Friday, January 18, 2008

Appeasing a God

The Tengger tribe's most important celebration, Yadnya Kasada, commenced smoothly and without incident at the increasingly active Mount Bromo in Probolinggo, East Java.

Thousands of Tengger tribespeople, along with domestic and foreign tourists who had come to witness the annual fes­tival, gathered on Sept. 7 for the ritual procession up the mountain.

The Tengger are believed to be descendants of a 15th-cen­tury princess of the declining Majapahit kingdom, Roro Anteng, and her husband Joko Seger, who fled to eastern Java's Tengger mountains. According to legend, the childless couple climbed the volcano and prayed to Bromo's god, who granted their wish for children on condition that they would sacrifice their youngest to its crater.

This year's Kasada was colored by the heightened alert sta­tus of Mt. Bromo, from Level 2 (Code Yellow) to Level 3 (Code Orange). With a possible eruption hanging over the festivities, the start of Kasada was delayed several hours as the Tengger people prayed to calm the sacred volcano - but without any visible effect.

An eruption is taken as a sign that the god is very angry. "It is our hope that nothing untoward will occur during this Kasada," said a festival participant.

And this hope was fulfilled as the ritual procession made its way across the desert plain - the Sand Sea - surround­ing Bromo and up through the cloud-covered, chilly heights to its peak.

There, Tengger shamans prayed as others amassed the offerings they had carried up the volcano's slopes, then released them into the gaping crater. (The Jakarta Post, Sunday, September 24, 2006, pg. 20)