Walking monks on final stopovers before Borobudur temple in Indonesia

Buddhist monks walk past the Semarang and Ungaran administrative border in Central Java on May 29 as they perform a walking pilgrimage from Thailand to the Borobudur temple. - Jakarta Post/ANN

JAKARTA, June 3 (Jakarta Post/ANN): Thirty-two Buddhist monks have finally arrived in Magelang, Central Java, home of the famous Borobudur temple, where they plan to join ceremonies to celebrate Waisak that marks the birth, enlightenment and death of Gautama Buddha, on Sunday (June 4).

The group began their long-distance pilgrimage, also known as thudong, at the end of March from Nakhon Si Thammarat, southern Thailand, walking for 10 days to Malaysia and then for 29 days to Singapore.

They later crossed the Singapore Strait to Batam, Riau Islands, on May 8.

On the next day, they travelled by plane to Jakarta and walked to the Borobudur temple. Blasted by the equatorial heat and exhaustion, of 54 who started the journey, 32 remained at the final leg of the pilgrimage, which covered around 2,600km.

Twenty-seven monks of the group are Thailand natives, four are Malaysians and one is Indonesian.

Throughout their trip in Java, they were greeted by hundreds of local residents, mostly non-Buddhists, as they entered new towns along the way.

Local administrative, military and religious leaders of various faiths have joined the residents in greeting the monks.

Military personnel and members of Muslim groups have also joined the walk to safeguard the monks as the pilgrims pass their hometowns.

In every town, residents would immediately greet them and snap photos of the walking monks.

In their brown robes, the monks responded with smiles and said “thank you” and “assalamualaikum”.

During the trip, a committee readied ambulances and medical personnel. The monks were also limited to walking 32km from 4am to noon.

When the weather was hot, the distance was limited to 20km to 23km. They stayed in monasteries and people’s homes.

On Tuesday afternoon, thousands of people greeted the monks as they walked to the Liong Hok Bio temple where they would take rest.

Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo said he was happy to see the hospitality extended to the monks.

“The monks also had a chance to rest at a musholla. This reflects Indonesian hospitality for everyone,” Ganjar said.

“The welcome from the residents is extraordinary. Our hearts are warm. We are grateful. Please allow us to pray and take a rest in Magelang,” Labhiko Mahatera, one of the monks, said as they arrived at the temple on Tuesday evening.

At the temple, the Buddhist congregation welcomed the monks by washing their feet with water and roses.

Temple deputy chairman Gunawan Wibosono said the special treatment was a form of reverence as they considered the monks teachers.

“This is the first time we witnessed thudong. Pouring water scented with roses on their feet is a symbol of Buddhist teaching that is spread to the followers,” he said. - The Jakarta Post/ANN

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