When Vesak Becomes a Tourist Attraction – ipadguides

The Enchantment of Vesak by Satria Marsudi Nugraha

Borobudur temple under the full moon, May 6, 2012 [21.00WIB]

Under the full moon, the top of the borobudur stupa, which symbolizes Nirvana, sparkles with lights from four directions. While the silhouette of the small stupas below it looks like kneeling to the Buddha at the main altar.

I got goosebumps when I started chanting the song. The monks sat cross-legged and closed their eyes in front of the golden Buddha statue. The atmosphere is so mystical and solemn, it should be. However, the roar of the camera shutter and the blinding flash of light, inevitably make the atmosphere no longer solemn – if you don’t want to call it terrible.

I followed the Pradhakshina ritual, when Buddhists circle the temple three times. The photographers also followed the procession. The series of flashes came back again and again. Many eyes blinked. Many eyes too – the photographers – are burning like they are hunting prey.

Actually, the night light was not too dark. The moon was bright, and the big lights like a football stadium had been lit. Maybe they weren’t as lucky as me who was still able to get a shutter speed of 1/250 second with an f/1.4 lens. But this is not a tool problem. It is a matter of tolerance, sensitivity and empathy. And, I see that some photographers are not sensitive at all.

Many unscrupulous photographers


Vesak is celebrated sacredly, solemnly, and respectfully in Buddhist-majority countries, such as Thailand for example. But hard to find in our country. Vesak here is more like a tourist attraction and festival for the community. The day before Vesak, the area along the outside of the Borobudur temple to Mendut has turned into a night market. Especially in the temple area, the screams of the noise of people collided with praying prayers. That night, waisak was more like a jawi runway, not a religious ritual.

Even the banthe who were solemnly praying, inevitably became the object of the photo shoot – perhaps for reasons of exoticism. I am the majority, who sees minority celebrations sometimes being underestimated by camera holders. The tourists do not respect the course of religious rituals, instead they are used as tourist attractions.

Perhaps this analogy is not quite right; However, when I was praying, I was touched a little bit maybe my concentration was broken. Especially when photographed at close range, with flash, and with people whose clothes are very disrespectful from a religious point of view.

Maybe neither party is at fault in this case. Some blame the committee, some blame the tourists, and other related parties. I was furious when I saw a tour agent who posted the event on his facebook, “Tour Waisak 3D2N, enjoy the sunrise on the stumbu and the flying waisak lanterns.” But, what is certain is that Vesak is a religious holiday. It is Worship – the process of human communication with God – which is a human right.

Monks who (probably) feel disturbed by their worship.


Night’s getting late. The moon is still bright. The splendor of the temple relic of the Syailendra dynasty is even more charming. The tourists are increasingly booming like the festival of sekaten jogja. They poured out for one reason – the release of a thousand lanterns – to close the tri waisak procession. Buddhists as well as tourists write their dreams on lanterns, hoping that they will be lifted to the sky and come true.

I just have a wish, so that these people are aware, so that the next Vesak Buddhists can celebrate it solemnly.

More like a festival than a religious ritual
1000 lanterns fly into the sky. May my wish come true.

This article was entered in the blog contest ‘Dji Sam Soe Portrait of Indonesian Masterpieces’. Inspirational Photo: The Enchantment of Vesak by Satria Marsudi Nugraha

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