'Bersih desa', villagers way of showing gratitude
By Bambang M.
YOGYAKARTA (JP): Expressing gratitude to God can be done in many ways. Javanese villagers thank God for having bestowed a good livelihood and prosperity on them during the year by performing a traditional ritual locally known as bersih desa.
The bersih desa ritual, which literally means cleaning the village, is held in some villages every year. Recently, it was performed in Krebet village, Sendangsari in Bantul, which is located in undulating countryside about 15 kilometers southwest of Yogyakarta.
In previous years, the villagers conducted the ritual simply by gathering to say prayers and eating tumpeng, a ceremonial cone of rice accompanied by various side-dishes.
But this year's event was merrier than usual and even took three days to complete. The reason is because the village, which is known as a center for the making of wooden puppets and masks with batik motifs, is also popular on account of its beautiful scenery.
"Now, we also use the ritual as a means of introducing Krebet as a new tourist village in Bantul," said Krebet village head Sapto Saroso.
The ritual, according to a local artist, Kemiskidi, is performed every Jumadil Akhir month of the Javanese calendar. This year, it fell in September.
The first day of the ritual on Sept. 14 started with the villagers performing communal prayers at the village cemetery, Kramatan, in the afternoon.
The following morning, the people worked together to clean up the entire village to prepare for the high point of the ceremony the following day.
The final day of the ritual was marked by a procession around the village. The people in the procession were all decked out in their traditional customs and some carried gunungan, mountain- shaped offerings consisting of raw vegetables and fruit along with cooked rice and vegetables.
The traditional jathilan dance was also performed by Krebet's youngsters to entertain the guests and tourists watching the ritual.
The procession became more interesting as people tried to grab anything they could from the gunungan believing that this would bring them good luck.
The entire ritual ended with the villagers enjoying the tumpeng, that they had made and brought to the ceremony, and the performance of an all-night shadow puppet show.
"The whole ceremony cost us about Rp 20 million," said Sapto Saroso.
The event also impressed foreign tourists.
"This is the first time I have ever seen such a ritual. It's incredible, especially as it takes place in this beautiful village," said Brigitte Willach, a batik artist from Hanover, Germany, who added that she was on her 12th visit to Indonesia.