MAGELANG, Indonesia (AFP) – Hundreds of lanterns have been released into the sky by Indonesian Buddhists celebrating Wesak Day at Borobudur Temple for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic hit the country.
More than a thousand Buddhists from across the archipelago gathered at the world’s largest Buddhist temple, located in Magelang, Central Java, to commemorate the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha Siddharta Gautama.
The night celebrations on Monday May 16 included prayers and meditation, the collection of holy water and the release of flying lanterns symbolizing letting go of negativity.
“This is the first time we have been able to organize the celebration since the start of the pandemic, since we are still in the midst of the pandemic, we have limited the number of participants to only 1,200 people,” said Eric Fernando, the gatekeeper. -word of the event. told AFP on Monday.
Only those who received an invitation and a double dose of a Covid-19 vaccine were allowed to enter the sprawling complex of Borobudur to join in the ceremonies.
Before the pandemic, the event was typically attended by more than 20,000 people from across the Muslim-majority country and other locations.
“After two years of not being able to celebrate Wesak Day here, now we finally can, even if it’s not exactly like before the pandemic because there are still restrictions, but I’m so happy,” Christina, a Buddhist 20-year-old who bears only one name, told AFP.
“You can still feel the enthusiasm and excitement, even though the number of participants is limited,” added the student from Jakarta, the Indonesian capital.
Despite the restrictions and strict health protocols, monks and devotees respectfully followed the three-day procession and ceremonies, including the ritual gathering of holy water from the pristine springs of Jumprit in nearby Temanggung district.
The procession and countdown to Wesak just before midnight on Monday was also live streamed for those who did not have an invitation to attend the event.
Indonesian Buddhists make up less than one percent of the country’s more than 270 million people.
Built in the 9th century, the Borobudur temple was abandoned when the Hindu kingdoms on the island of Java declined and a majority of Javanese began to convert to Islam.
Buried under volcanic ash and hidden in the jungle, the existence of the temple was largely forgotten until the 19th century. It has undergone extensive restoration and is now a Unesco World Heritage Site.