The monks in the mist – and the festival of the moon


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The Independent Online

Mist hung low over the jungle surrounding the Borobudur temple in Indonesia as thousands of the country's Buddhists celebrated the annual Vesak festival.

Known to some as the "Buddha's birthday", the holy day also marks the enlightenment and death of Gautama Buddha, on whose teachings the religion was founded, and is observed under a full moon by Buddhists across Asia.

In Indonesia, pilgrims walk between three temples, from Mendut to Pawon and, finally, Borobudur, where they line up in preparation to receive alms from members of the public. Indonesia is the world's largest muslim nation; just two per cent of the population is recorded as Buddhist, but in a country of 240 million people, the religion has sizeable representation.

Borobudur, at Magelang in central Indonesia, is the country's most popular tourist attraction. It was built in the 9th century before being abandoned in the 14th century following the shift towards Islam. It was reclaimed from the jungle and restored when Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, then the British ruler of Java, was lead to the temple in 1814.