A winding asphalt road leads to a village some 80 kilometers south of Kepanjen, the seat of Malang regency, East Java. It's Pujiarjo, a village surrounded by coffee and clove plantations where people work as farmers and fishermen.
One Sunday morning at 8 a.m., neatly dressed residents of Pujiharjo were leaving their homes for the roadsides, carrying trays of traditional food and agricultural produce and bringing along cattle to contribute to their church as offerings.
They were practicing the undhuh-undhuh (harvesting) tradition in the village, of which 70 percent of the population is Christian, as an expression of gratitude to God for their bumper harvests. Pujiharjo village head Hendi Arso said the ritual had been observed by locals through generations since the founding of the 70-year-old village.
Unduh-unduh was conducted twice a year, on the last Sundays of February and July. This time it was postponed until August to relieve the cost burden of residents in celebrating their thanksgiving and Independence Day in the same month.
The various offerings were later conveyed by motor vehicles with decorations based on Bible stories. The vehicles were decorated by nine groups or districts of the church congregation of Gereja Kristen Jawi Wetan (GKJW) or the East Java Christian Church Spellot, comprising up to 80 families.
The decorated vehicle of the Issachar group, for instance, portrayed the story of Moses being floated in the Nile as an infant, using long beans for the river stream, cloves for the baby's mattress and fruits for the river rocks. The Zebulon group created a modest adornment by using small plastic balls with coffee beans and cloves stuck to them.
Exactly at 9 a.m., the ornate vehicles with offerings paraded around the village before finally arriving at GKJW Spellot, where other members of the congregation had gathered to await the offering prayer ritual. The sound of traditional Javanese music was heard when the offerings were arranged according to their types.
Traditional cooking was laid on the table in the church room before the preacher's pulpit. Cattle, bananas and coconuts filled the back yard of the church. 'Thank God I've earned a better fortune this year so that I can now offer a goat to God. Last year I contributed a chicken and a bunch of bananas,' said Isman, 32, a congregation member.
The Sunday church service lasted until 11 a.m., during which kromo inggil (high Javanese) was spoken, followed by the undhuh-undhuh ritual with prayers conducted by the minister. Thereafter, an auction of the offerings was held under the direction of a church executive.
The first to be auctioned to the congregation was the traditional food, such as yellow rice, chicken, fish and other dishes. The auction was won by the highest bid, at which price the food could be taken home. Prices soared fivefold from the rates first offered for the auctioned food or other offerings.
'This tradition manifests the congregation's thankfulness after enjoying a year's comfort and welfare bestowed by God through agriculture, livestock breeding and fishing, while also preserving harmony and cultural values for posterity,' said minister Yessy Kapitan.
Winding up the event, all those present shared the food from the auction by feasting together. Congregants expect the tradition will always be maintained as long as peace, harmony and happiness continue to be enjoyed by all residents of Pujiharjo through their coming generations.
' Photos by JP/Aman Rochman