World Bulletin/News Desk
All over Indonesia, many Muslims started to pack their bags this weekend, saying goodbye to their families as the seven-day holiday that marks the end of Ramadan comes to an end.
Others, meanwhile, dressed as wild mythical beasts, marching to a sacred spring, as they too celebrated the successful completion of the period Indonesians know as lebaran.
Lebaran -- also known as Idul Fitri, the Indonesian spelling of the Arabic Eid al-Fitr -- is celebrated in many ways, however, it is a long held tradition that workers return to rural villages and hometowns for the holiday where they ask for forgiveness for any wrongdoings they have committed in the previous year. In Jakarta alone, parts of the capital are often left deserted by the exodus of around seven million people.
In Indonesia's central heartland of Java, many people end Lebaran gathered in mosques to pray and wolf down classics Lebaran dishes named ketupat, a compressed rice dish cooked in diamond-shaped parcels made from coconut fronds. Elsewhere, on the slopes of Mount Merbabu on the island's central region, others celebrated Lebaran with a festival named Sungkem Tlompak, where they dress in bright costumes, their faces painted to resemble animals and mythical figures, making their way to a famous sacred spring between cliffs lush with trees named Tlompak.
This weekend, as villagers from Gejayan Hamlet in Magelang Regency stood by carrying large flags and a gold umbrella, elders placed offerings of food, vegetables, flowers and cigarettes around the spring and then burnt incense. As a hush fell on those gathered around, the elders then began to sprinkle rose petals onto the water.
Suratmi, a woman from the nearby Keditan village, told the Anadolu Agency that the villagers take water home to drink when sick, and for sprinkling on the nearby agricultural area to obtain a good and bountiful harvest.
"We believe the water from here can bless our everyday lives and help the sick," she said as those around splashed their brightly colored faces from the spring.
Local community leader Riyadi -- most Indonesians use only one name -- told the AA that the tradition has taken place since 1932, when local elders from the nearby hamlet of Keditan had divine inspiration to make a pilgrimage to the sacred place when the crops failed.
He said that every year since -- five days after Eid -- they and other nearby villagers now dress as animals and mythical figures to march to the spring to prey for freedom from famine and protection from disease.
"Since it became a place of pilgrimage tradition and performance activities, the spring is regularly maintained and cleaned up," Riyadi told the AA.
He said that it is also prohibited for anyone to cut down the local trees.
"This is the way we appreciate nature and conserve water," he added.
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