Thursday, May 22, 2008

Borobudur a reminder of country's Buddhist past

The Buddhist temple of Borobudur, set among volcanoes on Indonesia's Java island, stands as a testament to the Buddhist roots of the world's most populous Muslim country.

The temple, the world's largest Buddhist monument, was built in the eighth and ninth centuries. It is a pilgrimage site for followers from around the region and it is also the most popular tourist attraction in Indonesia.

This week, pilgrims came in their thousands to celebrate Buddha's birthday. Monks, nuns and devotees, dressed in yellow, saffron, grey and black robes, prayed and circled the grey, volcanic stone temple, which is decorated with reliefs showing scenes from Buddhist texts and from the life of Buddha.

Each year an estimated 40,000 to 60,000 worshippers from Indonesia, China, Taiwan, Singapore and elsewhere gather at Borobudur to celebrate Vesak, boosting local tourism in a country that often struggles to attract more visitors.

Centuries ago, this part of central Java was ruled by Buddhist and Hindu kingdoms which left their cultural mark on the landscape with scattered temples and statues.

But today, Buddhists, along with Christians and Hindus, are among the religious minorities in Indonesia.

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