It was 5 o’clock in the morning, and there I was at Borobudur. The darkness was pitched dark; only the occasional camera flashes and torch lights provided illumination for the visitors who scaled the monument. The buzzing of mosquitoes and display of lights seemed a prelude to the great pilgrimage site I was about to set eyes upon.
“Sir, please be quick! The sun will rise soon!” urged a park officer. I picked up my pace, and walked quickly through what seemed to be a garden. The dark sky turned lighter as minutes passed, and the silhouette of Borobudur emerged amid the swaying palm trees. I gasped in wonderment, and my heart skipped a beat. The monument’s sheer massiveness was truly a sight to behold.
Before I knew it, I’d arrived at the base of Borobudur. The weather cunningly decided to inject a bit of drama to my visit, and it began to rain. Racing against time and seemingly losing my battle with the weather, I ascended the wet and slippery volcanic rock steps to the top of Borobudur. The Indiana Jones anthem played in my head, adding a sense of anticipation and adventure. It was quite a climb to the top of this colossal multi-tiered monument.
By the time I reached to top, the sun had started to shine through the blanket of clouds, and an optimistic light fell on Borobudur, the serene statues of the Buddha, and my fellow climbers’ faces. The thick fog that surrounded the gardens slowly dissipated, revealing hues of green and gold where the sun rays touched. The transformation from total darkness into such a bright and beautiful scene happened in just a matter of five minutes, illuminating the mysterious and stunning Borobudur.
There are a total of 72 Buddha statues seated within perforated stupas on the top platform of the Borobudur monument, set against the glorious backdrop of the Mount Merapi Volcano. Such serenity evoked a sense of peacefulness in my soul. I had a moment of complete Zen, and was lost for words. The moment was indescribable, and needless to say, everyone who witnessed the magnificent view was struggling for words too.
With my DSLR camera in hand, I started clicking away, trying to capture the moment. Each shot remained as enigmatic and beautiful as the real thing. The backdrop of mighty active volcanoes only enhanced the sense of awe.
I quickly surveyed Borobudur only to discover that there were more wall reliefs recounting the story of the Buddha’s life and enlightenment waiting to be appreciated. The details of the workmanship on these reliefs – carved by men 1,200 years ago without any advanced machinery, just strength and determination – are simply astonishing. I made full use of the little remaining time I had to flex my camera and foot muscles, and capture the mesmerising images.
Upon reaching the base of the monument, I saw my taxi driver waving frantically at me with a concerned look. “I was worry that you might be lost in that big monument.” I just laughed and didn’t elaborate to him on how I had been lost in time instead.
Until today, I am still thrilled to find Borobudur a place that invigorates and inspires peace in me. I will return, Borobudur. Thank you for that therapeutic moment.