Agricultural traditions remain deep-rooted for residents of West Java’s
Halimun Mountain, especially those who dwell in its foothills.
Living on land thousands of meters above sea
level, the mountain people treasure their ancestral social structure,
Usually led by an abah (father), the kasepuhan
functions as a mini government for the people, and aims to ensure
Rooted in tradition, the kasepuhan holds a regular
annual gathering called Seren Taun, which literally means “year ender”.
The gathering is a way for people to give thanks to mother nature for a
good harvest. In a way, it is also a reminder for locals to stay in
harmony with nature and to follow in the footsteps of their ancestors.
This year’s Seren Taun took place last week at the
kasepuhan Ciptagelar — at 300 years old, the biggest kasepuhan. Its
leader is Abah Ugih, a man in his mid 20s. The young leader inherited
the title after his father, Abah Anom, died at the age of 54.
Kasepuhan Ciptagelar oversees more than 300 small
villages dotting the foothills of Halimun National Park, some eight
hours’ drive from Jakarta.
Under the kasepuhan, people live by to a
traditional legal system that bases every decision on the harmony of
nature. For instance, the use of chemical fertilizers in rice
cultivation and the sale of harvested rice are prohibited. Instead, the
law stipulates they must give the rice to whoever asks for it.
The leuwit (rice silo) is the heart of the
kasepuhan, serving as a symbol of social status and wealth. So the
leuwit takes center stage in the Seren Taun, which includes the ritual
storing of rice in the biggest leuwit, called the leuwit si jimat
(sacred barn). Only the abah and kasepuhan elders are allowed to enter
With the advent of Abah Ugi, a younger generation
at the kasepuhan are now taking a more active role in their community
to conserve their traditional way of life. But with the passing of time
and the current development of gold mining nearby, how long will they
be able to live their nature-oriented way of life?
— Text and photos by J. Adiguna