Reaching the magnificent Borobudur temple after the 4km long procession, we were all exhausted from the heat but at the same time excited to finally see our first glimpse of the temple through the trees. The procession split up between the various groups, monks and other lay people and we were routed around to the temple's west gate. Military and police presence was overwhelming but necessary, given the constant security threat at the temple over the past years.
At the west gate it finally paid off to be in possession of my "attendee" badge as I was checked at least three times by security forces. Several followers were turned away because they decided to just join the procession along the way without a badge.
To the western side of the temple the organizers had set up a large area for the ceremonies with a huge golden Buddha statue. This is where most monks from all the various Buddhist schools gathered after the procession for an opening prayer.
Many followers gathered in their own group tents to the east of the temple, but some people also decided to walk up to the top, which was actually open for visitors. I was told that the temple was closed, so I also climbed up the stairs to enjoy this overwhelming temple from the top platforms again.
Several groups of monks also made it up here to get their own photo and group photos taken. A few groups of monks and female lay persons, dressed in white with heads shaved, circumambulated the temple's top platform three times while chanting Buddhist prayers. Having visited the temple several times, this today had something very special to it! The whole area was filled with spirituality and positive energy. Maybe a lack of the usual tourist masses which hang out screaming and poorly dressed here during a normal day, but the presence of thousands of people who share the same believe gave the temple it's real purpose.
After several incidents in the past years some of my Indonesian friends told me that photography was not going to be allowed this year. However, this was not the case and being very sensitive to this subject myself after many years of temple visits, I found most people to be respectful. If at all, I observed mostly Indonesian press members to be disrespectful and pushy for their shots.
In the late afternoon most people started to gather in their respective group tents. Since most of the speakers spoke in Indonesian language some of us western visitors were a bit lost. The main stage which was said to be used for the "ceremonial" seemed to be reserved for VVIP (VIP) only and were blocked off by security guards. So, i decided to join my Theravada monks in their tent for the prayers and chanting. Since some of them recognized me, I was kindly offered water and other drinks and had a relatively sheltered place to stay during the prayers.
However, looking outside of the tent, I could see that the sky turning black from rain clouds. The wind picked up quite a bit and with no real options on where to go, I decided to take a break from the festival for a short time and retire in my nearby hotel. Big rain drops started hitting my face as I sat on the back of a motorcycle taxi and I made it just back into the hotel before it started to rain cats and dogs.
From the safety of my hotel restaurant I could see nature's forces coming lose over the temple and the valley below me as it became dark. Borobudur temple was illuminated by huge spot lights for some time, but then even those came off. Obviously the electricity went down due to the rain and storm down below.
Susan, a fellow hotel guest offered me on her way down to the temple to give me a call and let me know if it was OK to return back to the temple later. With the main ceremonies and the official timing for full moon and thus the official time for Vesak, I had a bit of time to wait out the storm, over a nice meal and drinks. ...Continue reading what happened in the early morning hours in the next posting.