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Published: February 7th 2012
BOROBUDUR: Universe on Earth.
To reach enlightenment at Borobudur...claims to be the largest temple in the World... the largest Buddhist...the Universe on Earth...the pilgrim must cross a river...wading in waist deep water...visit a small temple...wade across a 2nd river...2nd temple...then Borobudur...the object of the quest.
On entering the temple site...a ritual is to be followed.
I had travelled from the land of Oz...but a few hours away...I knew I had problems...would I achieve my quest?
The wading seemed out of the question..!
On leaving Candi Sewu (see Previous blog), the only vendor within coo-ee, ...cold drinks...we sweating profusely...faces red as...iced tea for Den & Joe...Bintang for me...pulled from icy water under one of the piles of carved stones...I need this.
This was only my second beer in Java...don't tell Cockle...but it ended up being my last.
As soon as I downed it...did not feel as I should...in the vehicle...on the way to the Sultan's Palace...I think I need a toilet stop...stomach screaming.
We seemed to drive for an eternity...my reminders becoming more frequent...there's a service station ahead...require to turn right in heavy traffic...sorry can't wait.
We all have experienced such urgency...such emergency...so
what do you do in an emergency...a dire emergency..?
You pull into a Police Station...don't you..??!!
A simple local station...on a corner...a small river with appropriate vegetation behind...out of the vehicle...run in...pointed there...squat pot...not a second too soon.
Told the Police...sitting together...they had saved my life...but they either did not speak English or did not see the joke...saved my life though..!
Thus started several days of unsettled health...lucky we booked 4 nights at Borobudur...instead of the usual tourist in & out...one night only.
The Sultan's Palace in Yogyakarta was beautiful...the reverence to local nobility...photos of the 9th...a man of the people...another side to the Javan psyche that we grew to love.
But I spent my time there...sitting huddled on one of the few chairs available...in a corner...between a doorway and a display cabinet...feeling decidedly "off"...the only cheer being...the number of Indonesians that preferred to photograph me...proud I scored more photos than the permanent displays..!
We drove through the area devasted by the eruption of Merapi a year ago...massive stones dropped onto the road...took a month to clear up....still dredging the river...many shovelling...trucks loaded with volcanic gravel...dripping...continuing employment to clean up the aftermath.
We crossed two rivers...passed two small temples...entering the village of Borobudur...in through the gates of the Manohara Hotel...the grounds of the source of our quest.
What penance is in store for skipping and not wading the two rivers..?
Think I'll have to wing it.
We were on a "Climbing volcanoes in Java...Seeking enlightenment at Borobudur...Someone has to do it Tour"...
and I plan to sit on Borobudur on Christmas Day.
As this was a spur of the moment trip...could only get 2 nights at the Manohara Hotel that controls the site...and then 2 nights at Pondok Tinggal, traditional Javanese, in the village.
Joe wanted to show us the site...then leave us and collect us in 4 days...offerred to take us to the cone of Merapi...if we get bored...no way...we booked 4 nights so we could get into the ambience of the place...and that needs time.
Nice small room...Eric & Erin (Canadians we met at Prambanan) 3 doors up...see you at dinner.
Provided with entry passes (the benefit of staying at the Manohara) and wrap around Batik skirts...to show reverence for the site...across manicured lawns...up a path...this massive stone structure beckoning us.
Best option for accommodation
of entry area...like coming from an eddy into a river...a river of people...we the only Westerners...up a few levels...streaming onto the site.
from the Sanskrit for "temple"..."Budur"
local language for "above the hill"...
a rectangular based stepped pyramid with 9 terrace levels (the top 4 round) with a big round stupa on the top...a mixture of Javanese and Indian architecture.
Its design is said to be in accordance "with Buddhism concept as a replica of the Universe".
I couldn't tell...so I took a step of faith and simply believed it..!
Built from 780 to 833 A.D...Borobudur is a solid structure...comprising 2 million stones...no rooms inside...surrounded by 10 volcanoes...called "the bracelet."
Probably due to its massive weight, shortly after its construction, a number of volcanic eruptions over a year made the site unstable.
As a result the lower level comprising carvings of "the Law of Karma"
was covered by stone blocks forming a skirt.
From 1907 - 1911 the Dutch carried out renovations.
From 1973 to 1983 the Indonesian Government with UNESCO funding pulled the whole site apart...stone by stone...laid a solid reinforced concrete base...and then rebuilt it...concrete bases for each level...leaving one
corner of the skirt open for a taste of the Law of Karma.
President Soeharto declared it would now last another "one thousand years."
An 85 hectare park was designated around it to protect it...and what is now the Manohara Hotel, was accommodation for research staff.
In 1991 Borobudur together with Prambanan was granted UNESCO World Heritage status.
During the process statisticians counted all the carvings...counted the stones (2,000,000)...calculated weight (3,500,000 tons)...dimensions (119m long, 14.161m wide, 35.29m high)...number and length of carvings or bas-reliefs (1,212 relief panels together measuring 2.5 kms)...every conceivable statistic...even the number of the 504 Buddhas with each hand pose.
The most important statistic to the Govt was probably "weight able to hold 5,000 visitors."
So if you visit Borobudur...take heart...there is no way 5,000 would fit on it..!
However, if you want to avoid the crowds...stay at the Manohara...and avoid public holidays..! We accessed the site by a side path from the Manohara...no lining up...no hassle.
There are 5 levels of terraced galleries...relief carvings of the story of Buddha...and not surprising...Joe knew the story...start at left explaining each one...flowing from one to the next...Joe disappearing ahead with Denise...as
I loitered with my camera.
Level 6 had 36 bell stupas (some containing Buddhas), level 7 had 24, level 8 had 16.
Level 9 had one large hollow stupa...no Buddha in that one..."Why hollow?"
Because..."true perfection needs no other explanation."
Erin originally from Newfoundland is co-founder of Woza Moya Little Traveller...a holistic centre caring for people with HIV/AIDS in South Africa. The local women make tiny dolls (Little Travellers)...which together with Passport...they sell and the proceeds feed their families. www.littletraveller.org.za
Erin was walking through Vancouver...saw a man walk by who was wearing one of the Traveller dolls...did a double-take...chased him down the road...struck up conversation...and we met Eric & Erin in Java on their honeymoon.
As my paternal grandmother was the first woman to graduate in medicine in Newfoundland...her father the mayor, magistrate (and I believe presided over his trial for smuggling...yes...he did get off)...Erin & I may be related..!
Up at 4 a.m. on 23 December for a 4.30 a.m. onto Borobudur for sunrise...provided with torches...wearing our batik skirts of course...assurred "maximum of 20 until 6 a.m."
we went up as a group of eight...alone in the dark...traversing...then racing around as the fingers of dawn...opened the
At each corner
clouds around the peaks of "the bracelet"...
cameras and hearts humming.
By the time dawn was upon us there may have been 20 of us...so easy to enjoy solitude during this special time...so glad it was this morning as the morning before and at least Christmas Eve and Christmas Day the visibility I heard at sunrise was poor or raining. "But did you reach enlightenment?"
You bet I did.
Those of you that follow my blogs would know I reached enlightenment at Lalibela in Ethiopia at Timket...and you would hope it hasn't washed away...but that was Ethiopian Coptic Christian...and Borobudur, being Buddhist, is somewhat different.
Having eaten little for days...3 chips only one night...existing on ginger in hot water with brown sugar...I used a late visit on Christmas Eve to tackle my quest...black monsoon clouds threatening...my lack of food akin to having fasted...though for other reasons.
The temple structure was packed...crawling with tourists...all Asian...and one wild looking bearded Aussie...starting at the left bottom terrace...moving along looking at every carved relief and carving...no camera this time...terrace by terrace...I walked for miles...clockwise...not stopping to pose for photos.
When on the 6th, 7th & 8th
LOVE THE VIEW
Surrounded by 10 volcanoes
levels...past each bell stupa...looking at the face of each Buddha in stupas...Buddhas in open space...holding the hand of the Buddha if it had one.
The holding of hands is not in the Ritual Guide...I just added that one...seemed pretty cool at the time.
When I reached the 9th & top level I walked around the base of the giant stupa...my right hand in contact with the stone...did it twice for good measure...climbing over garbage bins...photographers stepping aside.
By the time I had completed the 10 circuits I was knackered...it was hot & humid...wringing with sweat...and the black clouds were about to explode.
I had completed the route pilgrims must take...to reach enlightenment.
Thousands were streaming from the site...but I reckon only one had reached enlightenment that day.
But as the Audio-visual I had seen on the TV in our room had told me:
"Once done I would not want to come down...but I have to go down to the real world...to descend into reality with new eyes."
And descend I did...and as soon as I hit the side path...it bucketted down...I'll take that as a good sign..!
And having descended back into the real world with new eyes...unfortunately...the wickedness of the World continued in my gut for the next 2 days.
Thank goodness we
have that time here to recover...and to discover more of the magic of Java...with new eyes..!
Relax & Enjoy,
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