Borobudur: Carving of the Reliefs

Construction at Borobudur probably began around AD 760 and seems to have been completed by about 830. Work on the reliefs was probably divided among several groups of sculptors. The masters first sketched the main outlines of the scenes, and their apprentices then did most of the rough work. The masters returned in the final stages to apply the finishing touches to the panels


Monk chiselling the story title of the relief panel
The master using a piece of charcoal to draw the scene on the panel
An apprentice chiselled out the characters and figures
The master carved the finer details on the figures such as their jewellery and clothing
Next white plaster was applied over the panel
The relief was then finally painted in pastel colours

The stones we view today when we visit Borobudur were not meant to be seen at all, for the entire monument was originally coated with white plaster and then painted. The plasterwork would have required skill, for very fine details were moulded using this medium.