Passage to Yogyakarta
MANILA, Philippines - "We are not going in circles, we are going upwards. The path is a spiral; we have already climbed many steps."
I still recall that line from Herman Hesse’s book titled Siddhartha, my 1st encounter with Buddhism.
And, right at that moment, I was climbing the massive Borobudur in a clockwise direction keeping my left shoulder away from the temple.
Borobudur is located in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, and by far the largest Buddhist temple in the world; covered with bass-reliefs and images of old Javanese society.
This epic pilgrimage site houses several stupa (dome-shaped monument containing Buddhist relics) and Buddha.
It has 9 platforms: the 6 lower platforms are square while the 3 upper platforms are circular.
Borobudur symbolizes the universe based on Buddhist cosmology:
- Kamadhatu / Spheres of Desire (the base)
- Rupadhatu / Form (the 5 square terraces above the base)
- Arupadhatu / Formlessness (the 3 circular terraces)
The 3 central elements of Buddhism are expressed in the architectural form of the stupa, the Meru and the mandala. The panels of Borobudur depict Mahayana Buddhism.
Having already visited some of Southeast Asia’s most admired temples, I found Borobudur quite ordinary and redundant.
But as I was taking the steps towards the highest platform, I realized that the journey up Borobudur shows the way to become a Bodhisattva (an enlightened being who rejects personal salvation and returns to life to help others reach Nirvana) through good deeds, contemplation and meditation.
If Borobudur is the Buddhist’s sacred site, Prambanan on the other hand is the largest and most splendid Hindu temple in Indonesia. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is located at the boundary between Yogyakarta and Central Java province.
Prambanan has 3 main temples in the primary yard: the Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva temples, all facing the east. Each of these temples has an accompanying temple facing the west and corner temples.
Unfortunately, Prambanan was heavily damaged during the May 2006 earthquake in Java. As of my last visit, large debris from and walls of the temples are still scattered on the ground.
Every full moon, a Ramayana ballet is performed on the stage built on the west portion of the Hindu temple.
It’s amazing how the people of the olden days built such intricate and grand structures despite their basic "technology" of the time.
I believe that the hard work they exerted and the excellence they showed in their work is because of their faith — Hinduism and Buddhism.
I dream that, one day, I will truly immerse in a profound sacred journey; something that will take me into deep areas of reflection and connection, more than just gawping at the sight of old world pilgrimage sites.
How commute to the Prambanan Temple:
1) From Yogyakarta, the Trans Jogja bus service has direct routes to Prambanan.
2) The bus is air-conditioned and comfortable, but it can sometimes be overcrowded.
3) Take the number 1A Bus from Malioboro street.
4) The first trip is at 6 am, followed by another one every 20 minutes.
5) Depending on traffic, the journey can take an hour.
6) From the terminal station, Prambanan can be reached by foot.
7) There are regular buses from Yogyakarta's Umbulharjo bus station.
8) An alternative is for you to take tour agency-operated minibuses shuttling directly from Yogyakarta's backpacker haunts.
Going by tour package:
I'm not a fan of tour packages; I don't even book hostels. But to travel around Indonesia, I decided to avail of a package tour because of its practicality.
I considered the distance of the temples from my guesthouse and the complexity of finding the bus stations there.
I took on the services of Great Tours for my Borobudur and Prambanan Temple tour. Their office is located in front of Gang II. I highly recommend Great Tours because of their kind guides and comfortable, huge vans. Their tours begin at 9 am.
Simple Tours is a cheaper alternative, but their tours start at 5 am. - Rappler.com
Gael Hilotin is backpacking around the Philippines. She blogs at www.thepinaysolobackpacker.com.