First Days in East Java

I arrived in Surabaya yesterday for a short tour of some of the lesser known Buddhist historical sites (Candi) in East Java, way off the beaten track for most tourists, though, as I soon discovered very much on the track for local tourists.

There is nothing much to see in Surabaya itself, except for a few remains gathered round a large statue known as Joko Dolog, which is in the suburbs of Java’s second largest city; we took some shots there and quickly moved on.

We then headed for what is probably the main collection of Candis in East Java, which were built during the late Majapahit period (end of 13th to beginning of 16th century).

After booking into our hotel we went out to have a look at some of the Candis, but it was already dark, overcast and raining, so although we got an idea of where the Candis were, and how far they are spread out, we were unable to start the photography that night.

Today though we set off early and covered around eight sites in the area. They are mainly Gateways (Gopuras) and Archeological sites, not so large, and not so decorated, but of interest anyway. One good thing about all the sites is how well-maintained they are, clean with well-kept gardens around them.

We also visited the tomb of the first of the Majapahit kings, Raden Wijaya Kertajaya Jayawardhana (died 1309), and his queen Ghayatri and other consorts. The tombs are very simple, around life size, and are now under a very old and grand tree that must have been growing there from the time of its construction.

We then went to the modern Mahā Vihāra at Mojopahit, which is a large temple run by the leader of one of the main Buddhist organisations in Indonesia, the Buddhayāna. There is the largest reclining Buddha statue in Indonesia situated there, with some fine carving by local artists on its base, illustrating the life of the Buddha.

We managed to meet the Abbot and head of Buddhayāna, and as it happened they were having a Majapahit festival with a dance competition, which was very well attended and which we were fortunate enough to join for an hour or so.

In the afternoon we headed for the museum, only to find it is closed on Saturdays and Sundays, the only days we have here, we then visited a couple of other places, including the tombs of some of the saints who introduced Islam to Indonesia during the collapse of the Majapahit empire, which as with King Jayawardhana, were very simple and elegant.

Here are some photographs from the day’s events:

Candi Bajang Ratu



Candi Brahu



Makam Siti Inggil



Candi Tikus



Reclining Buddha Statue, Mahā Vihāra, Mojopahit



Dance Festival at Mahā Vihāra




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