Buddhist, Christian, and Muslim groups in Indonesia have expressed opposition to the government’s announcement to increase the entrance fee for the temple of Borobudur, the largest Buddhist place of worship in the world.
“So many poor people will no longer be able to visit the temple, it would be a great loss,” an Agenzia Fides report quoted Buddhist monk Sri Pannyavaro Mahathera.
Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, the country’s minister of Maritime Affairs and Foreign Investment, justified the move, saying it would help preserve the “environmental safety of the world’s largest Buddhist temple” by reducing the number of daily visitors to 1,200 people.
“We agreed to limit the tourist quota to 1,200 people per day at a cost of US$100 for foreign tourists and 750,000 rupiah (US$71) for domestic tourists,” said Luhut in a post on Instagram.
The current entrance fee is US$25 per person.
The new rules also require foreigners to be accompanied by a local guide at all times while visiting the temple.
“We do this to create new jobs while growing a sense of belonging in this region so that a sense of responsibility for the historical sites can continue to thrive in the future’s younger generation,” added Luhut.
“We are taking these [steps] solely for the sake of preserving the rich history and culture of the archipelago,” he said.
Borobudur, located near Yogyakarta in Indonesia’s Central Java province, is believed to have been built in the 9th century and has been preserved through several restorations.
It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982 and attracted tens of thousands of visitors daily before the pandemic hit.
The Indonesian Buddhist Society expressed “serious concern” about what it described as the potential decrease in the number of tourists and pilgrims visiting the temple.
The group also said that any place of worship, regardless of religion, must by nature be open to all.
The temple consists of nine stacked platforms, six square and three circular, surmounted by a central dome. It is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and originally had 504 Buddha statues. The central dome is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues, each seated inside a perforated stupa. – with a report from Agenzia Fides