Jakarta (ANTARA) - Crowds of people thronged the roadside into Magelang, Central Java, to welcome dozens of bhantes (Buddhist monks) conducting Thudong, a ritual performed by bhantes involving walking long distances, often reaching thousand kilometers, to emulate Buddha.

Thousands of people enthusiastically welcomed the arrival of Buddhist monks by lining up on the right and left sides of the road between the Magelang city border to the Liong Hok Bio Temple located south of the Magelang City Square.

As many as 32 Buddhist monks participating in Thudong this year commenced their journey from Thailand on March 23, 2023, and arrived in Batam, Riau Islands, on May 8. They then continued the journey to their final destination: Borobudur Temple in Magelang District, Central Java.

The 32 monks spent the night and rested at the Liong Hok Bio Temple after traveling from Ambarawa, Semarang, to Magelang City.

While the monks were resting at the Liong Hok Bio Temple complex, dozens of therapists, or masseuses, who were members of the Indonesian Traditional Health Association (PPTI), were prepared to voluntarily provide therapy services to those monks, who had traveled long distances.

Continuing their journey, dozens of monks wearing brown robes were seen walking behind their accompanists. During their trip in the city, those monks were escorted not only by security forces from the police and military but also by several local community organizations.

The monks, who traveled a long way, were extended friendly and spontaneous greetings by the local residents in Magelang.

The hospitality shown by the local people to Thai Buddhist monks performing the Thudong pilgrimage in Indonesia reflects the true face of harmony and tolerance in Indonesia.

"The hospitality shows our true face of harmony and tolerance. Hence, if some people think they could exploit religious polarization, or identity politics, they will know the answer just by seeing these good people," Supriyadi, the Director General of Buddhist Community Guidance at the Religious Affairs Ministry, stated.

He said the monks were impressed by the Indonesian people's hospitality, adding that it will be a huge capital to encourage the Indonesian people to exhibit greater friendliness and tolerance, including towards all guests coming here.

"If we look on social media, they are very moved because as monks in Indonesia, a Muslim-majority country, they have been accepted very well," Supriyadi remarked.

In fact, several bhantes participating in the Thudong ritual commended the high levels of religious tolerance and harmony that they observed during their journey in Indonesia.

"Indonesia is the best. Its residents are tolerant. They wait for our arrival and welcome us. The Indonesian people are outstanding in the matter of tolerance. They welcomed us as they welcome their own relatives," Maha Or, a monk from Malaysia, remarked.

Maha Or is one of the bhantes performing the Thudong pilgrimage from Thailand to Borobudur Temple in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia.

While conducting the Thudong pilgrimage, Or, along with his 31 other fellow Buddhist monks, had also spent time resting in Cirebon, West Java, before continuing their pilgrimage by foot to their final destination, Borobudur Temple.

The Thudong ritual this year, which was initiated by a monk from Indonesia -- Bhante Kantadhammo -- or who is familiarly called Bhante Wawan, was performed by 32 monks from Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia.

They started walking from Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand, from March 23, 2023.

In Indonesia, the Buddhist monks walked from the capital city of Jakarta straight to Magelang City, passing through several provinces, namely DKI Jakarta, West Java, and Central Java.

The Thudong ritual performed by those monks will end at the Borobudur Temple in Magelang by participating in a joint celebration of the Tri Suci Vesak on June 4, 2023.

After undertaking a long journey from Thailand to Indonesia via Malaysia, some monks admitted that they were most impressed by Indonesia because of the warm welcome extended by the residents to them.

Maha Or lauded the Indonesian people, saying they exhibited higher tolerance for the Buddhist faith as compared to the other countries he passed during the journey.

Meanwhile, Bhante Wawan, a monk from Cirebon who joined the Thudong ritual, concurred with Or's statement about their experience.

Wawan stated that when he asked the bhantes individually about religious tolerance in Indonesia, they answered positively by pointing to their fingers and toes as though attempting to make a thumbs-up gesture with their digits.

"As conveyed by all bhantes, who joined the Thudong ritual, they said that tolerance in Indonesia is the highest as compared to the other countries that they have crossed," Wawan stated.

"We have crossed Thailand, Malaysia, and now crossing Indonesia. I am actually reluctant to convey this, but that is what all the bhantes feel," the monk stated.

The testimony about the high levels of religious tolerance and harmony in Indonesia uttered by those monks are not without reason.

A thudong participant, Monk Kantadhammo, was highly impressed by the warm welcome extended by the Indonesian people.

He admitted that on the way from Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore, the monks had a lot of time to meditate. However, after arriving in Indonesia, the time for meditation was relatively reduced, as they had to greet several residents.

"Greet each other, apart from meditation. This is part of us as monks to share love. This does not interfere with meditation, but rather, it actually indicates tolerance," he stated.

He believes that the hospitality and warm welcome of the Indonesian people towards the monks is a mirror that shows the social reality of how tolerance actually becomes a part of daily life of the Indonesian nation.

In fact, throughout their Thudong route in Indonesia, the bhantes have been warmly welcomed by local residents, who have been encouraging them and providing them with food, shelter, and medical support.

Such gestures shown by the Indonesian residents to the Buddhist monks are indeed a beautiful reflection of the daily implementation of the national motto of "Bhinekka Tunggal Ika," or Unity in Diversity, which has become the cornerstone of the life of the Indonesian nation.

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Editor: Sri Haryati
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