A stupa (also known as a pagoda) is the most sacred building in Buddhism. A stupa symbolises the enlightened mind and the path to enlightenment. A stupa is also a reliquary to house holy relics of the Buddha and other highly realised beings.
Lama Anagarika Govinda (in “Psycho-cosmic symbolism of the Buddhist Stupa”) has drawn strong parallels between these two famous stupas – Borobodur in Indonesia and Gyantse Stupa (Kumbum) in Tibet.
“…the actual groundplan of Borobodur fits exactly on the spiral groundplan of the orthodox stupa as explained by the scholastic symbolism.”
The same is true of the Kumbum – the famous terraced Chorten of Gyantse in Central Tibet, known as the Golden Temple of the Hundred Thousand Buddhas. It was built on the same general plan as that which was originally intended for Borobodur.
The latter had to change in the course of construction, because the ground was apparently not strong enough to bear the weight of the massive cupola, and this was further aggravated by the ever-present danger of earthquakes. Thus, in order to prevent the building from sinking, the big cupola…had to be replaced by a circular terrace, corresponding to the base of the cupola…The nine stories of the Kumbum correspond exactly to the nine levels of the Borobodur.
Though the Kumbum was built about 500 years later than Borobodur, when the latter was already buried under a deep layer of earth and forgotten even by the inhabitants of Java, the outlines of the Kumbum appear as an almost exact replica of the four lower terraces of Borobodur.