Half-baked Pilgrim

The good part about hanging out with Rajbir is that she is so organised about photo trips that I don’t have to do much except copy-paste the packing/booking lists and soon the program is under way. I do miss Sara, and not just for her delicious chocolate mint cupcakes that were a photo hunting staple.

So, this year, thanks to Rajbir, we made it to Borobudur on the holy day of Waisak, or Buddha Purnima. No less than pilgrims, with a load on our backs, tracking the monks with our cameras, giving up some of our worldly necessities of food and shelter.

The walk from Candi Mendut to Candi Borobudur in the heat of the afternoon morphed into a moonlit, chaotic evening following the path of lanterns as they took our prayers and wishes into the heavens above. Something like nirvana was achieved at daybreak after a night spent in the company of sermons and chants, with the final pradakshina (circumambulation) of the monks around Borobudur.

Pradakshina at Candi Mendut

Pradakshina at Candi Mendut

Pradakshina at Candi Borobudur

Pradakshina at Candi Borobudur

I found the whole ‘light-and-sound’ show a little too much for my nirvana-seeking sensibilities. A giant golden Buddha statue seems wrong to me somehow, as do the floodlights and loudspeakers. The glow of simple fire lanterns was far more benign, the chants of Buddham Sharanam Gachchami in unison by the people minus the electronics, making goosebumps.

We did earn our reward that morning of a foot soak and massage at the airport, which is my definition of pure bliss.

Waisak-28

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Friday Photo walk: Ramadan prayers

All of Indonesia has been observing Ramadan – the holy month of fasting, so what better place to photograph than the masjid and Friday prayers?

I’ve blogged about Masjid Istiqlal before, but this was totally worth it. It is the largest mosque in South-East Asia; with a total capacity of 200,000 people. While we didn’t see it packed to capacity, the grand hall was full and a sight to behold.

Waiting for the prayers to start

Praying while they wait

Looking over

The official Friday prayer

Tip: Always dress conservatively when visiting a place of worship – knees and shoulders and sometimes the head must be covered. A scarf is handy.