Start of fasting month celebrated festively
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Carnival cruise:: Participants in Dugderan, a festival heralding the arrival of Ramadhan, carry the parade’s mascot, locally called “Warak Ngendog” (egg-laying warak) in Central Java’s Semarang on Thursday. The representations can be up to 2.5 meters high.The Semarang municipal administration in Central Java conducted the Dugderan ceremony on Thursday afternoon to mark the beginning of the fasting month.
The annual tradition was held in the form of a parade, showcasing the various tourism, artistic and cultural potential of the municipality, which is also nicknamed the “City of Spring Rolls”. Sixteen districts participated, with all participants wearing Javanese attire and the whole procession being conducted in the Javanese language.
“This is an annual event that must continue in order to preserve our culture. I hope the people will unite, and differences will be put aside,” Semarang Acting Mayor Hendrar Prihadi said in his speech, which was also presented in Javanese.
He said the Dugderan was indeed held annually to strengthen the unity of the people of Semarang, and added that there was no need to make the scheduled date a problem. The first day of Ramadhan, he said, would follow the announcement from the central government.
Separately, the head of the historical and traditional values division at the Municipal Tourism and Culture Agency, Erni Rejeki, explained that the reason why the Dugderan was held on a Thursday was simply a technical matter. The central government made official announcements later on Thursday evening that the first day of Ramadhan would fall on Saturday.
“Tomorrow is Friday and we have the Friday mass prayer to conduct. That is why we decided to have the Dugderan today,” Erni said on the sidelines of the ceremony at the Kauman Mosque compound on Thursday.
Historically, the Dugderan was first held in 1881 during the rule of mayor RMTA Purboningrat to mark the first day of Ramadhan. At that time, there had often been differences of opinion regarding the first day of Ramadhan that had the potential to create friction in the community, and the tradition was created to provide an occasion that would signal the entering the fasting month together. It was later called Dugderan to refer to the sounds of a bedug (a wooden drum) being hit or a cannon being launched as the sign of the eve of Ramadhan.
The parade on Thursday began at City Hall and traveled to the Kauman Mosque where the Dugderan procession was held. This included sounding of the drums and launching air bombs, as well as the distribution of 5,000 pieces of a Semarang specialty snack called Ganjel Rel (cinnamon bread).
The carnival included, among other things, horse-ridden carts, decorated hansom cabs and cars, as well as parades of people representing different districts, mass organizations, religious and youth organizations.
Also included in the carnival was the mascot of Dugderan called “Warak Ngendog”. Warak is a mythical animal, a combination of a dragon and a horse. Literally, the word “warak” was taken from the Arabic “wara” which means self-control.
The mascot therefore is meant as a reminder for people not to act like animals during Ramadhan, and instead think of the holy month as a time during which one should do good deeds and develop a kind spirit, so that by the end of the month people will return to purity of the soul.
Sarah Mill, a German tourist, said she was impressed by the event and was amazed by the huge crowds of people who lined the streets while the characters of the imaginary warak animal were carried to welcome Ramadhan.
“I’m very excited because there are so many people here supporting the Warak on this sunny day. This culture must be conserved,” she said.