Trotting the Asian Way at Borobudur, Bali and Jogjakarta



It might seem surprising but it is a fact that if one has to search for the oldest and the most archaic of mythological Hindu temples anywhere in the world, the grandest and best specimens are found not here in India, but in South East part of the Asian continent i.e. countries such as Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia. Of these countries, Central Java and Bali regions of Indonesia can boast of the oldest and the most important cultural heritage sites bundled with the archaic and the pious.

The most captivating, ear and eye catching first sites in Central Java are the sights and sounds of Hindu gods and goddesses in a unique and picturesque spectacle not witnessed by the human eye anywhere else in the world. Though, older temples are known to exist there and elsewhere, the most famous of those in Central Java are located in close proximity to city of Jogjakarta, also known as Yogya. This same region along with the Hindu temples complex of Parambaram also houses the Buddhist temples of Borobudur. Many versions, many ages and many tales down memory lane there stands a mention that Borobudur was a temple dedicated to the Hindu Lord Shiva initially. It was later converted to a shrine for Lord Buddha and was built during the seventh century AD.

Borobudur temple tours

Borobudur is located thirty kilometers from Jogjakarta in the shadow of Merapi Mountains, which are known for sporadic volcanic activity. Borobudur complex is located on ten levels with each level representing a higher plain in the existence of man. While the lower levels have sculptures of Lord Buddha, his life and Jataka tales engraved on the walls, the highest level has seventy-two stupas, with a statue of Lord Buddha inside each of them. Only a few of these stupas are open, where one can gaze at the marvelous statues of Buddha with the benign smile for which he is famous.

All the temples and structures at Jogjakarta are carved from stone in an age when cement was unknown, these massive structures have been formed by dove-tailing the stone pieces, much like the modern Lego.

Thirty kilometers away from Borobudur one finds the magnificent temple complex of Parambaram. 242 temples have been reputed to have been there out of which eighteen had been restored. This complex was also built around the seventh century and was a part of the famous Sri Vijaya Empire which ruled most of the Indonesia and surrounding areas. The main temple complex comprises of eight temples. Of these three are devoted to Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu that form the Hindu trident. Just in front of these are the temples devoted to the vahanas of the three gods viz, Hansa, Nandi and Garuda. A unique feature of the Parambaram temples is that at the extremities of the central access are located two temples which are known to provide a balance to the universe.

Borobudur temple java Indonesia

The most pristine recitals of epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata, known locally as Mahayudha are to found in Indonesia. Jutting the Parambaram temple complex is a large amphitheatre where the epic Ramayana is performed everyday in the evening. These recitals are marked by the soft music played on the traditional instruments known as Gamelan, with the most delicate movements in the most exquisite costumes. The performances surreal and ghast a lasting spell on the audience.

These are the main complexes in Jogya. But the entire area is scattered with many a temple and memorial to the memory of Pandavas, who are the most common deities lending their names to most of the Indonesians. Like in the neighboring town of Solo, the central square has a sculpture of five giant images of the Pandavas.

Indonesia is a unique journey of exploration, not only for visitors from Indian but all over the world. Many Indian visitors are surprised when they visit the National Museum in Jakarta to discover that the prominent stone image that greets them on entry is that of Lord Ganesha.

National Museum in Jakarta

The ground opposite the Presidential Palace has giant replica of Arjuna and his charioteer Lord Krishna driving the ratha powered up seven horses.

Other places with old Hindu temples and sculptures are located in the island of Bali and at Ubud. At the Baisakhi temple at Bali is one of the very few Hindu temples in Indonesia where religious rites and rituals are still performed everyday.

Baisakhi temple

After the Shrivijya Empire start disintegrating, the royalty shifted the base to Cambodia where they created the massive Angkor Vat and other temples complexes.

All these are amazing examples of the culture derived from ancient Indians which found expression as religious symbols under the Hindu kings and emperors. All these places are now a apart of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

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