An 8th-century Mahayana Buddhist monument near Magelang, Central Java; six square platforms topped by three circular platforms, decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. The main dome at the center of the top platform is surrounded by 72 Buddhas. The three levels of Buddhist cosmology, Kāmadhātu (desire), Rupadhatu (form) and Arupadhatu (formlessness) are thus represented. Indonesian Buddhists celebrate Vesak each year at Borobudur, Indonesia's single most visited tourist attraction.
Small town, beautiful forest park on the slopes of Mt Merapi, the active volcano 25 km north of Yogya; cool air, great views. For inexpensive accommodations see the Fuji Villa (Jalan Pelajar 8), with breakfast included, swimming pool, guest kitchen, restaurant, internet access, outdoor terrace, common room, tour arrangements, & more.
The oldest mosque in Yogyakarta, built in the 1640s by Muslims, with help from both Hindus and Buddhists. Located on Jalan Watu Gilang, in Kotagede. Still used today for religious activities, for prayers, for socializing, for reading the Koran, for contemplation, or even just to take a nap. A ditch that encircles the mosque, originally drainage for the water used to wash before prayers, is now a fishpond adorned with porcelain and crossed by a small bridge to enter the building. Saying prayers beneath the centuries-old banyon tree, the "Waringin Sepuh" is said to bring good luck.
Parangtritis, on the south coast, is a well known local beach. Local folklore recommends never wearing green or the legendary Nyai Loro Kidul might entice the wearer into the ocean to drown. Wild waves and rip tides, however, are far more of a danger to life and limb. For more stretches of beautiful white sand have a driver take you to one of many other natural, undeveloped beaches in the region. See Yogyes for more info on these.
Considered the most beautiful Hindu temple complex in the world, dating from the tenth century, 17 km from Yogya city center. Three separate temples, dedicated to Vishnu, Brahma, and Shiva, (the highest of the three), face east. Originally named Shivagrha, dedicated to Shiva, the temple was designed to mimic Meru, the holy mountain home of Shiva. Each main temple has a companion facing to the west, Nandini for Shiva, Angsa for Brahma, and Garuda for Vishnu. In addition there are 10 more temples to the side and corners, and 224 more smaller ones. Besides statues to the primary deities, there are representations of Durga, Agastya, and Ganesha.
Open-air and indoor stages have been built to the west of the temple, across the Opak river, to stage the Ramayana ballet, the centuries-old dance of the Javanese court. Performances have taken place every full moon night since the 1960s.
Many Hindu temples were built during a thousand years of Hindu kingdoms. Even after 500 years of Islam in Java, Hinduism and a fusion of Hindu-animism still exist in a number of Javanese communities. Some claim descent from warriors and princes of Majapahit who remained, while others in those times relocated to Bali. Some sects, officially Buddhist, include the worship of Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma in rites today.
Sabdapalon, priest and adviser to Brawijaya V, the last Hindu ruler, cursed his king when the latter converted to Islam in 1478. He promised to return to restore the old faith, the "religion of Majapahit" at a future time of widespread political corruption and natural disasters. There has been something of a resurgence in Hindu converts lately, especially in the Klaten region, but also among members of important families in the ruling classes.
The people of Ponorogo, an East Java town between two extinct volcanoes, were reputed to have magical powers and sexual potency, along with a history of radical politics and sometimes violent rebellion. Implicit in Reog's mythic battle between the King of Ponorogo and the Singa Baronga lion-like creature, was centuries-old distain, and resistance to central state power. The Dutch banned performances for 20 years during their rule, and after independence, with "New Order" policies, the government pushed to "clean up" Reog troups. Dances were adapted to fit official concepts of "modernization," and downplay politically or sexually subversive elements. Standardized, sanitized and refitted as tourist commodities, these parodies of original dances cast waroks not as rebels or charismatic spiritual leaders, but loyal state functionaries.
Original characters included the King of Ponorogo, proud and pompous in regal attire; Bujang Anom, acrobatic young men in black and red; Jatil, handsome teenage gemblaks, riding horses of woven bamboo; and the Singa Barong, with his large, very heavy mask of tiger or leopard skin, and peacock feathers. The creature was played by the warok, a local leader who was highly respected for his spiritual and physical strength, but also a social and political maverick.
Dancers traditionally performed in trance, and were expected to follow strict rules, rituals and exercises, including sexual abstinence from women. Gemblak boys of eight to fifteen lived in the households of waroks who compensated the boy's family, and arranged the young man's marriage when he matured. Though never spoken of as homosexuals in this context, waroks and gemblaks were assumed to be sexually intimate by a society in which same-sex relationships, if discreet, were considered normal and acceptable among unmarried men --in contrast to heterosexual relations outside marriage, viewed as immoral and spiritually debilitating. Endowed with male and female elements in a single entity, the gemblak represented a "complementarity of opposites" - cosmic unity. Seen to possess powers of fertility they might also be invited to share the wedding bed of a bride and groom. But with tradition gone, and new gay/western concepts of homosexual identity in vogue, the special status of the young men has been lost, and financial rewards rather than spritual apiration became the greater motivation.
Waroks of old were said to practice rasa sejati, a Sanskrit-derived Javanese term for awareness of the fundamental energy within all life; a tantric discipline by which a beautiful youth is transformed by the mystic's gaze, revealing perfection within created form. Such customs, once familiar to Sufis among other Islamic communities, are now abhorrent to mainstream Islam and Christianity, and relationships are discouraged by government and religious authorities. Waroks now cast themselves as civic-minded village elders helping disadvantaged youths, and young men's dance roles are usually played by girls.
See a Josko Petkovic interview with Dédé Oetomo, a founder of the modern gay rights movement; and Spirituality, Sexuality, and Power in a Javanese Performance Tradition by Ian Douglas Wilson at the link below.
Climbing Cliffs of Siung Beach: 90 degree inclines rise from crashing waves and white sands, strong winds, great views, 250 paths for various levels of climbing difficulty.
Lower Progo River rafting: waves up to 3 meters high, sudden drops, big rocks, sudden surges. The 25 km trip from Klangon Bridge to Dekso takes 4 hours.
Spelunking in Jomblang Caves: 40 meter deep vertical drop (beginners require SRT course). At it's base, a small area of dense forest in otherwise dry limestone landscape, an underground river, and a noontime ray of sunlight.