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Jakarta Post

Learning the cycle of life from 'Sekar Macapat'

Tue, January 7, 2020   /   01:28 pm
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    Rama Dwijo sweeps the outer area of the KHP Kridha Mardawa before the class starts. JP/Anggertimur Lanang Tinarbuko

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    One of the students pays homage to Rama Dwijo. JP/Anggertimur Lanang Tinarbuko

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    Rama Dwijo holds a tool to help him point out the words. JP/Anggertimur Lanang Tinarbuko

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    Rama Dwijo writes Javanese script on a whiteboard. JP/Anggertimur Lanang Tinarbuko

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    Students of KHP Kridha Mardawa practice the “Sekar Macapat”. JP/Anggertimur Lanang Tinarbuko

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    One of the students records Rama Dwijo’s pronunciation on her smartphone to help her learn faster. JP/Anggertimur Lanang Tinarbuko

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    Dhandhangula Palaran, one of the sekar within 'Sekar Macapat', which has 11 sekar in total. JP/Anggertimur Lanang Tinarbuko

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    The exterior of KHP Kridha Mardawa. JP/Anggertimur Lanang Tinarbuko

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    Rama Dwijo pays attention to his student’s pronunciation. JP/Anggertimur Lanang Tinarbuko

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    Rama Dwijo comes closer to carefully listen to the stress and pronunciation of his student. JP/Anggertimur Lanang Tinarbuko

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    Rama Dwijo holds a Javanese textbook. JP/Anggertimur Lanang Tinarbuko

Anggertimur Lanang Tinarbuko

The sun at 3 p.m. that day was still fierce, that was a sign for a classroom at the corner of Jl Rotowijayan in Yogyakarta to open. This place is often overlooked by those paying a visit to the Kraton Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat palace.

In the classroom an old man read pages of Javanese literature. This is the routine of 85-year-old Rama Dwijo Ciptowandowo while waiting for his students to arrive.

"There are indeed many people today who do not speak Javanese. But if there are still people who want to use it, especially if they want to learn, I am very happy, " he said calmly.

He has taught Javanese songs like "Sekar Macapat" since 1994. Years ago, he learned “Sekar Macapat” at KHP Kridha Mardawa special macapat (Javanese poetry) school. Now, alongside KMT Projosuwasono he teaches "Sekar Alit", "Sekar Tengahan" and "Sekar Ageng" to anyone who is interested in studying these pieces of their ancestral heritage.

The students of Rama Dwijo are taught to recite each array of gatra (sentences) filled with tasteful meanings.

Rama Dwijo said there was no need to rush when chanting "Sekar Macapat". "Absorb the words and sound so that the values of life in it are blended within ourselves," he explained. Every time Rama Dwijo hums, the classroom is suffused by a powerful yet subtle voice full of self-control.

In "Sekar Macapat", there are 11 sekar (flowers) that recount the life cycle of humans. The life values start from “Maskumambang”, which portrays a fetus that is floating in the mother's womb. Then “Mijil” tells about the beginning through birth. “Kinanthi” is the time when children are taught by their parents.

They will then grow into “Sinom”, or enom, which means youth or adolescence. Thence entering the time of “Asmaradhana” or romance, when we begin to know love and have a relationship with the opposite sex. “Gambuh” tells about the time of choice and marriage. “Dhandhangula” is the sweetest period of life.

Then “Durma” tells about life's difficulties. We then move on to “Pangkur”, which describes an older version of ourselves that is getting closer to God. Then comes “Megatruh” or pegat (cut off) the spirit that tells of the moment of waiting for death. The cycle ends with “Pucung”, which tells of the body that has been left by its soul.

Learning the life values in "Sekar Macapat" require a good understanding of Javanese language. To understand them also takes time.

"Usually students are impatient when studying 'Sekar Macapat' and begin to disappear one by one. So, nobody has studied the advanced stage, ‘Sekar Tengahan’ and 'Sekar Alit'," said Rama Dwijo.

Although no fees are charged for the education since the enactment of the Keistimewaan (Privilege) Law, KHP Kridha Mardawa remains devoid of interest. The recent opening of a class for learning and writing Javanese script, for instance, has attracted little interest from the public.

However, the class continues to welcome new faces. A particularly young student shines among members of the class that is dominated by seniors.

Fina, 25, a housewife, said that she had felt longing for "Sekar Macapat" since she was young. "When I was a kid, every 2 a.m. I would wake up to the voices of a group of men singing 'Sekar Macapat' near my house. That has left a mark on me until now." (kes)