The Jakarta Post
The scent of jasmine spread across the hall of Pura Mangkunegaran in Surakarta, Central Java, as several female dancers entered, accompanied by the soft traditional music of a Kyai Kanyut Mesem gamelan orchestra.
From his chair, King Mangkunegara, Kanjeng Gusti Pangeran Adipati Arya (KGPAA) Mangkunegara IX, and hundreds of guests enjoyed the sacred dance created by King Mangkunegara I more than 250 years ago.
Performed by seven dancers, the dance known as Bedhaya Ketawang Alit depicts the battle between Raden Mas Said, also known as Prince Sambernya, who later received the title of Mangkunegara I, and Dutch troops in Ponorogo in 1752.
Despite the battle-inspired story, the dances' movements, known as Bedaya Anglir Mendung, are graceful while still maintaining the impression of bravery. They combine fragility with a demonstration of women soldiers' superiority at using arrows as their weapon. The dance was created to honor the troops of Ladrang Mangungkung and Jayeng Rasta, the female warriors of Mangkunegaran.
The dance is considered sacred as it can only be performed once a year during the procession of Wiyosan Jumenengan Mangkunegara, or the ceremony of the king's coronation anniversary. This year, the king's 31st anniversary fell on Wednesday night.
Interestingly, as well as being all female, the dancers must also be virgins. They also have to fast for one week prior to performing the dance. Offerings such as seven different colors of flower also adorned the show.
"Jumenengan and Bedaya Anglir Mendung form a unity. It is our ancestors’ heritage and we must preserve it. For Javanese people, a celebration like this is a requirement and a symbol of gratitude," said Pura Mangkunegaran public relations officer Mas Ngabehi Joko Pramodyo.
After the dance, KGPAA Mangkunegara IX gave titles to 32 people considered to have served Mangkunegaran well, including Central Java Police chief Irjen Polisi Condro Kirono, former Indonesian Military (TNI) commander Gatot Nurmantyo, Hutomo Mandala Putra and Sigid Harjo Wibisono. Each received the title of Kanjeng Pangeran Haryo (KPH). (kes)