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Javanese gear up for New Year rituals

The eve of the first day of Sura, ailment the first month of the Javanese calendar, is a sacred night for members of the nation’s Javanese community.

This was true in Yogyakarta, the center of Javanese culture, where people were seen preparing for New Year rituals on Friday.

Residents of Samas beach in Bantul regency, for instance, were preparing for the Mahesa Sura procession for the Javanese New Year, which falls on Nov. 27 this year.

The procession will include the parading of a buffalo head that will eventually be cast into the Indian Ocean south of Java.

“This is a form of our gratitude for the fortune and blessings that God has given us and to ward off bad luck,” a local elder said.

The practice of casting offerings into the sea (labuhan) is a popular Javanese ritual performed to dispel bad luck. Other beaches popular for labuhan rituals are Parangkusumo and Parangtritis Beaches in Kretek, Bantul.

Meanwhile, Kamijan, a resident of Tegalrejo, Bantul, was seen preparing for an individual cleansing rite, blessing several ancestral heirlooms with flower water and fragrance.

Others conduct personal cleansing rituals by praying or burning incense.

Bambang Legowo, the head of the Bantul Tourism Agency, said tourists would flock to the various traditions ceremonies and cultural performances that would be held to greet the Javanese New Year.

Events on the beaches in the south of Bantul might generate Rp 30 million (US$3,300) in ticket sales alone on the eve of Sura, he said.

“We hope and pray for a high turnout and sunny weather so visitors will not be troubled.”

To secure celebrations along the coast, the Bantul Police have deployed 350 officers to strategic places and congestion-prone areas.

“We will step up safety to prevent accidents due to tourists swimming in the sea,” Taufik M. Faki, a member of the National Search and Rescue Agency’s Parangtritis unit, said.

Residents living on the slopes of Mount Merapi in Kaliurang, Sleman, Yogyakarta, will commemorate Sura Eve by marching in silence with offerings. The same silent march, known as the tapa bisu, will be held around the fortress of the Yogyakarta Palace.

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