The Jakarta Post
It was past midnight but thousands of people who had flocked to Borobudur Temple in Magelang, Central Java, to observe Waisak, or Buddha's Day of Enlightenment, stayed on.
Their long wait soon ended, replaced by happy cheers when hundreds of glowing paper lanterns were released into the sky.
Unlike previous celebrations, the paper lanterns were not separately released but divided into three phases of 400 lanterns each.
From afar, the lanterns light up the sky, with the great temple in the background ' a sight that attracted people from different faiths to join in and watch the celebration.
'I've been waiting to attend this event for several years,' said photographer Frino, who came to the temple from the West Kalimantan town of Singkawang.
Irina, a student from Latvia who was in Yogyakarta, also came to see the event. 'I came all the way from Yogyakarta by motorcycle, following people heading to Borobudur. Finally, I'm here,' she said.
Some 20,000 Buddhists from across Indonesia and abroad came to celebrate Waisak last Tuesday. The day emphasizes the three important events in Gautama Buddha's life, from his birth, enlightenment to perfect liberation.
The worshippers attended all of the processions, which started at Mendut Temple and Pawon Temple, also in Central Java, before heading to Borobudur.
A sense of togetherness was felt as the monks distributed paper lanterns to visitors who wanted to release the glowing lights, with the monks advising participants to pray beforehand to have their wishes realized.
Participant Ratri and her friends received a paper lantern and eagerly wrote their wishes ' from speedy graduation from college to getting jobs and boyfriends ' before taking pictures with the lantern that would be released into the sky bearing their list of aspirations.
'Let's hope God listens to our prayers,' Ratri said before releasing the lantern with her friends.
Council of Buddhist Communities (Walubi) Sangha coordinator Tadisa Paramita Mahasthavira said in a speech that Buddhists were peaceful people who were against violence and discrimination.
He encouraged Buddhists to follow in Buddha's path by spreading love.
'Buddhists who commit discrimination and crimes against humanity are tarnishing Buddha's teachings,' he said when reading the speech in front of President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo.
After the paper lanterns were released, countless pictures, many accompanied by inspiring messages, hit social media.
Twitter user @ariprwita said 'feeling happy, just by watching. Thank you my fellow Buddhists', while @valentinastra tweeted 'Love will create peace'.
- Text and photos by Bambang Muryanto
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