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Jakarta Post

Prayers from Merapi foothills

Thu, November 24, 2016   /   03:19 pm
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    All participants of the arts performance walk around Tutup Ngisor village in the foothills of Mount Merapi in Central Java during a Suro ritual. JP/Tarko Sudiarno

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    Three men carry the village heirlooms, three spears, during their tour around Tutup Ngisor village in Central Java as part of their Suro ritual. JP/Tarko Sudiarno

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    Young and old, men and women take part and have fun in the Suro ritual in the foothills of Mount Merapi in Central Java. JP/Tarko Sudiarno

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    Women cook in the communal kitchen while the costumed villagers parade around the village in Central Java during the Suro ritual. JP/Tarko Sudiarno

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    Villagers prepare offerings for the ancestors as part of the Suro ritual in Tutup Ngisor village in Central Java. JP/Tarko Sudiarno

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    A traditional dance performance is staged to respect the ancestors of Tutup Ngisor villagers in Central Java. JP/Tarko Sudiarno

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    The dance pays respect to the ancestors. Tutup Ngisor villagers hold the Suro ritual every year to pray for them. JP/Tarko Sudiarno

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    Men in wayang costumes pray before the peak of the Suro ritual begins. JP/Tarko Sudiarno

Tutup Ngisor villagers in Central Java, in the foothill of the volcanic Mount Merapi, celebrate Idul Fitri and Christmas, but they also have another big event every year: the Suro celebration, held every Suro 15 in the Javanese calendar when the full moon rises.

For three days in the middle of the month the villagers, who are mostly farmers, unfold a ritual presenting culture and arts performances from Macapatan, or reciting ancient texts in the common hall called the Padepokan Cipta Budaya, located in the heart of the village.

The pinnacle of the prayer ritual takes place on the eve of Suro 15 by having various performances like Wayang Sakral, a human puppet performance that has a prayer at the end. The Wayang Sakral performance ends in the early hours of Suro 15, followed by a parade in the village.

As the sun is rising, a Jathilan gamelan is played, the monotonous music is followed by a prayer procession to the graves of ancestors. Later the villagers carry the village’s heirlooms, three tall spears, in a parade circling Padepokan Cipta Budaya three times and then parade around the village three times.

The villagers have been holding the ritual for 80 years and they also invite people from outside the village like artists and activists from various cities.

The ritual ends with a larger human puppet performance, played by not just the villagers but also artists from outside the village.

Every Suro month I always join the performance here. This is a prayer to say thanks to the ancestors,” Tedjo Badut from Yogyakarta said. [evi]