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Indonesia volcano draws thousands for ritual sacrifice

The event has its roots in 15th-century folklore from the Majapahit kingdom, a Javanese Hindu-Buddhist empire that stretched across Southeast Asia.

Thousands of Hindu worshippers scaled an active Indonesian volcano on Monday to toss livestock, food and other offerings into its smoking crater in a centuries-old religious ceremony.

Swarming the thin rim around the basin of Mount Bromo, devotees heaved goats, chickens and vegetables slung across their backs up to the dusty peak as part of the Yadnya Kasada festival.

Volcano ritual

Every year Tengger tribe members from surrounding highlands gather at the top of the volcano — famed for its stunning sunrise views — in hope of pleasing their gods and bringing luck to the Tenggerese, an Indigenous group in eastern Java.

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Slamet, a 40-year-old farmer who like many Indonesians goes by only one name, brought a baby cow as an offering.

“We have a lot of cows back home and this one can be considered excess, so we are bringing it here… to return it back to God,” he told AFP.

“This is also an act of gratitude to God for giving us prosperity… We return it back to God so we can come back here next year.”

The calf had a lucky escape as it was handed to a villager after Slamet’s prayers instead of being sacrificed to the volcanic cauldron.

Some villagers who do not belong to the Tengger tribe took to the crater’s steep slopes equipped with nets in an attempt to intercept offerings thrown into the abyss and avoid them going to waste.

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Farmer Joko Priyanto brought some of his own produce in the form of cabbages and carrots to lob down into the smoky void.

“I hope I will receive a reward from the almighty God,” the 36-year-old said.

‘Better income’

Monday’s ritual was the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic that authorities had allowed tourists to the site after the festival was limited to worshippers last year.

The event has its roots in 15th-century folklore from the Majapahit kingdom, a Javanese Hindu-Buddhist empire that stretched across Southeast Asia.

Legend has it that Princess Roro Anteng and her husband, unable to bear children after years of marriage, begged the gods for help.

Their prayers were answered when they were promised 25 children, as long as they agreed to sacrifice their youngest child by throwing him into Mount Bromo.

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Their son is said to have willingly jumped into the volcano to guarantee the prosperity of the Tengger people.

For shopkeeper Rohim, who travelled from a nearby Javan city on Monday to launch potatoes, leeks and cash into the lava, it was a chance to pray for good luck. He said his fortunes had improved following previous visits.

“Business has been better than before, hence my coming here,” the 32-year-old said.

“I’m hoping my business can improve so next year I can come back.”

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