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DVD Review: The Lost Temple of Java

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Long, long ago, when Europe was still in the Dark Ages, the civilization which thrived on Java created a great Buddhist temple. The Lost Temple of Java , a BBC TimeWatch video by author and documentary filmmaker Phil Grabsky, is the story of this “8th Wonder of the World.”

Remarkably the temple, named Borobudur, was abandoned not long after it was built in the 9th century, probably as a result of volcanic action nearby. It was then completely covered by jungle growth until it was rediscovered by the famous Thomas Stamford Raffles, later to be Sir Thomas Raffles and best remembered because of his founding of Singapore. But before that, he was the British ruler of Java and unusual for his time in that he actually cared about the Javanese people and their culture. His curiosity about the island he ruled led to the rediscovery of this remarkable structure, made of 1.6 million blocks of volcanic stone and covered with over three miles of carvings.

The temple is an amazing sight, in the shape of a pyramid with four square terraces and three circular ones. It is topped with dome-shaped structures, each of which held a Buddha. (Some are now exposed, but when the temple was in use, only the most enlightened would ever have been able to reverently peer at the Buddhas.)

This documentary answers many questions about what has now become one of the most popular tourist sites in Asia. Why was it built? What do the carvings tell, and what was their purpose? How was it constructed? And why was it abandoned?

The film is full of beautiful images and is wonderfully put together, with plenty of footage of the temple itself as well as facts about the history and culture of Java and about the fascinating Raffles. For any fan of archaeology, history, or exotic places, this documentary will be a must-see.

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About Rhetta Akamatsu

I am an author of non-fiction books and an online journalist. My books include Haunted Marietta, The Irish Slaves, T'ain't Nobody's Business If I Do: Blues Women Past and Present, and Sex Sells: Women in Photography and Film.