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 http://www.religioustolerance.org/buddhism
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: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/592
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.
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.
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.
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.