatra and Java gave birth to two great kingdoms, namely in Sumatra based in Palembang built the Kingdom of Sriwijaya through one of the dynasties namely Balaputradewa. In Central Java based in Magelang built the Kingdom of Ancient Mataram and East Java built the Kingdom of Medang.

reliefs of large ships at Borobudur
Reliefs of large ships at Borobudur

At a later stage, from the descendants of the Ancient Mataram Kingdom and the Medang Kingdom, this became the forerunner of other kingdoms that emerged later in the archipelago and in Southeast Asia in later times.

Why did the Sailendra dynasty really spread and its descendants became figures in other kingdoms that emerged later? Including spread to royal dynasties in Malaya, Indo China, Champa. Also spread to the Kingdom in Cambodia and India.

Another important symbol of the Sailendra dynasty is also in Nalada, India. The Sailendra family built an inscription which is an important clue today, the Nalada inscription.

To answer that question, let's look at the symbols in the reliefs of an important icon from the Sailendra dynasty whose descendants were built, namely Samaratungga, who was the wife of Dewi Tara who came from Sumatra.

The icon is still there and is one of the wonders of the world, Borobudur. Is there any meaning and meaning in the reliefs carved on the stones of Borobudur Temple, which amount to millions of pieces of stone?

The Sailendra dynasty, whose territory was truly vast, stretched across parts of the archipelago, to the territory of Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and India. You can imagine the extent of the power of the Sailendra Wangsa that gave birth to the Sriwijaya Kingdom in Swarnadwipa (Sumatra) and the Ancient Mataram and Medang Kingdoms in Java.

The extent of the influence and power of the Sailendra dynasty illustrates the greatness of the kingdom at its time. Described the strength of the fleet of ships whose voyages are commonplace to China, Africa, Russia and the Americas. If we look at the magnitude of power, it is not surprising that the Borobudur temple with a complex architecture was built and we can see it until now. 

Borobudur Temple
Top of Borobudur Temple

There are 10 reliefs of younger ships on the north side of Borobudur Temple whose real name is Kamulan Bhumisambhara according to the Kahulunan inscription which is 842 years old.From the reliefs there are 6 ships seen as large ships, while the other 4 reliefs are seen as small and medium ships. This is a nautical signal from the nation that made this Borobudur Temple.

Small ships and large sailing are clearly depicted in reliefs. There are reliefs depicting two sailing ships and a smaller ship with one sail. A sister ship is a ship with the characteristics of the Austronesian people in Southeast Asia.

Borobudur Temple
Photo action of tourists in Borobudur

In one of the reliefs there is a ship in the foreground of the ship, the keel sharpens forward and goes up. The front is pointed with added metal or iron that is hard and strong. This is a characteristic of a Sriwijaya ship. The sharpness of the front was used to gore enemy ships.

A British navy, Philip Beale conducted research on marine life in Borobudur. He was amazed by the details of the andesite stone reliefs of Borobudur Temple depicting the ship's intricate architecture. He believes that the sculpture was based on the architecture of the ship that actually existed at that time.

Beale was very inspired and wanted to make what is in the reliefs come true again. In September 2002 he met Nick Burningham, a shipbuilding engineer from Italy. Beale also appointed Nick Burningham to be a consultant to build the ship that is listed on the Borobudur relief.

Before building the big one, Burningham tried to apply the ship architecture in the Borobudur reliefs to the small replica he made with balsa wood. The replica was made as detailed as possible according to the description on the reliefs of Borobudur.

Nick Burningham and Philip Beale met Asad Abdullah who was in the Kangean Islands east of Madura. Asad Abdullah is known as a very experienced traditional ship craftsman.

Burningham's replica of the Borobudur ship was shown to Asad Abdullah. From that replica example Asad got to work and demonstrated his skills. From Asad's hands, in more than 4 months, the construction of the Samudraraksa ship was finally completed.

All processes of building and assembling ship components are carried out with pegs and tie plant fibers as the original. The ship was built with versis details like the one in the Borobudur reliefs.

With a length of 18.29 meters and a width of 4.25 meters, while the height of the ship is 2.25 meters. This dimension is not based on the wishes of Asad Abdullah, Nick Burningham and Philip Beale but on the basis of the details in the Borobudur reliefs. Philip Beale wanted a ship that would be exactly the same as the one at Borobudur. The ship weighs about 30 gross tonnage and is sufficient to accommodate 30 crew members.

Before being entered into the Samudra Raksa Ship museum as it is today, in 2003 the ship was used for an expedition plan from Jakarta to the Malacca Strait then through the Indian Ocean and arrived at the island of Madagascar in the South of the African continent. Then from here the journey continues to reach Accra (Cape Town) in South Africa.

The expedition began on 23 August 2003 from Tanjung Periuk Jakarta with a crew of 15 people including Philip Beale. The captain of the ship was appointed I Gusti Putu Ngurah Sadana, a marine from the Indonesian Navy.

On 23 February 2004 the Samudra Raksa ship arrived in Accra, Ghana. From here, they are sent back by means of a large ship back to Indonesia and placed in the Samudra Raksa Museum. This museum is in the same complex as the Borobudur Temple.

The success of this expedition illustrates that maritime trips in the past can reach other parts of the world which are very far away. The Kingdom of Sailendra dynasty through Balaputradewa who founded Sriwijaya was able to effectively control its power even though it was in a large area and separated from the islands from the archipelago to Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and south east India in Nalada. The extent of the power reaches nearly 90% of the archipelago of Southeast Asia today.

The Sailendra dynasty also through Ratu Pramodhawardhani who continued the rule of Ancient Mataram eventually became the forerunner of the emergence of the Medang Kingdom in East Java, the Singosari Kingdom and also the Majapahit Kingdom which was even more massive in expanding the archipelago.

Indonesia, which is the successor and heir of the archipelagic kingdoms in the past, has a large area from Sabang to Moreke which is a gift from the maritime spirit of the past of the Syailendra Dynasty. The relief of the existing ship, Borobudur, which was built by Samaratungga who was the King of Ancient Mataram, is a clear message that Indonesia must become a maritime country.

The Indonesia Adventure Team Writter.

Reference source:
- "Borobudur Temple Compounds", 
- W. J. van der Meulen (1979),

Tag. : Borobudur, Temple, Borobudur Temple, Relief of Borobudur, History of Borobudur, Sailendra, Sailendra Dynasty, Sumatra Kingdom, Borobudur Temple