Under Indonesia’s Surface, An Intricate Quilt Of Faiths

February 17, 2010

Author: Norimitsu Onishi

Source: The New York Times


As if on cue, the two Buddhist monks in saffron robes appeared one late afternoon recently, seemingly out of nowhere, to complete the picture of Indonesia’s religious past and present.

The visitors stood at the edge of a large fenced-off pit where a ninth-century Hindu temple had recently been unearthed here on the campus of the Islamic University of Indonesia. On the other side of the pit, where a mosque’s large dome rose in the backdrop, the muezzin would soon call the faithful to the sunset prayer.

The discovery of the nearly intact Hindu temple was a reminder of the long religious trajectory of the country that now has the world’s largest Muslim population. In few places on earth have three major religions intermixed with such intensity and proximity as in Indonesia’s island of Java. If the sultan of Yogyakarta’s palace lies at the heart of this city, Java’s spiritual center, the world’s largest Buddhist monument, Borobudur, and one of its largest Hindu temples, Prambanan, stand in its outskirts.