The Karmavibhanga Reliefs from Borobudur

Photos by Kassian Cephas

160 public domain photographs from Borobudur, Java, showing the reliefs illustrating the Karmavibhanga text, which shows the results of good and bad deeds, together with some further information.

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 Kassian Cephas in 1890. It is copies of these photographs that are reproduced here. During the restoration the foot encasement was 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)


001 Gambling and Carousing

001 Gambling and Carousing

002 Nursing the Sick

002 Nursing the Sick

003 Sensuality (unfinished)

003 Sensuality (unfinished)

004 Life amidst Death (unfinished)

004 Life amidst Death (unfinished)

005 Armed Conflict

005 Armed Conflict

006 Social Peace

006 Social Peace

007 Peaceful Assembly

007 Peaceful Assembly

008 At the Court

008 At the Court

009 Enjoying Nature

009 Enjoying Nature

010 Quarrels and Arguments

010 Quarrels and Arguments

011 Feeding the Hungry

011 Feeding the Hungry

012 Offerings

012 Offerings

013 In the Garden

013 In the Garden

014 Home Life

014 Home Life

015 Famine Relief

015 Famine Relief

016 Brahmins in Discussion

016 Brahmins in Discussion

017 Sitting Around

017 Sitting Around

018 Massaging

018 Massaging

019 Female Attention

019 Female Attention


020 Dancing

Wrong Speech

021 Wrong Speech


022 Slander

Wrestling (unfinished)

023 Wrestling (unfinished)

At the Temple

024 At the Temple


025 Fighting

Giving Robes To Ascetics

026 Giving Robes To Ascetics

King and Queen

027 King and Queen

Visiting Ascetics

028 Visiting Ascetics

Cleaning A Shrine

029 Cleaning A Shrine

Extended Family At Home

030 Extended Family At Home

Offering Food To A Monk

031 Offering Food To A Monk

Youth Encountering Old Age

032 Youth Encountering Old Age

Visiting A Temple

033 Visiting A Temple

Acceptance and Rejection

034 Acceptance and Rejection

Elders In Discussion

035 Elders In Discussion

Contemplating Flowers

036 Contemplating Flowers


037 Debating

Leaving Home

038 Leaving Home

Musicians and A Cripple

039 Musicians and A Cripple

Discussion (damaged)

040 Discussion (damaged)

Parade (unfinished)

041 Parade (unfinished)

Visiting the King, Visiting the Teacher

042 Visiting the King, Visiting the Teacher

Taking Gifts To the King

043 Taking Gifts To the King

Pleading For Help From the King

044 Pleading For Help From the King

Gifts (damaged)

045 Gifts (damaged)

Under the Trees (damaged)

046 Under the Trees (damaged)

The Family At Home

047 The Family At Home

In the Park

048 In the Park

Bad Advice (damaged)

049 Bad Advice (damaged)

Under the Jack Tree (damaged)

050 Under the Jack Tree (damaged)


051 (damaged)

Watching Street Performers

052 Watching Street Performers

Watching Musicians

053 Watching Musicians

Worshipping the Queen

054 Worshipping the Queen

Advice and Blessings

055 Advice and Blessings

An Assembly

056 An Assembly

Before the King

057 Before the King

Leaning on the Queen

058 Leaning on the Queen

With Produce

059 With Produce

Under the Trees

060 Under the Trees


061 Dancers

Meeting Friends

062 Meeting Friends


063 Accountants

The Prince at Court

064 The Prince at Court (damaged)

Rats in the Paddy Fields

065 Rats in the Paddy Fields

In the Courtyard

066 In the Courtyard

Listening to Petitioners

067 Listening to Petitioners


068 Offerings

Collecting Taxes

069 Collecting Taxes

Feeding the Hungry

070 Feeding the Hungry

Giving Alms

071 Giving Alms

Petitioning the Prince

072 Petitioning the Prince


073 Calculations

Spearing a Wild Pig

074 Spearing a Wild Pig

Men Dozing

075 Men Dozing

Discussing Business

076 Discussing Business


077 Requests

With Produce

078 With Produce

Students with Books

079 Students with Books


080 Merchandise

Harmonious Gathering

081 Harmonious Gathering

Making Offerings

082 Making Offerings

Making Supplications

083 Making Supplications

Courtly Scenes

084 Courtly Scenes

On Two Floors

085 On Two Floors

Violence and Contention

086 Violence and Contention

Violence and Contention

087 Violence and Contention

Assault and Killing

088 Assault and Killing

Karmic Consequences of Evil

089 Karmic Consequences of Evil

In the Hell Regions

090 In the Hell Regions

Hell and Suffering (damaged)

091 Hell and Suffering (damaged)


092 Adulterers


093 Adulterers

Animals and Birds

094 Animals and Birds

Bird Men

095 Bird Men

Settling Disputes

096 Settling Disputes


097 Sharing

Good Company

098 Good Company

Many Scenes

099 Many Scenes

Water Pots

100 Water Pots

Giving Alms

101 Giving Alms

Pleasant Sounds

102 Pleasant Sounds

Heavenly Delights

103 Heavenly Delights

Giving Alms

104 Giving Alms

Receiving Gifts

105 Receiving Gifts


106 Meditation

Giving Fruit

107 Giving Fruit

Clothing the Naked

108 Clothing the Naked

Feeding the Hungry

109 Feeding the Hungry

Fishing and Its Karmic Consequences

110 Fishing and Its Karmic Consequences

Out of the Boat

111 Out of the Boat

Giving Good Council

112 Giving Good Council

Hand Outs

113 Hand Outs

Gifts at Court

114 Gifts at Court


115 (unfinished)

Giving Gifts

116 Giving Gifts

Visiting Relations

117 Visiting Relations

Looking for More

118 Looking for More

Hunting and Fishing

119 Hunting and Fishing


120 Gossipping


121 (unfinished)

Wheat FIelds

122 Wheat FIelds

Giving Advice (unfinished)

123 Giving Advice (unfinished)

With Pots

124 With Pots

Worshipping the Temple

125 Worshipping the Temple


126 Musicians


127 Kinnaras


128 Supplicating


129 Curtains

Universal Monarch

130 Universal Monarch

Making Offering To Sacred Tree

131 Making Offering To Sacred Tree

Ringing Bell

132 Ringing Bell

Universal Monarch

133 Universal Monarch

In the Palace

134 In the Palace

Household Scene

135 Household Scene

Giving Gifts (unfinished)

136 Giving Gifts (unfinished)

Household Scene (unfinished)

137 Household Scene (unfinished)

Heavenly Delights

138 Heavenly Delights

Giving Gift (unfinished)s

139 Giving Gifts (unfinished)

An Assembly

140 An Assembly

Making Offerings at a Shrine

141 Making Offerings at a Shrine

Worshipping at a Shrine

142 Worshipping at a Shrine

King and Family

143 King and Family

Lascivious Life

144 Lascivious Life

Two Scenes

145 Two Scenes

At the Market

146 At the Market

Making a Request

147 Making a Request

Shrine with Lotus Pond

148 Shrine with Lotus Pond

Making Offerings to Ascetics

149 Making Offerings to Ascetics

Dance Performance

150 Dance Performance

Being Carried In Procession

151 Being Carried In Procession

Musician (unfinished)s

152 Musicians (unfinished)

Making Offerings at a Shrine

153 Making Offerings at a Shrine

Prince and Women

154 Prince and Women

Offerings to the Prince

155 Offerings to the Prince

Offerings Of Lamps at a Shrine

156 Offerings Of Lamps at a Shrine

Courtly Scenes

157 Courtly Scenes

A Comfortable Home

158 A Comfortable Home


159 Meditating

Universal Monarch

160 Universal Monarch

Photographs by Kassian Cephas

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