Authentic rituals of Indonesia: Dialogue between heaven and earth
05 March 2019
The gods in Indonesia are quite substantial leaders of the destinies of people living on a myriad of islands in the Pacific and Indian oceans. They are revered, loved, and respected, and every severe event interprets as a divine will, whether it is an abundant harvest or an epidemic menace.
Indonesia is a country where traditions and rituals are a fascinating attraction for tourists, but centuries-old heredity that the islanders preserve as a memory of ancestors and for communicating with the gods. One of the most multinational countries, Indonesia, has united several hundred nationalities with its way of life.
Among them, Tenger people are distinguished – a nation a maximum to 100 thousand people are living in Java, in the isolated area of the Tenger caldera (a supervolcano). Nearby is the famous picturesque volcano Bromo, which periodically shows a terrible temper.
Tenggerese people, clamped by a ring of Indonesian Muslims, continue to defend their cultural roots, professing Hinduism with the influences of animism and Buddhism. Despite the cultural pressure of the people of the Islamist Madurians, the Tenggerese live according to their principles and consider themselves descendants of Majapahit's legendary princes, the kingdom of the golden age of Indonesian civilization.
One of the main rites of a small nation is the ritual of Upacara Kasada, the sacral agreement between the prince of Majapahit and the gods. Pious and conservative Tenggerese annually honor this tradition, attracting this unusual ceremony to other Indonesians and tourists. According to legend, the royal couple asked the gods for the children, and they gave them twenty-five offspring and instructed the prince to provide the last of them to the volcano. The father and mother could not kill their son, so gods became angry and took the child, threatened to erupt the volcano. To calm them, royal children promised to honor the gods with a ceremony at the volcano's crater annually.
According to the Javanese calendar, this ceremony is part of the festival Upacara Kasada, which takes place every twelfth month of the year according to the Hindu calendar and in the tenth month. Many thousands of people attend this event. On the day of Upacara Kasada, a vast crowd of believers gather in the temple of Pura Luhur Poten, ask for mercy and divine blessing. After that, they go to the crater of Bromo, sacrificial place. Someone is riding up in a jeep, someone using horses, and someone – just walking. Some people dressed in expensive clothes, someone prefers a simple dress, but the important thing is that clothes should be warm.
The spectacle of the ceremony is unforgettable, noisy, and colorful. At the top of the volcano, people sing traditional songs, read mantras, the music of conventional Javanese drums all night long. The fun ends at midnight, and it is time to dive into the prayer trance, which helps to understand yourself. Fruits, animals, vegetable, and money are used as offerings launched within the crater
The Brahmins, who govern this rite, are responsible for spiritual enlightenment and the discovery of divine secrets transmitted directly by the gods.
But the course of the ceremony doesn’t go without dark moments. Few Muslims of Java, disrespectful of the traditions of Hindus, often gather lower on the slopes of the crater, trying to catch offerings with unique woven meshes. Such a risky occupation often turns into a tragedy - every year, some «offer hunters» stumble and fall into the crater, where they die from toxic fumes and heat.
This exceptional celebration is just one of the many traditions and rituals practiced by the local ethnic groups. The Tengers are among the most radical Hindus in Indonesia. Anyone who appreciates typical, unique, and ancient cultures should visit this exceptional place.
Video - Victoria Antyushina
Photo - Agung Paramessvara