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Borobudur, beauty & sadness on Java, Indonesia

After my trip to beautiful Bali my main reason to visit Java, Indonesia, was the Borobudur.
The Borobudur is one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world. This amazing temple complex was constructed between 760 and 830 CE and was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site in 1991.

Gupta Style
The style in which the Borobudur was built was influenced by the Indian Gupta art (a style that I also painted my Tara protecting from Poisons in)
The main stupa, located at the center of the top platform, is surrounded by 72 smaller bell-shaped stupas divided on three levels (terraces), each with a seated Buddha statue inside, that is partly visible through the perforated stonework.
Unfortunately most of the Buddhas have their heads cut off.


Traditionally visitors enter through the eastern gate and should walk clockwise around the temple (known by the term of pradaksina), starting at the lowest level and walking all following levels until the highest level -nirwana- is reached. This way you can also enjoy the stories that are told on the beautiful reliefs.

A sum of 2,672 bas-relief panels are carved into the stone walls of the Borobudur, creating a total length of 6 kilometres. It is valued as the largest and most complete ensemble of Buddha reliefs in the world, showing incredible artistry.
The mountains and hills surrounding the Borobudur Temple serve as temple guards.

borobudur-at-sunriseVillages around the Borobudur
The best way to visit the Borobudur is not to do it on a day trip from Jogyakarta but to visit the beautiful villages that surround the Borobudur and to stay there for a few nights. This way you can also visit and support the the people in the neighbouring villages, who are are specialized in tofu and tempeh making, stone carving and pottery.
The nature in the area is breathtaking, full of palm trees and super green rice fields.

The most special way to visit the Borobudur is during sunrise.
The sunrise tour starts from Manohara hotel at 4.30am while the normal opening hours of the temple start at 6am.
I wanted to meditate on the top of the Borobudur that early, but unfortunately it’s impossible to enjoy the silence during sunrise as everywhere on Java loudspeakers are blasting the muslim call to prayer – waking everybody up when it starts in the middle of the night at 4am – even at this sacred Buddhist place, in a country that used to be all Buddhist and Hindu.

Throwing away their Javanese culture
On Java it’s sad to see that there’s hardly anything left of the authentic Javanese Hindu-Buddhist art and culture as it is destroyed and suppressed by the (fundamentalist) Islam in Indonesia.

The state museum on the Javanese culture that we visited in Yogyakarta was completely neglected, with thick layers of dust on the artworks and some plaques with wrong information below the artworks. When I talked to the guide about it she said that this all was known by the directors for many years but that they don’t care at all.

If you want to experience (part of the) Javanese culture still in practice it’s best to go to Bali, where many of the Javanese people had to flee to a long time ago, because of the Islamic invasion.

The same thing is unfortunately happening again today. On Java I’ve spoken to people with Christian an Javanese religions and believes, and their lives are getting more and more difficult. People that don’t believe in Islam have to behave hypocritical. Just one example: on their ID they are putting ‘Muslim’ behind religion (Why should there be ‘religion’ on an ID anyway?? Things always go wrong if state and religion are not separated), as otherwise they are disadvantaged, and feel unsafe as they can be attacked.

It left us with a lot of sadness.

Should you ever wat to visit the villages around the Borobudur, I would advice you to do it with a good guide such as Atik. On this page you can read more about her.

Inspiration from the ancient stone reliefs
Back to the beauty of the Borobudur: the gorgeous and detailed 8th century reliefs were of great inspiration to me and I made drawings of them and used them as subject for a thangka course.

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