The alarm came on at the ungodly hour of 4.00am while it was still pitch dark outside. It was time to join the Borobudur Sunrise Tour. As staying guests of Hotel Manohara, the tour costs IDR250,000 as compared to IDR400,000 charged to international tourists.
After getting our tickets and flashlights at the hotel lobby, we trudged in darkness with the other guests towards the Borobudur gate before it opened to the rest of the public at 6am. With just the light from the flashlights, we climbed up the cobblestone stairs to the top platform.
Groups of tourists were already staking their spots. It was eerily calm while we waited patiently for the first ray of sunlight. Everyone was whispering or talked quietly, too afraid to disturb the serene morning.
As it was cloudy, we didn’t get the ‘perfect’ sunrise but it was still a beautiful experience to watch the mounds of stupas and the temple complex emerge from the darkness. The early start enabled us to explore the temple before the place got crowded.
Borobudur is built over a period of 75 years in the 8th and 9th century during the reign of the Sailendra Dynasty. Built based on the Buddhist concept of attaining Nirvana, it is reputed to be the largest Buddhist monument in the world. It is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The temple consists of six square terraces at the bottom, three circular terraces on top and on top of them is the grand central stupa. The first two terraces are called Kamadhatu (the world of desire) representing human beings that are bound by lust and greed.
The following four terraces, Rupadhatu (the world of forms) symbolizing human beings that have freed themselves of lust and greed but still desire the material world.
The three circular terraces with 72 buddha statues encased in bell shaped stupas are Arupadhatu (the world of formlessness) where one is liberated from all earthly consideration. The central stupa at the top, Arupa symbolizes Nirvana.
We explored this large monument at our leisure, admiring the 2000 plus relief panels decorating the temple and taking a closer look at some of the 500 plus Buddha statues scattered all over the temple.
We left around 9am and by then throngs of tourists have started to arrive. I was glad for the early start enjoying some peaceful and serene time at this sacred place.