From Jepara we had a three hour coach journey to Borobudur, where we checked in to the Manohara Resort Hotel, set in the Archaeological Park and a five minute walk from the temple.
Borobudur is home to the largest Buddhist temple in the world. According to Buddhist cosmology, the universe is divided in to three major zones. The Borobudur temple represents these zones in its rising layers.
It was built around 800 AD, and then abandoned only 200 years later, probably as a result of it being partially buried in ash from the nearby volcano Mt Merapi in 1006. It was rediscovered by the British in the early 19th century (Thomas Stamford Raffles governed Java at the time). By then it was totally overgrown by vegetation and was sinking into the earth with the weight of the stone.
UNESCO financed a total dismantling and re-assembling of the structure over 10 years, which was completed in 1983. It is square in shape, and has 4 levels which contain galleries of hand carved stone reliefs more than 3 miles long, wrapped around 10 terraces.
The Pilgrims’ Walk depicts Javanese life of over 1000 years ago with images of elephants, monkeys, musicians to name a few. The detail is exquisite and scenes have been to a large extent carefully restored. Here are some photographs:
There are then 3 circular terraces leading to a central dome or stupa. These higher levels are studded with 72 bell shaped stupas and more than 400 Buddhas. It is an incredible sight, and photographs struggle to convey its depth. The site is surrounded by 5 volcanoes, and is now a major tourist attraction on Java.
We also visited Yogyakarta, home to batik creations, leather wayang shadow puppets and silverware. ‘Yogya’ as it is known is a sprawling city with a population of about 700,000 and has the status of a special region within Java with its own Sultan living at the Kraton or palace.
Batik in Indonesian literally means ‘to dot’ and similarly to Ikat weaving is steeped in tradition and history. The process of producing batik is fascinating, as we saw at The Rara Djonggrang workshop. Here men and women trace designs onto cotton which are then drawn in hot wax, dyed and dried. The process is repeated until the desired pattern is achieved. Alternatively a wax pattern is meticulously applied with a metal stamp.
We were treated to a leather wayang shadow puppet show, accompanied by bells and whistles (or gongs) at a small atelier and showroom near the Kraton.
To the northeast of Yogyakarta lies the Hindu site of Prambanan, a 9th century complex of 224 temples and shrines, only 8 of which have been restored. The history of these Hindu temples, is that when a king or prominent person died, their ashes were placed in a casket, above which a temple was then built, with a statue of a god. The statue then becomes an object of worship for those honouring and worshipping the king.
The casket found in the well of the Shiva Mahadiva temple at Prambanan was sitting on a pile of charcoal, earth and animal bones. It contained a variety of objects, including, coins, jewels, precious metals and ashes. Gold sheets with inscriptions of Varuna, the god of the sea, and Parvata, the god of the mountains were also found.
It was then abandoned when power moved to western Java around 930AD and suffered earthquakes and the ravages of nature before being rediscovered. A large earthquake in the 16th century led to a further collapse of the temples. UNESCO declared it a world heritage site, but was damaged again in the 2006 earthquake.
There was so much to see and do, it was impossible to cover it all in our three day tour from Jepara.