Pilgrims to the Centre of the Earth

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Armed with homemade gunny-sack nets, the Indonesian villagers with their feet planted firmly on the inner walls of Mount Bromo's crater had their eyes fixated upwards.

They were all waiting for the same thing. When a squawking chicken tumbled over the volcano's rim into their line of sight, nets moved in unison trying to predict the hapless fowl's trajectory. Only one villager might have enough luck to bag the bird; while others can only wait for more to come. It's not only chickens that fall into the smokey, gaping mouth of Mount Bromo, located in Indonesia's East Java. Fruit, rice and money are some other objects that net-wielders in the volcano might find themselves trying to catch. The source of these items is a crowd of ethnic Tengger worshippers perched on the narrow crater lip, performing a sacrifice ritual as part of the Yadnya Kasada festivities. 

Sacrifices To A God

Held on the fourteenth day of the Kasada month in the Javanese calendar, Yadnya Kasada is the most significant festival for the Tengger people, an ethnic minority in East Java. On this day, Tenggerese from all over East Java make a long trek to ascend the isolated Mount Bromo and make offerings to Ida Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa ("Big Almighty Lord") and their ancestors.

Food and livestock are thrown by worshippers into the volcano's crater, in hope that blessings of safety and prosperity may be received for their families and communities. During this ritual, some people make their way into the crater in order to try and collect these offerings. While many of these scavengers can be non-Tenggerese, some worshippers believe that taking such offerings home will bring good luck, too.

With a population of roughly 90,000 that is concentrated in some thirty villages surrounding Mount Bromo, the Tengger people are Java's second-smallest ethnic group. Although most Tenggerese are farmers, some are part of the tourism industry, providing accommodation and guiding services to those visiting the volcano. Tenggerese worship of Ida Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa is similar to the practice of Balinese Hindus.

As this implies, Hinduism is the dominant religion within most-if not all- Tengger communities. While Buddhism and animism have also influenced the Tenggerese faith, these people are staunchly loyal to their religious roots and attempts by Christian and Islam missionaries to convert the Tengger people were all met with little success.

Read more in Asian Geographic Issue 4/2016


Article by Agung Parameswara

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