A ritual to dispel bad

For Muslims, the Islamic New Year might be the best time to review their deeds of the past year. Some may recite the Koran while others may visit a mosque -- for contemplation.

However, Javanese people, who share the lunar year with Muslims, have their own tradition for commemorating the new lunar year.

While Muslims call the first month of the lunar year Muharram, Javanese people use the term Sura.

Javanese people, many of whom are from Yogyakarta or Surakarta, believe that Betara Kala (the Lord of Darkness) will create chaos on the eve of the lunar new year, known as Malam Satu Sura.

They say the evil lord will inflict bad luck on certain categories of children identified as sukerta.

To address this problem, their parents may organize ruwatan (a special ritual to discharge the bad luck). The ritual could be a shadow-puppet performance, followed by prayers to ensure a trouble-free future for the children.

-- Text and photos by Jerry Adiguna

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