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Friday, May 9, 2014

Murmurs of Awe at Borobudur


Anytime you find your way to the world's largest and one of the acclaimed Buddhist temples in the world, you feel like toasting your kismet for bringing you there. Anytime you step foot on a structure built with such creativity and workmanship as far back the 9th century, it certainly rub additional semblance of history in the moment. Borobudur was the primary goal why I ventured into the city of Yogyakarta, to which at the time  I experienced my longest train ride from Jakarta, it has since been on my mind as something I shall see and scratch off the list of must-see places.

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The place, while the open skies pours hot rays of sunlight upon my face, didn't disappoint. I circled with slow steps appreciating and murmuring with awe at the intricate stone carvings which depicts scenes of Buddhist transformation. The first layer shows everyday images of Earthly life at the time such as a feast, household work and warfare. As you climb up successive levels, you will notice the bass reliefs focusing more on Gautama Buddha's journey to enlightenment. Statues of more than 500 Buddhas, the Buddhist cosmology story surrounds the temple and 72 bell shaped stupa (with each hiding a Buddha statue inside) stands staring at the lowlands and the nearby Mount Merapi at the upper layer. 

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A Swedish couple who I shared a van with asked me to be their unofficial photographer, I happily obliged with the intention of asking them to take a couple photos of myself as well. It turned out a fair trade since I never bother bringing a tripod and afterward I was glad to have a few 'touristy landmark poses' in the memory card. Judging from their smiles, I bet the couple like the images I took of them. Their presence also highlighted that lil-bit-sad-fact about being a solo traveler (my second out-of-the-country as a lone traveler) as it made me wish I was holding an adventurous girl's hand, while we savor the wind coming from all corners as we stand at the uppermost layer of Borobudur.

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But that's just a sweeping what-if and I didn't let that thought deter myself from enjoying the place. A few pilgrims gathered near one of the stupa and was in solemn prayer as I trudged carefully so not to cause a disturbance by tripping over one of them. There's much to see in this temple and even with tourists buzzing around, one could still find a quiet spot to just delight at the carvings on the wall. It was like looking at a graphic novel, each canvass conveying a story and if you use your imagination, you can almost hear the clippings of chisels as if the finest artists and sculptures of the 9th century works on it in front of you.

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I rested at one of steps and directed my stare at the direction of Mount Merapi, an active volcano which threatened Borobudur during its last eruption in 2010. That time, it stares back at me peacefully and the only sounds I was hearing are from the hissing winds and the murmurs of wonder from the other tourists. 

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The only semi-downer of the place was its hefty entrance fee, around the equivalent of $20.00 (if my math is correct), but since most of it goes to the preservation fund, it is an understandable rate. I may yet to attain the kind of enlightenment Gautama found in his life, but I'd like to believe I'm one step closer amidst thousands more. As I proceeded down the steps away from the temple I turned around and made one last look, I think it lasted for a few minutes before a Chinese woman nudged me from behind and asked me to take a photograph of her with her husband. I clicked on her camera and saw for a couple of seconds the image of two smiling faces against an awesome background. As I hand back her camera, a grin formed in my mouth, for I knew they were just about to climb the temple and surprisingly I felt their excitement. 

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