Not only did we get to witness a beautiful wedding, but we also got to experience much of the culture in Central Java through our travels there. We were fortunate to have a wonderful trip all planned out for us and enjoyed every minute of every day (well, except when my parents and I got food poisoning – ick!). We took a bus trip through the countryside and up into the mountains to stay at Dieng Plateau. We arrived in the evening, after dark had settled, but could see the beauty of the gardens at the tea plantation where we were staying. When we woke up the next morning, we could not only see the loveliness that was the waterfall outside our door, but also the other mountains in the distance. It was a breathtaking view.
We got a tour of the facilities and lessons in how to process tea leaves to make both green and black tea. Did you know they both come from the same plant? Black tea is just fermented. That’s the only difference. This tea plantation has 800 tea-pickers who are all women. They grow tea for Lipton… next time I drink a Yellow Label, I’ll remember everything about how it’s processed and prepared. Mmm, tea. (I love tea. I have many favorite types and love experimenting with new blends. What about you?)
While staying in the area, we also visited a beautiful old Hindu temple that was built in the 8th century. The facades were cracked, but you could still make out the carvings. It had long since been robbed of the figures inside the shrines, but the structures themselves were still quite impressive.
On the way to Jogjakarta, we visited Borobudur Temple, the largest Buddhist temple in the world. Though this temple was built in the 9th century, it is still used for worship today. There are three levels to the structure, each representing a different realm in Buddhist cosmology: namely Kamadhatu (the world of desires), Rupadhatu (the world of forms), and finally Arupadhatu (the formless world). Humans live out their existence in the first level, the world of desires. Those who have pushed away and overcome all desires live in the world of forms, where they can see forms, but are not drawn to them. Only Buddhas, or those enlightened, can reach the realm of the formless world. In addition to this symbolism, there are also panels depicting the stories of Buddhist lore, the birth and life of Siddhartha. There are 72 statues of Buddhas, which through subtle differences, represent different directions and carry different meanings. Their different purposes include: calling the Earth to witness, benevolence and alms giving, concentration and meditation, courage and fearlessness, reasoning and virtue, and the turning of the wheel of dharma. The temple of Borobudur was not only impressive, but truly breathtaking.
My favorite temple, however, was not Borobudur, but the Prambanan Temple, a Hindu temple. Prambanan was also built in the 9th century and celebrates the Trimurti, the expression of God as the Creator (Brahma), the Sustainer (Vishnu) and the Destroyer (Shiva). (Can you guess which one I was drawn to most?) In a similar fashion to Borobudur, there are three levels: the Bhurloka, the lowest realm of common mortals (humans, animals also demons), the Bhuvarloka, the middle realm of holy people, rishis, ascetics, and lesser gods, and the Svarloka, the highest and holiest realm of gods. In the lowest realm of mortals, humans are binded by their lust, desire and unholy way of life. In the middle realm of holy people, they have begun to see the light of truth. It is in the highest and holiest realm of gods that heaven is represented. This is where the righteous go between lives on Earth. At Prambanan, there were also many reliefs. They represented the epic stories of the Ramayana.