JAKARTA: Indonesian Buddhists celebrated the religious festival of Vesak at the world’s largest temple of faith on Monday, as celebrations returned to the holy site after two years of the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 1,000 people, mostly dressed in white, attended a ceremony at Borobudur Temple in Central Java to mark this year’s event, which commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha.
Monday’s celebrations mark the first time in two years that a public procession of this magnitude has again been held at the ninth-century temple, following restrictions imposed to curb coronavirus transmissions.
Before the public health outbreak, more than 40,000 Buddhist devotees from across the country and abroad gathered at Borobudur every year to celebrate Vesak.
“Naturally, as faithful Buddhists, we are very happy to be able to celebrate the holy day of Vesak at the Borobudur temple, because the temple is the largest mandala in the world,” said Tanto Soegito Harsono, lead organizer of the event. and regional leader of the largest Buddhist organization in the country. WALUBI, told Arab News.
The mandala, which means circle or center in Sanskrit, is an important spiritual symbol in Buddhism.
“Let us realize the teachings of the Buddha in our daily lives,” said Harsono, alluding to the theme of the event.
Indonesia, the most populous Muslim-majority country in the world, is also home to significant Buddhist, Christian and other religious minorities. Centuries ago, this part of Central Java was ruled by Buddhist and Hindu kingdoms, whose cultural heritage lives on through temples and statues scattered around the area.
At this year’s scaled-down celebrations, organizers say attendance is limited to around 1,200 for the day’s ceremony, during which health protocols are mandatory.
Borobudur, made up of pyramid-shaped platforms and topped by several stupas and Buddha statues, also hosts a festival in the evening, which will see participants toss 2,022 lit lanterns into the evening sky above the temple.
Christina, a 20-year-old student visiting from Tangerang, a city near the capital Jakarta, had already participated in Vesak Day celebrations twice. She hopes this year will mark the return of the annual festivities to Borobudur.
“This year I am participating as a member of the WALUBI marching band during the procession,” Christina told Arab News.
“Celebrating Vesak in Borobudur is very meaningful to me.”