At the crack of dawn one February day, Augustine Yono, my driver in Bali, drove me to Ngurah Rai airport for a trip to Yogyakarta, fondly called Jogja by the locals. It was a short ride on Lion Air, the first asian budget air carrier I ever took. Check in was briskly efficient, take off on time and the aircraft was impressively clean and fresh looking, unlike some of its tired and more expensive international counterparts.
In Jogja airport, after meeting Kris Kubriz, my driver for the day, we set off for Borobudur, the primary reason why I wanted to visit Jogja. Bobobudur captured my attention when I was flipping through some guidebooks in preparation for the southeast trip. Lonely Planet had pictures showing a looming black mass which reminded me of Mont St. Michel in Normandy. I was lucky to have gone when I did as the eruption of Volcano Kelud temporarily stopped flights to and from the Jogja airport and also closed Borobodur for a few days.
Borobudur Temple was built by the Sailendra dynasty between 750 and 842 AD. In contrast to other worldwide religious structures, it would be 300 years before Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, 400 years before work began on the great European cathedrals. http://www.borobudurpark.com. The temple is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.
A 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist Temple in Central Java, Indonesia. The monument consists of six square platforms topped by three circular platforms and is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. A main dome, located at the center of the top platform, is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues seated inside a perforated stupa. It is the world’s largest Buddhist temple, as well as one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borobudur
Sunrise at the temple has been said to be awesome, spectacular, magnificent, etc., but I had to forego this experience as getting to Borobudur at 4:30 in the morning was not on my bucket list.
Of course, there was the usual signage with literal translations, which take a little bit of imagination to understand, such as “Keep Clean”, “No Scratching”, “No Removing Stone Structure” found around the temple.
The high steps of volcanic stone blocks looked daunting, with no handrails to hold on to. But I was there, so up and onward, hoping that some of the younger sightseers would pick me up if I fell. I was rewarded with fantastic views, stunning hand built architecture, beautifully crafted stone buddhas and intricate stone friezes.
Borobudur temple is built to represent many layers of Buddhist theory. From a birds eye view, the temple is in the shape of a traditional Buddhist mandala. A mandala is central to a great deal of Buddhist and Hindu art, the basic form of most Hindu and Buddhist mandalas is a square with four entry points, and a circular centre point. Working from the exterior to the interior, three zones of consciousness are represented, with the central sphere representing unconsciousness or Nirvana. http://www.borobudurpark.com
While snapping photos, a group of young kids approached and asked if they could talk with me. At first apprehensive, I scrutinized their name badges and was a bit relieved to find a school affiliation. In the conversation, I gathered that they were in the last term of school and one of their assignments was to have “conversations with a foreigner”. Where better than Bobobudur to find a foreigner! An asian foreigner at that! One of the young girls shyly asked if she could invite me to her “farewell” party, which I think was a graduation party on February 28. Alas, that was when I would be in the Philippines. One can just imagine the agitation of the family back in New York when I relayed the invitation: “Don’t go with strangers!!” See photo below where the students huddle as to their game plan on approaching “foreigners.”
Besides being the highest symbol of Buddhism, the Borobodur stupa is also a replica of the universe. It symbolises the micro-cosmos, which is divided into three levels, in which man’s world of desire is influenced by negative impulses; the middle level, the world in which man has control of
his negative impulses and uses his positive impulses; the highest level, in which the world of man is no longer bounded by physical and worldly ancient desire. http://www.buddhanet.net/boro.htm
There are more imposing photographs of Borobudur on the web by photographers with professional equipment, I took pictures of scenes which caught my attention, such as: