INDONESIAN CULTURAL CEREMONIES

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Irsyadi Nafis
Fakultas Teknik Universitas Proklamasi 45
Yogyakarta

Nglabuh in Kukup Bach (Foto : Elisa)
It is undeniable that Indonesia is rich in traditional arts and cultures from different ethnic groups. Some of them still survive today. How well do you know them ?
1.    Bull Races
It is a festival held in various regions of Madura Islan to celebrate an occasion after the harvest time. It is often accompanied by dance performances.
2.    Labuhan
A ceremony held on beaches in which people throw offerings to the sea, to please the Goddes of the South Sea, Nyai Roro Kidul.
3.    Sekaten
A ceremony in Yogyakarta to celebrate the birth of the Prophet Muhammad SAW.
4.    Ngaben
A Hindu ceremony (specially in Bali), which people burn the dead to free the soul from the body, is letting it go to its final destination.
5.    Kecak Dance
A traditional Balinese dance, which is performed by a hundred chanting and swaying men, dressed in loin clothes.
6.    Shadow Puppets
Traditional art from Central or East Java. Performed with leather puppets by the “Dalang”.
7.    Wooden Puppets
Traditional art from West Java. It is a play using figures carved and painted wood, shaped like the characters in the Mahabarata and Ramayana stories.
8.    Toraja Burial Ceremony
The Torajan are perhaps best known for their elaborate colorful feast for the dead offering to ensure that the soul of the dead may pass to the after world in a manner appropriate to the status they enjoyed in this world.
This feast costs a lot of money because the kin groups will often save and work for many years to prepare a suitable elaborate funeral. Visitors should be sure to contribute food, cigarettes, soap or money to assist the family.
A man is considered dead only when his funeral feast has been held. In the mean time, the deceased is regarded as merely sick and the corpse is kept in the “tongkonan” (a series of houses arranged in a circular row around an open field), where he is fed and visited as if he were still alive. The copse is first ritually cleansed and dressed in a fine weaving and made to sit up. After some days, it is wrapped in specially woven fabric and laid in a westward facing position.

When enough goods have been set aside to send the soul of, the funeral ceremonies are performed in two stages over a period of about a week presided over by a ”tomabalu” (death specialist). Buffaloes and pigs are first slaughtered and offerings of betel nuts, fruits and “tuak” (palm wine) are made. The corpse is then moved to face north and is now officially dead. The kinfolk must observe a number of taboos, including rice fast that lasts several days, as dances and chants are performed.
Another ceremony follows, for which a pig and a buffalo are again slaughtered and the relatives wear black. The body is placed in sandalwood coffin, then brought out of the house and placed on an open platform beneath the granary. Meanwhile, an effigy (wooden puppet) and a funeral tower “lakian” are prepared and a large stone is placed in the center of the village ceremonial field “rante”.
The second phase of the funeral takes place in the rante, decorated for the occasion with banners and the funeral tower. The coffin is borne from the house and placed in the “lakian”. All the guests now arrive. Feasting, chanting, and dancing, continue through the night and buffalo matches as well boxing matches take place during the day.
On the last day of the feast, the coffin is lowered from the funeral tower and brought up to the mountainside family gravesite followed by great shouting and excitement. Finally its effigy is installed on a high balcony where other puppets (effigies) are already standing there representing the members of a whole family.

9.    Batak Burial Ceremony
A purely Batak tradition is the si gale – gale puppet dance, once performed at funeral ceremonies, but now more often a part of wedding ceremonies. This Batak culture was used at funeral ceremonies to revive the souls of the dead and to communicate with them. Personal possessions of the deceased were used to decorate the puppet and the dukun would invite the deceased’s soul to enter the wooden puppet as it danced on top of the grave. At the end of the dance, the villagers would hurl spears and arrows at the puppet while the dukun performed a ceremony to drive away evil spirits. A few days later the dukun would return to perform another ceremony; sometimes lasting 24 hours, to chase away evil spirits again.

Source :
bali sky tour : Bull Races Competition Bali. baliskytour.blogspot.com, May, 24th 2012 Retrieved on April, 20th 2013 from http://baliskytour.blogspot.com/2012/05/makepung-bull-race-competition.html
Wikipedia : Toraja. en.wikipedia.org, April, 13th 2013 Retrieved on April, 20th 2013 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toraja
The Jakarta Post : Superstition plagues Batak community. www.thejakartapost.com, June, 18th 2010 Retrieved on April 21st 2013 from http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2010/06/18/superstition-plagues-batak-community.html
English in Use : Cross Cultural Understanding
Note : This paper was presented at my courses in Pare Kediri East Java.

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