JOURNEY AROUND THE TEMPLES

01/12/2012

Journey Around the TemplesMy internship in Indonesia is over, but I still remember the adventurous journeys to Semarang, Surakarta / Solo, Yogyakarta / Jogja, Klaten, Surabaya and Jakarta. I have already written about some of the places visited, activities done and animals met there. There is one thing about Indonesia I have not described yet. As people in this country are very religious, they have many amazing and curious temples constructed in different locations. Not it is time to correct this omission.

Exploring Religion in IndonesiaIndonesia is a multi-religious country. Officially it recognizes 6 religions: Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Catholicism, and Protestantism. However, the dominant majority (about 87%) of population is Muslim. So, if you come to Indonesia and choose to stay at a host family, university dormitory or boarding house, be prepared to be waken up at 5 AM in the morning with a prayer coming out of a loudspeaker at the nearby mosque or even right next to your door.

Praying Time at a Student Boarding HouseHowever, historically the first belief systems in the country were Hinduism and Buddhism brought here around II – IV-th centuries. This is why you can see many temples of these two religions around its islands, and it is them we had explored during our journeys.

The Chinese Temple in SemarangThe first one was the Chinese temple Sam Poo Kong situated in the city of my internship – Semarang. Well, actually, there are 5 temples constructed in a mixed Chinese and Javanese architectural style that form the Sam Poo Kong complex. Beyond the largest temple there is also a cave with an altar, fortune-telling instruments and the healing well.

Sam Poo Kong - EntranceSam Poo Kong - StatuesSam Poo Kong - Main TempleSam Poo Kong was originally found by the Chinese Muslim explorer Admiral Zheng He, who visited this place around 1400. You can admire his statue in the temple courtyard.

Statue of Admiral Zheng HeNext stop was a couple of Hindu temples hear Surakarta / Solo: Candi Sukuh and Candi Cetho on the volcano Mount Lawu. The curious thing about them was that these temples where related to the topics of life before birth and sexual intercourse. So, you can notice many statues and ornaments depicting male and female reproductive organs.

Candi Sukuh - 1Candi Sukuh - 2Candi Sukuh - 3Candi Cetho - 1Candi Cetho - 2And if you wish, you can bring some goods (flowers, food, etc.) to the long and thin… or short and thick phallus and pray for the astonishing fertility and an army of kids.

Phallus - 1Phallus - 2Near these erotic… I mean exotic temples we paid a visit to Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, arts and science. In Hinduism she helped the god Brahma to create the Universe. Saraswati symbolizes knowledge and learning and is also perceived as the guardian of Earth. Her four arms represent four aspects of human personality in learning: mind, intellect, alertness and ego.

Saraswati - 1Saraswati - 2Finally, on the way from Surabaya to Batu we found a slender Buddhist temple of Candi Jawi. This is a relatively small, but still beautiful shrine built around XIII-th century. And behind it you can admire the view of the volcano called Mount Penanggungan.

Candi Jawi - 1Candi Jawi - 2Mount PenanggunganThat was our journey around the temples of the Java island in Indonesia. As you have probably noticed, we did not manage to visit more well-known religious places, such as Borobudur – the World’s largest Buddhist temple and Prambanan – the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia. But I will definitely pay them a visit during my second trip to this country.

The same thing I advise you to do, my friend. Even if you are an atheist, do come to Indonesia and explore its religious life, especially the ancient one. It is quite interesting and beautiful indeed.

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