Having sighted the sundown moments in Bali’s beaches, we were game for the sunup moments that the ramparts of Jogjakarta promised.
Hindu Temples, Prambanan, Jogjakarta, Indonesia
We landed in Jogjakarta from Bali on a late April evening. The sight of moist ground & the smell of wet earth that otherwise lift my spirits seemed to dampen my mood. The following day’s celestial clarity & stellar rise was dependent on the prevailing weather.
Our jeep inched through the traffic at snail’s pace. As the weather was intent on playing spoilsport, we decided to reschedule our visit to Borobudur to the second day of our 3 day visit and instead decided to head for Prambanan the very next day.
The following day dawned with a clarity that erased all traces of gloominess of the previous day but as we had decidedly lazed around while the sun rose, we sped off to Prambanan post breakfast. It took us more than an hour from Jogja to Prambanan, given the heavy traffic.
In spite of both kingdoms having nursed inimical sentiments, the Plaosan Temple is a monumental symbol of love & peace!
Enclosed within the premises is a zoo with a modest variety of animals like prickets & some interesting birds & very close to the zoo is the government approved handicraft emporium.
It had rained the whole night & we knew our chances of experiencing an untainted view of the rising sun were dim. It was pitch dark & we were shepherded with the aid of a torch. The pervading petrichor as we trod on wet grass & the sounds of cricket made for a fascinating adventure!
Trampling on moist grass was one hell of an experience, for it was impossible to discern if we were indeed treading on safe grounds or were about to step on a slithering specimen! But our guides dismissed our fears by asserting that taking tourists to & fro was their daily job. Muffled giggles & whispers from other travellers assuaged our qualms.
All of a sudden, we were confronted by the silhouette of a colossal structure that spread over the sprawling mead! At that tenebrous hour, the silhouette appeared frightfully gigantic. We had reached the gates of the renowned temple!
We haltingly trudged through the flight of steps, guided by the cell’s flashlight. It was still dark & we had to ensure that we didn’t bump into tourists who were ahead of us. Yes, there were many heliophiles than we had imagined who had reached the place much before us, to reserve their spot under the sun (shall we say sky?☺)& had already begun to mount their tripods & other paraphernalia.
Dawn dawned! In a few moments, the inky vault slowly but steadily began to clarify into a breathtaking aurora & as its clarity grew in intensity, people poised themselves for heliolatry.
A stray cloud ―white and fluffy could be seen sailing across the violet vault, only to be soon streaked with a pinkish hue ―the pink that perfused the skies. The pink soon gave way to a golden peach which was no doubt dulled by a cloudy grey.
Slowly a weak sun emerged from behind a veil of clouds. Its lambent light soon engulfed the heavens & lo and behold the best kept secrets of the Borobudur Temple came alive!
To See or Not to See
The nimbus of grandeur surrounding the Borobudur Temple may seem hyped for some. Yet, it is not without reason that tourists make a beeline to this site at the crack of dawn with the hope of sighting its hallowed sunrise! Believe me, you will never regret it; in fact it’s so splendid, that you’d want to come back to behold its splendour again & again!
And when you finally make it, you’d want to lock in its beauty from various angles but the best snapshots that can be had are undeniably from Punthuk Sethumbu Hills that lie 4 kilometers to the west of the temple. The bell-shaped stupas veiled by a veneer of mist & the glorious sun, rising to lift the veil to cast its lucent glow are views worth dying for!
Built in the 9th century, the Borobudur Temple depicts the Mandala. That such a pharaonic structure was covered in volcanic ash that erupted in Java in 1006 AD & remained thus till the 19th century when it was unearthed by Raffles, appears somewhat incredulous!
Note: Borobodur is approximately 44 kilometers away from Adisucipto International Airport & can take an hour to reach. However, beware that the roads leading to Borobudur throb with the trundle of cars and jeeps as early as 3 a.m. So it’s advisable to choose an accommodation closer to the temple in the town of Borobudur itself. Hotel Manohara usually is the first choice among tourists although we opted for a home-stay very close to Borobudur Temple.
Candi Pawon & Candi Mendut
Post breakfast, we drove to the Pawon & Mendut Temples, which together with the Borobudur form a triad of temples built in a straight line. Candi Mendut boasts of a Buddha bust that towers 3 meters.
Candi Mendut Buddhist Monastery
This Buddhist Vihara or Monastery in the purlieus of the Mendut Temple is a must-visit!
When you’re done with petitioning your requests, you’d perhaps need some quiet moments for perpension & this becomes your ideal retreat. Although not archaic, this monastery ensconced amid Arcadian environs, renders the kind of heartsease one needs after hectic visits to temples.
As we ambled along the allee, the aligned stupas stood as if welcoming us. And despite the monastery being a recent addition, the Genius Loci was instantly soothing… & it felt magical.
Beyond this allee, we found a well-manicured lawn dotted with stupas & statues & most prominent among those was a sizeable statue of the Buddha overseeing the lawn.
I wasn’t aware that the monastery holds a meditation session every evening, where guests are also allowed to join in. Surely, I missed what might’ve been a priceless experience.
(Pls move your cursor to the right for the entire image)
As we drove around Borobudur, the temple towers were a constant, & Borobudur’s campestral milieu only presented an unhindered vista.
Yogyakarta has more to offer & a fortnight’s stay is recommended if you wish to enjoy an unhurried vacation. This also allows you to pack as much as you can in your lens and into your bags! Believe me, it’ll be worth your while.
Prambanan is 17 kms from Jogjakarta city. So after you choose an accommodation in the city, it’s wise to shift base to Borobudur after exploring the attractions closer to the main city.