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A Fascinating Story of Indonesia: How Hinduism and Buddhism coexist in this Country

Indonesia offers a look into the beautiful coexistence of faiths; with places like Prambanan temple complex and the Borobudur temple, it's a festival of culture

At the Prambanan temple complex near Yogyakarta (locally known as Jogja) in Indonesia, the very famous Ramayana ballet is conducted every night. In Summer the performance takes place in an open-air theatre, but in the cold winters, there are cosy indoor arrangements for the viewers.

Prambanan temple complex

The show sets in with the orchestra at the back of the stage, complete with local versions of harmonium and mridangam. Even though it can be hard for a first timer to figure out what to expect, the fascinating performance with over 200 actors in traditional costumes manages to steal hearts.

The performance is marked by dance and movement, with the characters, even the demons seemingly gliding in easy grace- there is no doubt this is a ballet performance. Even without any spoken words, the dramatic and melodic music helps the performance reach for perfection.

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The story begins with Lord Rama and Lord Lakshmana leaving for the forest, while a docile Sita is in tow. Viewers will find the story to be a little less traditional; following their path to Lanka and the end of Ravana. All the battle scenes are spectacularly executed, but Lord Hanuman in his white get-up, burning Lanka in utter flair, manages to steal the show.

In the magnificent Prambanan temple complex, the Hindu temples are dedicated to the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva provide an insight into the Hinduism out of India that we are not that familiar with. All the shrines were built in the 9th and 10th centuries, which manage to portray the intermingling of Hindu and Buddhist cultures.

Prambanan temple complex. Wikimedia Commons

Prambanan is like a forest of temples, with the tall shrines reaching towards the sky. The complex has almost 200 monuments, but very few of them have managed to defy time, most being destroyed by earthquakes over the centuries. Every temple has a significant character of its own, with intricate carving on pillars and walls, Ramayana being the central idea for most of them.

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The Prambanan temples have earned a spot on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Another highlight of a visit to Prambanan is a visit to the region of Borobudur, the world’s largest Buddhist temple in world’s largest Muslim country.

Borobudur temple is breath-taking. Decorated with over 500 Buddha sculptures and 2,500 relief panels, located on a flat hilltop overlooking the green hills of Java and active volcano Gunung Merapi, Borobudur is a stand-out Buddhist temple for sure.

Borobudur temple in Indonesia

Believed to have been built around 800 AD, the Borobudur temple has the shape of a stepped pyramid of five square bases, topped by three circular terraces. 72 miniature stupas containing a statue of Buddha encircle each of these. With the stupa peaks broken, many of these sit exposed, even though some of them are barely visible.

Borobudur was abandoned in the 14th century, staying buried under volcanic ash and foliage for hundreds of years. The credit of its discovery in 1814 goes to Stamford Raffles, the British governor of Java. It became a major tourist attraction after UNESCO stepped in for extensive renovation and preservation work.

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From an aerial view, the temple resembles a lotus, which is considered holy in Buddhism. According to the stories of the travel guides, this temple in Indonesia was built as an ode to Buddha’s path towards Nirvana. Every carving at every step tells a story of the life of the great Lord.

Even after you leave Yogyakarta, the feeling stays with you. It’s really hard to forget the coexistence of faiths in the corner of Indonesia. It’s even harder to forget how easily a place can feel like home, a destination can feel so close to heart.

– prepared by Durba Mandal. Twitter: @dubumerang





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