Yogyakrta, pronounced as Jogjakarta and called Jogya by the locals is located in in the centre of Java island of Indonesia. It is renowned as a centre of education, classical Javanese fine art and culture such as batik, ballet, drama, music, poetry, and puppet shows. Yogyakarta was the Indonesian capital during the Indonesian National Revolution from 1945 to 1949. Kotagede, which is in present day Jogya was the capital of the Mataram Sultanate between 1575 and 1640. The city is named after the Indian city of Ayodhya from the Ramayana epic. Yogya means “suitable, fit, proper”, and karta, “prosperous, flourishing” (i.e., “a city that is fit to prosper”).
Day 2 in Yogya started with a very early morning start. Yus, our driver, was waiting for us at the hotel reception at 3:30 am to take us to Borobudur, a UNESCO world heritage site. Borobudur, or Barabudur, is a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist Temple consisting of nine stacked platforms, six square and three circular, topped by a central dome. The temple is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. The central dome is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues, each seated inside a perforated stupa and is the world’s largest Buddhist temple, as well as one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world.
The temple was built in the 9th century during the reign of the Sailendra Dynasty and designed in Javanese Buddhist architecture, which blends the Indonesian indigenous cult of ancestor worship and the Buddhist concept of attaining Nirvana. The temple also demonstrates the influences of Gupta art that reflects India’s influence on the region, yet there are enough indigenous scenes and elements incorporated to make Borobudur uniquely Indonesian. The monument is both a shrine to the Lord Buddha and a place for Buddhist pilgrimage. The journey for pilgrims begins at the base of the monument and follows a path around the monument and ascends to the top through three levels symbolic of Buddhist cosmology: Kāmadhātu (the world of desire), Rupadhatu (the world of forms) and Arupadhatu (the world of formlessness). The monument guides pilgrims through an extensive system of stairways and corridors with 1,460 narrative relief panels on the walls and the balustrades. Borobudur has the largest and most complete ensemble of Buddhist reliefs in the world. A couple of weeks before we were there, Buddhists in Indonesia celebrated Vesak Day which is the day Buddha attained Nirvana and the temple, according to our driver Yus was crowded with pilgrims who spent the night at the complex.
We reached the complex after an hour of driving and reached the Manohara hotel complex from where we needed to buy the tickets for the sunrise. There were around 50 odd people there buying tickets when we arrived. The tickets cost for an adult is IDR 400,000 (approximately USD 30). Children between 1-5 years old get in free and those between 6-11 pay half the adult rate. For sunrise, you can be in the complex between 4:30 am to around 6:30 am. The ticket price also entitles you to a small snack and coffee/tea at the Manohara hotel. For those staying in the hotel, the tickets are cheaper and I guess this is something to plan for.
We reached the monument around 5ish and went up the steps. The steps are quite steep, but you get a torch along with your ticket. We waited for the sun to rise, but the day started out cloudy and didn’t see the sunrise because of the clouds. We seem to be singularly ill fated to see sunrises at historical monuments – around 2 years back, the same thing happened at Angkor Wat and we couldn’t see the sun rise due to clouds!
We spent a couple of hours walking around the complex taking photos and then decided to walk back to the hotel and the car when we realised it was already daytime and there was going to be no sun that day. We had our hotel pack some breakfast for us and so decided to have that along with the snacks and tea/coffee at the Manohara before heading out to our next destination, the Dieng Plateau.