January 9 – Yadnya Kasada Ceremony in Indonesia

Posted on January 9, 2014

Before I say one word about this fascinating holiday, I have to warn you—I don't know if it is being held on January 9, 2014. Or in January 2014 at all, on any day!

It might be in March this year! Or September!

I did a lot of research, and I saw plenty of evidence that this ceremony has happened in January, August, July, and November of various years – but I have not been able to turn up a single tiny indication of when the next one will be. Not even from hotels using the ceremony as a lure, on their website. Plenty of “come see this amazing sight”—no clue as to when you might be able to see it!

That said, I still wanted to let you in on this mind-boggling custom.

Okay, first of all, Hindu people called Tenggerese climb to the top of Mt. Bromo, in East Java. This is an active (and therefore dangerous) volcano! 

On the morning of Yadnya Kasada, they gather around the crater and throw sacrifices of flowers, fruits, other harvested foods, and even (yikes!) farm animals into the caldera!

 It is an ancient tradition based on a legend; it's believed to be important to make annual sacrifices to the mountain gods as a thank you for the good harvest, good weather, and general good luck of the past year—and to ask for the gods' help for the next year.

Now, I don't know if people really believe that, these days, or if they just enjoy carrying out this custom. But the really odd thing about the festival is this:

There are a lot of people who have braved the dangers of being INSIDE the caldera of an active volcano and are waiting with nets to catch the things thrown inside! It is believed that taking such a risk and catching food and flowers and maybe a chicken or two brings you good luck.

But...wait! What about the gods? Wouldn't they be angry to be cheated out of their sacrificed items? 

Are the people throwing in the stuff perfectly happy that their, say, tubers and melons never made it to the mountain gods and instead are being eaten by someone else for dinner?

I find it dazzlingly puzzling and amazingly fascinating!

  • And catch this article from the Daily Mail, which perfectly captures the oddness of the festival in its really, really long headline: “Stealing food from the gods: Villagers offer gifts to appease the volcano (just don't mention the men perched INSIDE the crater ready to catch them).”

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