Sun, 25 Nov 2001

Villagers offer thanks with sacred 'mondosio' ritual

Tawangmangu, a small resort town on the northwestern slope of Mount Lawu in southeastern Central Java, is a popular holiday destination known for its invigorating mountain air as well as its traditional rituals.

One of these rituals is the mondosio, derived from the word mandhasiya, which means month in the Javanese calendar.

The mondosia has been held every year in Pancot village, Tawangmangu subdistrict, for generations. Today, this sacred ceremony has become identified with Tawangmangu, and always attracts a large number of tourists to the area.

According to Marto Wagiyo, 73, one of the village elders in Pancot, mondosio is a traditional ceremony based on the wuku, the 30 seven-day periods which make up the 210-day Javanese calendar cycle.

The ceremony is held on Kliwon (the fifth day of the Javanese five-day week), during wuku mondosio, one of the 30 wuku.

According to legend, mondosio is held to commemorate the people's victory over the tyrannical King Baka. This king ruled Pancot and the surrounding areas and was fond of eating human flesh, and many people were sacrificed to satisfy his appetite. He ordered every family in the areas under his authority to take turns sacrificing one member of their family.

One day it was the turn of Mbok Randha Dadapan, a widow living in Dadapan village, to make a sacrifice by offering her only child, a son. Before the sacrifice, she met Putut Tetuko, a young man from a traditional self-defense group.

He told the widow he would help her defeat the cruel king. So when the time came for the sacrifice, the widow submitted Putut Tetuko to King Baka. However, the king was unable to eat the flesh of the young man, who had supernatural powers.

The angry king and the youth fought, and Putut Tetuko killed the king by ramming his head against a round stone near Bale Patokan, a small house in Tawangmangu. The king's lifeless body was transformed into different kinds of vegetation. The round stone and Bale Patokan are now regarded as sacred places that symbolize the destruction of evil.

According to Supadi, 51, a community leader in Pancot, the mondosio ritual emphasizes prayers of thanks to God for his blessings. This is because Pancot, since the death of the king, has become an agricultural center producing a number of crops, including rice.

Locals believe that unless they hold this sacred ceremony every year, they will experience a disaster such as a failed harvest. Whether or not this is true, Supadi said the current economic crisis had not affected Pancot.

The bounty of the paddy fields is always able to meet the needs of the 400 families in Pancot, Supadi said. The area is also well known as a producer of onions, garlic, bananas, carrots and potatoes.

The ritual begins with a procession of local people on Pon (the third day of the Javanese five-day week), or two days before the mondosio ceremony.

Offerings consisting of gandhik (food from rice flour), an alcoholic beverage made from fermented sticky rice, tumpeng (a ceremonial dish of rice served in a cone shape), uncooked and cooked mutton, goats' bones, uncooked goats' intestines and feet, uncooked chicken, roasted chicken, betel leaves and banana are delivered by the people to the local community leader. The uncooked mutton symbolizes King Baka's favorite food.

Marking the start of mondosio ritual, the village elder slaughters a black goat and several chickens. All ritual offerings are presented at the Bale Patokan, and a Javanese gamelan orchestra performs to invite visitors.

The peak of the modosio ritual is the saying of prayers, followed by the release of a number of cocks and hens from the roof of Pancot market. Locals compete with each other to catch the birds, accompanied by the rhythms of the gamelan orchestra.

Locals believe that if they catch a cock or hen during the mondosio ceremony, they will receive a blessing and their future welfare and prosperity will improve.