Ancient monuments or temples have been standing across the Earth for thousands of years. Some of these structures have survived through the worst of times and carry a tremendous cultural, historic, and spiritual meaning. When we talk about ancient ruins, the first name that comes to our mind is Egypt’s pyramids or the Stonehenge. But there are quite a few lesser-known and fascinating ancient ruins, too. Take a look. --- Akhila
BOROBUDUR TEMPLE, INDONESIA
With nearly 13,500 islands and rich diverse cultures, landscapes; Indonesia has become one of the most attractive destinations. From exploring ancient temples to diving into the clear waters, this populous country is a perfect holiday destination. Indonesia is also known for ancient temples. One such temple that is culturally significant and a famous landmark is the Borobudur temple. This ancient temple is considered one of the world’s seven wonders. It is located near Muntilan on the island of Java. This famous worship place sits royally on a hilltop overlooking the amazing greenery and distant hills.
This biggest Buddhist monument was built during the reign of the Syailendra dynasty in the 9th century. The style of construction of this temple is heavily influenced by the Indian culture. The stonework and architecture is simply mind-blowing. The entire structure is built without cement or mortar. The building is decorated with 504 Buddha statues and 2672 relief panels. The basic structure of this temple resembles a pyramid. The statues of Buddha around this structure are carved so that they all meditate towards the spiritual path. It is believed that these statues guide pilgrims towards a higher state of consciousness. There are close to 1460 stone reliefs with an additional 1212 decorative reliefs along with the Buddha statues. These carvings depict Buddha’s teachings, various events that took place in the past lives and illustrations from Buddist scriptures. Later on another 160 relief sculptures were added to support the structure and ensure stability. These narrative reliefs were discovered in the 19th century. One of the highlights of this temple is the huge central stupa, which denotes an enlightened mind.
Until the 14th and 15th centuries CE, the Buddhists in the Javanese population performed several rituals inside this temple. Over many centuries, it suffered destruction due to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. In the 1970s the UNESCO along with the Indonesian government worked towards restoring this famous site. The process of restoration took almost eight years. Today this temple remains as a popular tourist attraction.
WAT CHAIWATTHANARAM THAILAND
Every year, millions of tourists visit Thailand to experience its rich culture, taste local flavours, and dive into the crystal clear blue seas. Amidst the magnificent skyscrapers, beautiful beaches, luxurious resorts, crowded and noisy streets; there are quite a few ancient decaying ruins. One such ruin that has become a popular tourist attraction is Wat Chaiwatthanaram.
Located in the ancient city of Ayutthaya, which is 80 kilometres to the north of Bangkok, the Wat Chaiwatthanaram was a beautiful temple built in the year 1630 by King Prasat Thong. Regarded as one of the opulent structures of the Ayutthaya kingdom, it was used as a place of worship by the king and his family. History has it that the king constructed this awe-inspiring temple as a memorial to his beloved mother and it was also a means to obtain Buddist merit. One of the highlights is its architecture. The style of construction was heavily influenced by one of Cambodia’s popular tourist attractions, Angkor Wat. This Buddhist temple has elements that represent the traditional Khmer style, which consists of indigenous animistic beliefs. This style of architecture is based on the beliefs of both Buddhism and Hinduism. The highlight of this ancient temple is the 35 metre tall Khmer style prang. This huge tower is made to sit on a raised platform in the shape of a corncob. According to the Hindu and Buddist, the prang symbolises Mount Meru, a universe surrounded by oceans. The main platform supporting this particular tower consists of eight smaller chedis connected by one enclosed gallery. The eight chedis denote the stories that describe the previous lives of Buddha, Jataka tales. The ancient temple also consists of over 100 images. These images are coloured with black lacquered and gilded. Inside the main prayer room stands a chedi; this is where King Prasat Thong’s mother’s ashes are preserved.
In 1767, Wat Chaiwatthanaram was looted and dismantled by the Burmese army. However, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Fine Arts Department restored this beautiful ancient ruin.
THE ACROPOLIS OF ATHENS, GREECE
Apart from the black sands of Santorini and the most happening resorts of Mykonos, Greece is known for its rich culture and heritage. One of the world’s greatest civilisations, this island country has several impressive ancient sites. One of the most popular and visited ancient sites by tourists is the Acropolis of Athens.
It was used as a military base and a fort during the Neolithic period, due to its stunning view. Built on a high hill, the structure was believed to symbolise the ancient Greek civilisation. During the ca. 1600 to 1100 B.C., this historical site became a worship place during the Mycenaean period. The Goddess of Athens was worshipped at this spot. The Parthenon, the Erechtheion and Nike were the three temples built at this site. In all of these temples, Goddess Athena was worshipped in different ways. In 480 B.C, During the battle of Salamina, the Acropolis was destroyed by the Persians.
Pericles, the founder of the Athenian democracy, has rebuilt it. It was beautifully remodelled into a city of temples. Pericles hired highly talented architects Mnesikles, Callicrates and Iktinos to design the new structure. Renowned sculptor, Phidias who made the famous statue of Zeus at Olympia worked on the restoration of this historic building. One of the major highlights of this temple of Athena was the ivory and gold statue of goddess Athena, an amazing piece of art by Phidias. The Acropolis was not just used for worshipping the Greek goddess but also as a place of Christian devotion and into a Muslim place of worship. What is so unique about this historic property is that it has been used for various purposes for centuries and parts of it survived through earthquakes, fires, and wars. In the present day scenario, the Acropolis of Athens is undergoing restoration, including constructing a new museum to preserve the site’s important artefacts.
THE RUINS, TALISAY CITY, PHILIPPINES
For all the history buffs who like exploring ancient ruins, the Philippines should be on your travel list. This island country in Southeast Asia was the prime location of several battles, and it played a key role in World War II. It consists of several historic sites and artefacts. One of the popular historic sites and the most photographed site is the remains of an ancestral home, The Ruins.
Located in Talisay City, The Ruins is known as the ‘Taj Mahal’ of the Philippines. This massive family-owned mansion was built in the 1900s by a sugarcane owner, Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson. Don belongs to a wealthy family married to the love of his life, Maria Braga. The couple settled in Talisay City, the capital of Bacolod. When Maria was pregnant with her 11th child, she passed away. After this tragic incident, Don decided to build this mansion in memory of his beloved wife. This massive house became the residence of Don and his children. The Italian style highly influenced the architecture of this magnificent mansion with neo-Romanesque twin columns. One interesting feature of this structure is the letters M and M that are engraved into the mansion posts. The shell-shaped decor in this stunning ancient home’s top edge symbolises that a ship captain owns it. This particular design is in honour of Maria’s father.
During the early days of World War II, the Ruins was burned by the United States Armed Forces and guerilla fighters at the Japanese occupation. The fighters set this beautiful structure on fire to stop the Japanese forces from using it as a headquarters. Although the mansion was burned, the outside fountain was well preserved. A gorgeous lily garden surrounds the fountain. The well-landscaped garden draws inspiration from Japanese-inspired gardens to English gardens. Recently, there were some new additions to this ancient ruins: 18 hole mini-golf course and modern bathrooms. Today, this sites is used for special occasions like weddings and tea parties. Inside the ruins, there’s a fine-dining restaurant offering mini-bar and Mediterranean food.
COLOSSEUM , ITALY
Did you know the Colosseum is considered the largest and the most beautiful stadium in the ancient world? Yes, you heard it right. This amphitheatre is not just a symbol of strength and power of the Roman Empire; but also a famous sightseeing attraction in Rome.
Located in the valley between the Palatine, Esquiline and Caelian Hills, the Colosseum is also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre. The massive structure built under the leadership of the Flavian emperors in Rome was changed from the Flavian amphitheatre to Colosseum due to Nero’s statue, which was located at the entrance of the Domus Aurea.
The construction of this historic building started in 72 C.E. when Vespasian was ruling the Flavian dynasty and was finished in 80 during the reign of the emperor Titus. The Colosseum is 188 metres in length, 156 metres in width and 57 metres in height. During the Roman Empire, this Flavian amphitheatre was used as a place of entertainment. With a capacity of more than 50,000 people, this structure was used by the Romans to witness recreations of battles, gladiator fights, and exotic animals, executions of prisoners, classical mythology dramas, and mock battles. Emperors also used this place to celebrate their victories. The Colosseum was built so that it resembled a freestanding structure made with concrete and stone. A complex system of groin vaults and barrel vaults are used to construct this amazing theatre. The main structural framework and façade are made out of Travertine, a form of limestone. The Colosseum ceiling is designed in the shape of a canvas to protect people from the sun. For over 500 years, inside this historic building, Romas were engaged with an array of activities. The last show performed in this structure was in the 6th century A.D.
After the sixth century, the Colosseum was subjected to looting. Most of the structure was destroyed during the bombings of World War II and earthquakes. As of today, this Roman amphitheatre still attracts millions of tourists every year. In 2007, it became one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Pic courtesy: theruins.com.ph