Thousands climb Tengger volcano for ritual sacrifice

Mount Bromo is one of active volcanoes in Indonesia located in East Java and is nestled in the regencies of Probolinggo, Pasuruan, Lumajang and Malang. Bromo volcano which stands tall at 2329 m is the most iconic and the most hiked mountain in Indonesia. Mount Bromo is still one of the most active volcanoes in the world and there are areas that are blocked off from tourists due to its imminent danger. It sits inside the massive Tengger caldera (volcanic crater with a diameter approximately 10km), surrounded by the Laut Pasir (sea of sand) of fine volcanic sand.

In Indonesia’s mountainous region of East Java, in the middle of a vast plain called the “Sea of Sand,” sits a stately volcanic complex. Within it is Mount Bromo, which may not stand out as the tallest or the most striking of bunch, but nonetheless holds great significance for the local Tengger tribe.

The name Bromo is said to derive from Brama (Brahma), a Hindu God. Until now, Mt. Bromo is still considered a holy place for Hindus, making it a location for the annual Yadnya Kasada or Kasodo ceremony. People around Mount Bromo will celebrate the Kasodo festivals annually by presenting offerings like vegetables, chickens and money dedicated to the Gods and thrown into the crater of Mount Bromo as an entity of gratitude to the Almighty.

Each year people from the Tengger tribe gather from the surrounding highlands to cast fruit, vegetables, flowers, and even livestock such as goats and chickens into Mount Bromo’s smoking crater as part of the Yadnya Kasada festival. Other villagers – not members of the Tengger tribe – try to catch the offerings before they disappear into the billowing smoke using nets and sarong. This is not technically part of the ritual but reflects local frugal urges not to waste the offerings.

The month-long Yadnya Kasada festival harkens back to the 15th century legends of Majapahit kingdom princess Roro Anteng and husband Joko Seger.

Legend has it this son willingly jumped into the volcano to guarantee the prosperity of the Tengger people. The sacrifice tradition continues to this day – though the Tengger sacrifice their harvest and farm animals instead of humans. Dancers in elaborate traditional costumes and tourists were up before dawn to take part in this year’s ceremony. Crowds have swelled at Mount Bromo in recent years as the local government promotes the festival as a tourist event.

Standing on the crater’s steep slopes, other villagers — who are not members of the Tengger tribe — try to catch the offerings using nets and sarongs before they disappear into the billowing smoke.

This is not technically part of the ritual but reflects local frugal urges not to waste the offerings. The recent ritual marked the second Yadnya Kasada festival since the Covid-19 pandemic hit Indonesia.

“It can’t be held in another place or be done virtually,” said Bambang Suprapto, head of the area’s Hindu community association.

“But organisers applied strict health protocols and they’ve been tested for the virus so we can protect everyone who attended.”

The month-long festival dates back to the 15th-century legends of the Javanese Hindu Majapahit kingdom’s princess and her husband. Unable to bear children after years of marriage, the couple begged the gods for help. Their prayers were answered and they were promised 25 children, as long as they agreed to sacrifice their youngest child by throwing him into Mount Bromo.

Legend has it this son willingly jumped into the volcano to guarantee the prosperity of the Tengger people. The sacrifice tradition continues to this day — though the Tengger sacrifice their harvest and farm animals instead of humans.

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