JAVA SUITE: A Visit to Borobudur, Mendut, Pawon and Mount Merapi


After listening to Leopold Godowsky's Java Suite (in the wonderful ProPiano recording by Esther Budiardjo), I began longing to visit those wonderfully exotic sights of neighbouring Indonesia depicted in the 12-movement piano suite. My wish came true in a short five day vacation to Yogyakarta in Central Java. The first stop had to be the 9th century complex of Borobudur, supposedly the largest single Buddhist temple in the world. Amazement becomes reality when one climbs its seven tiers to the nirvana paradise of Mount Meru, to wonder at its intricate stone carvings and contemplate on life itself. 



A visitor will have to first circumnavigate the lower levels of the complex, which is occupied by stone carvings on the life of Buddha and daily scenes of the contemporary world. If one does not take short cuts up the staircases, a full day of walking and gazing is needed to walk it 5 km worth of balustrades. The way to nirvana is never an easy one! 


As one gets closer to the top, the paths are more exposed, and more of the surrounding view becomes visible. Soon one realises that the whole Borobudur complex is located on a plain but surrounded by hills. The view is quite spectacular all around.


 
There are 72 stupas arranged circumferentially in the  top three tiers of the temple. Each of the stupas cloisters a seated Buddha in various poses of meditation. This stupa has been deroofed to reveal its peaceful occupant.

Not far from Borobudur is the smaller temple of Mendut, another Buddhist monument built in the 9th century.

A straight line joins the three temples of Borobudur, Mendut and Pawon (above).

On the same day, we also visited the slope of Mount Merapi, which erupted in October 2010 with  a loss of over 300 lives. The barren area in the background indicates the flow of lava as it descended the volcano. The shelter on the left foreground was where the late volcano keeper Mbah Maridjan's house once stood. 

Devastation and destruction on the wake of Merapi.

Destroyed vehicles on display. The relatively close proximity of Borobudur to the very active Mount Merapi remains a worrying one.