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Saturday May 19, 2012

Magnificent structure

One of the major reasons why I have always wanted to visit Yogyakarta, Indonesia, was to see Borobudur, one of the ancient wonders of the world. I studied about it during history class in school. So imagine how excited I was – almost like a school girl on a field trip – when the trip finally materialised.

Still, I was awestruck when I first laid eyes on the majestic Borobudur, seven levels high, with 1,460 carved stones! Imagine an ancient Buddhist temple relic built between 750 and 850 BC located in a country with the world’s largest Muslim population! What also fascinated us was our tour guide, Pak Budi, a local Muslim.

He was so knowledgeable and professional when he showed the four of us around. He explained seamlessly from the ancient stone carvings to the life story of Buddha, and how he finally achieved enlightenment. Pak Budi even taught us how to chant mantras when we told him we were Buddhists. We were truly at a loss for words!

The following day, we visited Candi Prambanan, an ancient Hindu temple built in the 9th century located 17km from Yogyakarta. The history of Hinduism appearing in Java and stories about the Mataram Kingdom, the Ramayana and the Mahabaratha was explained to us by another Muslim tour guide.

These two mammoth historical structures were constructed without the use of nails, but with big stone slabs assembled together and transported by humans from nearby volcanic mountains like Gunung Merapi, which today is still an active volcano some 35km away. In those days, this was certainly an engineering feat of enormous and epic proportions.

Ivy Foo Siew Lain


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