The Karmavibhanga Reliefs from Borobudur

Photographs of the exposed south-east corner of the lower level at Borobudur showing the reliefs illustrating the Karma-vibhanga

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The Karmavibhanga Panels

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 were reinstalled covering the Karmavibhanga reliefs. Today, only the southeast corner part is revealed and visible for visitors.

Text adapted from Wikipedia (retrieved, January 5th 2014)

All the panels were photographed by Kasian Cephas in the 1890s, and these have recently been digitalised by the Volkenkunde Museum in Leiden, and can be seen here The Karmavibhanga Reliefs from Borobudur.

Photographs by Anandajoti Bhikkhu

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