Hanging out in Java during Ramadan

The island of Java in Indonesia is the home of the famous Borobodur temple, the largest Buddhist temple in the world and one of the greatest Buddhist monuments. Borobodur was built around the 9th century when Buddhism and Hinduism were important religions in Indonesia. (This is not the case any longer as Islam has been the predominant religion in Indonesia since the 15th century).

I had seen a number of lovely images of the Borobodur temple but had never seen it myself so on a trip to Bali last July, I decided to stop there on my way. The temple was as impressive as I had expected. I visited it at sunset and sunrise and took the required shot of the sun rising over one of the 72 Buddha statues that are seated inside perforated stupas (there are 504 Buddha statues in total).  Seeing the sun rising over this magnificent structure was quite an experience and worth the early wake-up call.

The temple is located in Central Java, about 40 kilometers from Yogyakarta. After spending time at the temple, I spent a few more days in the area exploring some small villages. Going from one village to another is easy using an andong, a horse carriage popular with tourists and locals as the roads are pretty narrow. (The locals, of course, also use motorcycles.) In these villages, I met several delightful older residents who happened to be in their homes while I wandered around.

My visit to central Java coincided with Ramadan, the Muslim holiday. Ramadan is the month during which Muslims ritually fast from sunrise to sunset. At sunset, people often join with other members of their communities to break the fast. One evening, I came across a group of women and children sitting outside listening to prayers. The children mostly played (as opposed to praying), so I interacted with them. Then, it was time to eat, and the children ran excitedly to get food and drinks. From what I am told, children don’t have to fast, but this did not seem to temper their enthusiasm for getting a treat. Some women kindly asked me to join them for “iftar,” as they called the “breaking the fast” evening meal. On subsequent days, I visited the small mosque both at times of prayers and in between prayers. There, women were often found taking a little nap as fasting, and getting up before dawn can make one quite tired.

The rest of my time was spent visiting local cottage industries, of which are many in Java. One of my favorites was a terra-cotta factory that produces beautiful reproductions of a Garuda (a large bird that appears in Hinduism and Buddhism artwork and is also the national bird of Indonesia).

Finally, one could not miss the paddy fields, standard features of the Central Java landscape. Much of the region is devoted to agriculture; the predominant crop is rice. Every day, one could see workers, often women, doing the backbreaking work of tending the rice fields.

Selamat Tinggal, my new friends.



20 Responses

  1. I love your images, France. The black and white works beautifully for your stories of Java. Very evocative. Stunning!

    1. Kathy,Thank you very much. I am glad you like the b&w, not my usual as you know. Although some of the individual images, I prefer in color, as a whole I think monochrome works best.

  2. I particularly like your choice of black and white which I think suits Java well. I have been to Java and feel you have shown the essence of the place. Thank you again, France, for such beautiful pictures.

    1. And thank you Jane for such kind words. I am glad you feel that I capture the place, especially as such a significant time of the year. And I know b&w is your favorite. I am still learning it but it is growing on me ;-) Warmly, France

  3. Lovely story and such wonderful picture to illistrate it. Intersting to do in black and white. Made me look into the more deeply rather than glance over which I suspect I would have done were they colour.
    Being there at sucha significant time would have added to the expereince, was that accident or by design?

    1. Linda, I rarely do b&w but I felt as you intuited that the colors were too distracting, especially in the Ramadan images. I was there during Ramadan purely accidentally and was actually worried that it would not be a great time to be around. I think I was lucky to be in a small village, and to be so warmly welcomed at the mosque. Things may have been more challenging in a larger city. Many thanks for visiting the blog. All the best, France

  4. Beautiful images that convey the mood of Ramadan very well….I love your choice of black and white and also how you processed the images

    1. Solveig, Nice hearing from you. I am glad you like the images and I imagine you know this area fairly well. Yes, somehow b&w seemed a better fit for this set of images (though some of the individual images I still prefer in color). I had prepared two posts, one in color and one in b&w, at the end I felt that b&w worked better. I am glad you agree :-) All the best, France

    1. Amina, Thank you for visiting the blog and for your kind words. It was a beautiful time in Java indeed and I am glad I could capture a little of it to share. All the best, France

  5. Beautiful images. Makes me long to go back to Indonesia. Two stand outs for me – the six children in a row, and the one of the seated woman looking over her shoulder, but many others captured me too – the rice paddy one with 2 people and their reflections – wonderful.

    1. Thank you Alison. You are probably fairly familiar with this area as it is close to home for you. I agree with your choice of “favorites” as I particularly like the Ramadan images myself. Yet again, it could be because of the warm memories I have of the local women and their kindness. Thanks again, France

  6. Another wonderful post, France. Your images and informative narratives never fail to impress. The photo of the six kids is one of my favorites – a great variety of expressions, particularly the silly one in the middle!

    1. Thanks Barbara. As you can imagine, the children were delightful and I thought we were having a great old time until… it was time to eat. They disappeared so fast all at once to line up for the treats. Fun moment :-)

  7. France,
    These photos are so very interesting. Also interesting is your choice to use only B&W. Which filter did you use?
    I am feeling a need to break out of my usual animal photography and try humans. A fear I must face.
    Be well!

    1. Elise, I know I rarely do B&W but I felt this was the right thing here. Gut feeling, I guess. I used some B&W preset in Lightroom that I tweeked a bit. Nothing wrong with photographing animals but people are fun too ;-) Best, France

  8. These pictures are nothing short of stunning.
    You’ve captured the mood in such a magical way.

Would love to hear from you!

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