“I am Tenggerese, and our people are descendants of the 13th-century princes of the Majapahit Kingdom”, the flower seller said as he adjusted his bouquets. “Please leave these flowers on the crater rim and offer a prayer. This offering will make the gods of the mountain very pleased,” he continued.
“Every day I meet people from all over the world, and ask them to make an offering to the God, the God that has meaning for them. For me, as a Hindu, I worship and pray to Ida Sang Hyang Widi Wasa, the Almighty God, along with the three gods Brahma, Visnu and Siwa. We welcome all your prayers because God is universal, God is everywhere.” With that, he handed me a dainty, colourful dried flower bouquet and a warm nod of encouragement.
I slowly ascended the 253 steps to the top, clutching my flowers. As I got closer and closer to the crater, I indeed felt very connected to the power of this mountain, which is actually an active volcano. This was my first opportunity to make an offering to a volcano.
When I reached the rim of the crater, I was greeted by a smouldering mass of ash-gray steam and gases. Staring into the face of an active volcano is a surreal experience. I placed my offering on a small stone altar and had my moment with the mountain. Before heading back down, I took time to gaze at the dramatic, volcanic wonderland which lay in a vast ancient caldera from which newer volcanoes, including Bromo, have emerged.
Taking in the scope of this natural wonder, a desolate landscape with a sea of sand, I felt aware of how small we humans are. My sense of awe was even further enhanced by the striking beauty of the lone Hindu temple, Luhur Poten. Standing at the base of the valley floor, the temple’s black volcanic stone stood out sharply against the pale grey of its barren surroundings.
Many rituals and ceremonies take place at this temple, with the next significant ceremony being Yadnya Kasada, which will take place throughout July. 17 and 18 July are key days, when the Tenggerese people go to Luhur Poten and ask for blessings from the main deity Ida Ida Sang Hyang Widi Wasa, and Mahadeva, the God of the Mountain. To appease the deities hundreds of Hindus make their pilgrimage to the crater every year and throw chickens and goats over the rim to symbolise human sacrifice. They also throw fruit, vegetables and money.
This festival dates back to the 15th century and the time of the Majapahit Kingdom. At this time, King Brawijaya reigned, and his queen gave birth to a daughter named Roro Anteng. She married Jaka Seger, a young man from the Brahmin caste. According to the legend, Roro Anteng and Jaka Seger were among many who fled across Java as Islam spread across the island and the Majapahit Kingdom fell into decline. The couple and their followers settled in the Tengger mountains and ruled the region jointly under the title Purbawisesa Mangkurat Ing Tengger.
For a few years, the Tenggerese people flourished under the leadership of Jaka and Roro, yet the king and queen were unhappy because they had no children. Desperate, they climbed to the top of Mount Bromo and prayed for help. Deeply moved by the couple’s depth of faith, the gods of Mount Bromo assured them of offspring. There was one condition, however, and that was that their youngest child would have to be sacrificed to the volcano. As promised, they were indeed blessed with children, and in fact had 25.
The time came eventually for Jaka and Roro to fulfill their part of the bargain. Reluctant as they were, they had no choice but to sacrifice their 25th child, named Kesuma. This boy was thrown into the crater. As the legend goes, the Tengger people have commemorated this event annually since that time.
Mount Bromo which lies in East Java, 25 kilometres east of Malang, in the Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park is a majestic sight to behold. Spending time in nature, in the mountains and standing on the rim of an active volcano was made more meaningful by catching a brief moment with a flower seller and finding out a little about the legend of the Tengger people.
Fly: Jakarta to Surabaya, East Java – Daily flights (1h 30m)
Tour Guide & Driver: Mr Tris: +62 813 321 36817
Stephanie Brookes is a travel writer and blogger with tales from Indonesia and beyond.
Author –“Indonesia’s Hidden Heritage; Cultural Journeys of Discovery”
David Metcalf is a photographer and runs cultural photography tours in Bali, Kalimantan, Toraja, Mongolia, Alaska, Japan and Vietnam