Villagers in Bejiharjo, Gunungkidul regency, Yogyakarta, completed their harvest in early July, the results of which were mostly kept in their barns while a portion was sold in surrounding areas.
These villagers will then stage a thanksgiving tradition locally known as Merti Desa or Rasulan.
Tuesday, July 18, was the peak of the Merti Desa celebration. Since early morning, the sound of gamelan (Javanese orchestra) can be heard all over the village. Village elders and leaders were ready to lead the ceremony while wearing Javanese costume and a keris (ceremonial dagger) on their backs.
Food vendors lined up, offering their menus to visitors.
The Merti Desa ceremony began at Wage Market, where six neighborhoods collected offerings that represented their respective crops. The offerings were decorated with vegetables, paddy, fruits and traditional snacks.
Other neighborhoods featured paper dolls depicting a giant that symbolized bad deeds, which would be purified through the Merti Desa ritual.
Meanwhile, two dancers performed a Tayub, a dance that enables the performers to mingle and ask guests to join the merriments on stage by giving them a shawl. The guest are expected to sawer (tip) the dancer. The beauty of the Tayub dancers symbolizes Dewi Sri, the goddess of fertility.
By joining the dance, villagers believe that they will gain blessing from the goddess and be protected from danger.
The Merti Desa tradition is performed at the end of harvesting time in regencies such as Gunungkidul, Sleman, Boyolali, Klaten and other areas on Java Island.
According to Giono Saputro, a village elder of Bejiharjo, nobody knows exactly when the Merti Desa ritual started.
“The Merti Desa tradition has been around since before I was born. Our generation and the next need to continue and preserve the tradition,” he said. [yan]