Saren Jawa — a model
of harmony

Calm: The main street of Saren Jawa is quiet, with the neighborhood hall to the left.

For hundreds of years, a tiny village in Budakeling, Karangasem, has been a model of religious tolerance and acculturation between Hindus and Muslims.

Home to 100 families, the village is known as Banjar Saren Jawa, with “banjar” referring to a traditional Balinese neighborhood association.

Saren Jawa is surrounded by Balinese banjar like Triwangsa, Saren Kauh and Dukuh, all populated by Balinese Hindus following the Siwa-Buda belief system, an amalgamation of Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhist teachings.

Budakeling is an important site for Mahayana Buddhism in Bali as it was brought to Budakeling by Danghyang Astapaka during the reign of Bali’s most illustrious king, Dalem Waturenggong (1458-1550).

Astapaka was the nephew of Danghyang Nirartha, who was Waturenggong’s spiritual guru and the most influential Siwa high priest at the time.

Nirartha was the founder of the blood lineage of the island’s influential brahmana siwa clan, which gives the island most of its Siwa high priests, while Astapaka was the founder of the brahmana buda clan, which gives the island most of its Buda high priests.

Any major Balinese Hindu sacrificial ritual requires the presence of high priests from both clans.

Saren Jawa chief I Ketut Ayu Mudin SAR said the Muslim community in the area began with Raden Kyai Abdul Jalil from Java who visited the Gelgel kingdom in Klungkung and killed a rampaging rhinoceros that had killed many people.

Vibrant: Two pages from a primbon (book of divination) that is kept in the village have colorful illustrations in the style of Balinese wayang characters.
“The king of Gelgel had proclaimed that the individual who killed the beast would be awarded the territory around the spot where the beast was slain,” Mudin said.

The site where Abdul Jalil struck and killed the rhinoceros with his spear was then called Saren Jawa.

“The skin of the rhino is still kept in this village, a part of it was used to construct a bedug drum. Abdul Jalil’s spear, kris and old books are kept here in my house,” Mudin added.

The Muslim community of Saren Jawa and their Hindu neighbors have enjoyed a close and cordial relationship since Abdul Jalil’s time. The marriage between Raden Putra, one of Abdul Jalil’s descendants, and Jero Tauman, a Hindu from Budakeling, strengthened that relationship.

 The Muslim community participates in ngayah (communal work) when their neighboring banjar prepare a temple festival. When the Muslim community celebrates major religious festivals such as Maulud Nabi, Idul Adha and Idul Fitri, invitations are sent to elders and leaders of neighboring banjar to attend collective feasts at Saren Jawa.

Forefather: Saren Jawa residents still pay homage at the tomb of Kyai Raden Abdul Jalil, the founder of the village.
Hindus prepare special lawar (a traditional food of minced meats and vegetables) and send it to their Muslim neighbors prior to celebrating Galungan.

This lawar is called lawar selam, the latter word referring to Islam. Unlike traditional lawar that uses pork meat and blood, lawar selam does not use blood and has only chicken or duck meat.

Muslims in the neighborhood return the favor by sending parcels of goat meat to their Hindu neighbors during celebrations of Idul Adha.

The people of Saren Jawa still retain the tradition of using Balinese first names before their Muslim last names. Names, such as I Wayan Yunus, Ni Nyoman Maimunah and I Ketut Solihin, are common.

Up to the 1990s, the people of Saren Jawa still organized traditional rites of passage for their children. The only difference was that they didn’t use Balinese Hindu offerings.

Legacy: The mosque in Saren Jawa has a roof similar to old mosques in Java and resembles the top of a Balinese Hindu shrine.
“Now, people seldom organize such rites, probably because time has changed [them] or the lack of money,” Mudin said.

He recalled that the old mosque in Saren Jawa used to have an 11-tier pyramid-like roof, resembling a Balinese Hindu meru shrine. The mosque had been renovated into a more modern building but it still retains it pyramid-like roof.

The people of Saren Jawa have several unique traditions. One is nyafar, carried out in the Islamic month of Safar (December or January), in which they visit rivers and springs and present offerings of cakes and fruits while praying for prosperity.

In another ritual, usually held in July, they perform a communal prayer to ward off evil spirits. And during Idul Fitri, Saren Jawa residents pay homage at the tomb of Abdul Jalil, the founder of the village.

— Photos By JP/Wayan Sunarta

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