I came across an interesting ritual recently in a relatively unknown place which caught my attention. Let me tell you about the ritual first.
This is famously known as the Yadnya Kasada Festival which takes place in the month of August. According to this festival, the Tenggerese people of a province in East Java travel up a mountain which is known as Mount Bromo and offer fruits, vegetables, rice and even livestock like chicken, etc. This is a practice that is followed since the fifteenth century and what is interesting is that Mount Bromo is an active volcano! What is even more interesting is that before the people make their offerings, many of the poor locals climb inside the caldera waiting for the offerings with nets, to catch hold of the offerings for their consumption and also in a believe that the sacrificial offerings will bring them good luck. People who make the offerings are aware of it, but there is no objection to it.
|People wait inside the caldera with nets to catch the offerings|
According to local mythology, Roro Anteng a local princess and her husband Joko Seger were childless for a long time. They appealed to the mountain gods to grant them children. The gods granted them a boon of 25 children, with a condition that their 25th child be named Kesuma and should be offered in sacrifice to the gods by throwing him in the volcano. When the child was born, he was sacrificed by throwing him in the volcano, though after an initial reluctance from the parents. The practice is still followed by the local Hindu population, however, in the form of non-human offerings now.
Many say that the practice started as a ritual to appease the mountain god to remain calm and not send down streams of lava, since this is an active volcano.
The aspect which caught my attention is that besides the fact that this is a Hindu practice, there isn’t anything to compare with such a practice (at least to my knowledge), in India. Except for the fact that it lends credence to the prevalence of human sacrifice in the days of yore, there isn’t any other parallel that I can draw. Another interesting aspect is that the mountain is named after Lord Brahma (Bromo is the Javanese pronunciation of Brahma, the Creator). To think that that there exists a volcano in the name of Brahma, in Java, when there hardly exists even a temple in India (except in Pushkar) is quite surprising in itself.
Another aspect of this ritual is that before people proceed up to the volcano, a ceremony takes place in a temple called Pura Luhar Poten which is located at the base of the volcano, where the month long festival of Yadnya Kasada takes place. The uniqueness of the temple is that unlike all the Balinese temples, this one is not made up of red bricks and stones. The Pura Luhar Poten temple is made of black stones from the volcano nearby. Another significance of the festival is that it also marks the selection of a new spiritual leader who is appointed after an elaborate examination of his knowledge and faith.
The Tenggerese are a minority tribe in the majority Islamic Java who follow the teachings of the Mahayana sect of Buddhism. However, in due course of time they have added aspects of Hinduism and are sometimes also referred to as Hindus in a more inclusive way. In the Pura Luhar Poten, the tribesmen worship the Buddha along with the trinity – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
The place is a great tourist attraction during the month of Yadnya Kasada Festival, which has its roots in an ancient myth!
Interesting, isn’t it?