Java is a completely different island than Bali, much more modern  in some ways and much more representative as an everyday reflection of Indonesian culture. The Muslim religion is dominant, although the old Hindu and Buddhist temples are preserved and visited by many,  especially foreigners, and are important pilgrimage and tourist destinations. The two most famous are the Borobudur and the Prambanan temples.

The Borobudur complex was rebuilt starting in the seventies with help of the United Nations and various individual nations, such as the Netherlands, after independence of Indonesia from the Dutch, and was established as a UNESCO world heritage site. The original stems from the 8th and 9th century, so was built much later than the Aztec temples in Mexico (first century AD), but built 300 years before Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, and 400 years before work had begun on the great European cathedrals.

Borobudur was built in three tiers: a pyramidal base with five concentric square terraces, the trunk of a cone with three circular platforms and, at the top, a monumental stupa. The walls and balustrades are decorated with fine, low reliefs that depict the story of prince Siddhartha (Gautama) who became a Buddha and these stories reflect the texts of some holy scriptures of the religion. Founded by a king of the Saliendra dynasty, it was built to honour the glory of both the Buddha and its founder, a true king Bodhisattva. He felt unfulfilled with the empty and wasteful life he led, far from the daily life and the realities of the population and he set out to find enlightenment. The temple reliefs cover a total surface area of about 27,000 sq ft (2,500 m2 ). Around the circular platforms are 72 openwork stupas, each containing a statue of the Buddha.

The Buddhist religion is based on a few basic suppositions: that all life is suffering, that the desire to control causes suffering, that there is an end to suffering through enlightenment in Nirvana, and that to end suffering, one needs to follow the Eight-folds path=8 stages of enlightenment. The main laws are: do not kill,  do not steal, do not lie, do not misuse sex, do not consume alcohol or other drugs.

The founding teacher was the Indian, Siddharta Gautama who earned the title Buddha=First Awakened Being and he is regarded as the Supreme Buddha. He was said to be born in Nepal around 500 BC. He is a figure whose life became a exemplary life, to be emulated by his adherents, as his life was magical, full of miracles and he attained enlightenment. In fact, he sounds a lot like the Christ and from him also, lessons are learned about  how to live. Buddhists believe in reincarnation (rebirth after death) and through many cycles of death and rebirth one can reach enlightenment and enter Nirvana through improving gradually through detachment from desire and self. Nirvana is a state of liberation from suffering. More can be read on

At the beginning of the 11th century AD, because of the political situation in Central Java, divine monuments in that area, including the Borobudur Temple became completely neglected and given over to decay. The Sanctuary was exposed to volcanic eruption and other ravages of nature. The temple was not rediscovered until the 19th century. A first restoration campaign, supervised by Theodor van Erp, was undertaken shortly after the turn of the century. A second one was led more recently (1973-82).The monument was restored with UNESCO’s help in the 1970s. Read more at:

Scenes of the stories from the Buddhist holy books engraved on the sides of the temple

A peek towards the top from the second tier

Reasoning and exposition (Vitarka mudrā): the arm and hand are positioned so that the thumb and forefinger are brought together. The gesture can be made with either the right or left hand (usually the right), but not both. This mudra signifies an appeal to reason, or the giving of instruction. Since the Buddha is appealing to reason, the gesture is often interpreted as an appeal for peace.

View from the top tier among the stupas. Each stupa contains a Buddha statue and some people rub the statues they can reach through the holes – for transfer of power.

My guide and me. While my travel companion went on a scuba diving tour in the Indian Ocean, I took a side trip to Java. I spent the day with my guide and a driver, who waited patiently at every site until I was ready to move on. It was a great, wondrous day where a tip of the veils of Buddhism and Hinduism was lifted for me.

Jogjakarta on Java has a lively market with a special interest in pets, although not the same kind of pets as in the European and North American traditions. My guide took me to the market where I was the only Caucasian around and was looked at with curiosity, but responses were friendly. People like to keep birds as pets, with some affinity with protection by the spirit world attached to  particular birds, while the pets provide practical protection from certain insects and varmints. The owls were so tame and cute, although my opinion of a good bird life is that it should be free to roam in its natural environment.

Pet food does not come in bags from the super market and consists of live insects that are attracted in various ways. For song birds the locals dig out a colony of ants and keep the colony alive in a container. When the bird needs to be fed, the owner takes a rolled up newspaper, lights it, then gently taps the heap of ants so they dig deeper and disappear from the surface. Now the owner can scoop up the white larvae and feed those to the bird. This is a renewable resource; how clever! Other birds eat crickets. The owl sits on a  large cage full of crickets.

Owls are very useful pets to have around, catching all small varmint…

Bird feed

The rikshaw for those that can afford it.

My guide took me to a batik shop as I was interested in batik, being educated in textile design in a former life. The batik shop we visited, called Raradjonggrang, is the place that still produces the traditional design designated for the royal staff to wear. In Jogjakarta that is the Maharaja of Jogjakarta; his palace guard of honour still wears the traditional sarong for men, originally only worn by royalty.

The Palace Guard

The benevolent ruler of Jogjakarta.
He is depicted as having extra large ears, as the ruler is thought to have divine powers, one of those for hearing the laments of his people. Note the fabric in the chair bottom. That same pattern of batik I bought in the batik shop.

The royal batik design, for sale still….
I am using it for special occasions as a background for special dishes when I have guests and serve eastern foods. It reminds me of its centuries old history, when Caucasians – my people – were still deep in the dark.

The Jogjakarta batik work shop Raradjonggrang. The women apply the wax with small copper implements containing hot wax to cover those parts of the design that need to not take on colour in the next dye bath. After all colours have been dyed, the wax is then removed with hot water and hot irons. In the tropical and humid air of Indonesia, this is a nasty and hot job. The women also have very little light to work with and the floor is dirt. There are some bunks where they can rest in between the different stages of the process. All work is hand batiked, or hand stamped in this shop.

The men make the stamped batiks; the wooden stamp with the design is dipped in hot wax and then quickly stamped onto the cloth material and the wax adheres to the cloth. The principle if adding lawyers of wax design between dye baths is the same as the batik method with copper applicators.

On Bali, on the other hand, we have seen small demonstrations of the principle of batik making in a much cleaned up version of the real thing, just in case the many tourists on Bali might object to the workers’ labour conditions. The following photos are a sample  of those demos in shops and crafts stores.

Nice uniforms, pretty women, much daylight and a clean, tiled floor to work on.

Happy work conditions in a store for tourists

About BABYBOOMER johanna van zanten

My name is Johanna van Zanten. I am a baby boomer, interested in writing and connecting with other writers and readers to engage in discussions and information sharing, to share a point of view about current global issues, writing, and publishing, diversity, immigration, travel, music, life, specific baby boomer issues, and dating/relationship issues. I have written a novella, ON THIN ICE about baby-boomer Adrienne and will link this blog with the information website for this novella. Right now, I am trying out the blog.
This entry was posted in Diversity issues, International politics, religion, Uncategorized, women's issues; torture of women, world issues and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to JAVA

  1. Pak Liam says:

    I love Java, and I like your photos of Borobudur, I wrote about it also here, but your picture of the view from between the stupa is really great!

    I mean to go back and try and get some sunset or sunrise pictures.

    • Hi Pak,
      Thanks for that. I love your writings and clear explanations on your website about the Borobudur. Next time I will write about the Prambanan, stay tuned. Thanks for commenting. I have many many photos of Bali that I will have to screen.

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