On the 14th day of the month of Kasada, during the full moon, all of the Hindu people who live at the foot of Mount Bromo in East Java, Indonesia, gather to celebrate the Yadnya Kasada ceremony, an ancient ritual that has been passed down from generation to generation. The ritual is compulsory for the Tengger tribe as a symbol of worship, a sign of gratitude to Sang Hyang Widhi (God).

The Javanese, who still hold on to their ancient kejawen (an ancient Javanese tradition) principles, view the mountains as sacred areas where their God and the souls of their ancestors reside. The Tengger tribe shares the same ancestors with the Javanese, and they believe that Mount Bromo, located in the Probolinggo region, is the natural representation symbol of the Sang Hyang Widhi’s throne. Located in Probolinggo region, Mount Bromo has become a sacred place to honor both the Tengger tribe’s God and ancestors.

According to local folklore, Yadnya Kasada seeks safety and prosperity from Sang Hyang Widhi. The ritual has been held for centuries, since the first day humans occupied the foot of Mount Bromo.

Local stories mention that toward the fall of the Majapahit Kingdom in the 16th century, when Prabu Brawijaya V sat on the throne, there lived a princess named Dewi Rara Anteng, the daughter of one of the king’s concubines. When wars broke out in Trowulan, the capital city of Majapahit Kingdom, there was a massive exodus, with most of the Majapahit people moving to the eastern areas, such as Blambangan (Banyuwangi), Bali, and Lombok.

However, Dewi Rara Anteng, together with her husband Raden Jaka Seger and their guards and followers, took a different route, running to the foot of Mount Bromo. Once they were safe, Dewi Rara Anteng and Raden Jaka Seger started a new life there. The couple ruled the region and achieved the title “Purbowasesa Mangkurat Ing Tengger,” which means “the kind ruler of Tengger.” The Tengger name is derived from the names of the conquerors, Dewi Rara Anteng (Teng) and Raden Jaka Seger (Ger).

From then on, Dewi Rara Anteng and Raden Jaka Seger lived happily with their people. The land at the foot of Mount Bromo was fertile and provided abundant harvests every year. But after years of living in peace, the couple still hadn’t had any children, so they decided to meditate on the top of the mountain at the edge of the crater and ask for a family.

When midnight came, Dewi Rara Anteng and Raden Jaka Seger heard whispers, saying that their wish would come true with one condition: they would have to give up their last-born child to the crater of Mount Bromo. The couple agreed, and they finally had children — 25 to be exact. The last-born was named Raden Hadi Kusuma. He was the one to be sacrificed.

But Dewi Rara Anteng and Raden Jaka Seger didn’t have the heart to give Raden Hadi Kusuma up, and he soon grew to be a strong man. They’d broken their promise, and it made God angry. One day, the sky above the Tengger region turned dark and Mount Bromo exploded. Raden Hadi Kusuma disappeared into the fire and was sucked into the crater of Mount Bromo. When the tragedy occurred, a voice similar to that of Raden Hadi Kusuma’s resonated, saying that he had been sacrificed for the safety of all Tengger people. The voice also reminded the people to always worship Sang Hyang Widhi, to sacrifice farm animals and harvests on the 14th day of the month of Kasada.

That was the beginning of Yadnya Kasada ritual, and it is still performed today.

Each year, the ceremony begins with local priests — who are hand-selected by senior priests — chanting prayers. Afterward, the Tengger people bring ongkek (offerings) to the top of Mount Bromo. The offerings, consisting of harvests, money, and a small number of farm animals, are all offered at the edge of the mountain’s crater, as well as holy water that has been collected from nearby Mount Widodaren in the days prior. This procession is considered the peak of Yadnya Kasada

The Tengger people believe that this ritual will keep them safe from catastrophe and give them prosperity and abundant harvests in the coming year. This ritual is not only a symbol of protection and gratefulness to Sang Hyang Widhi, but also a tribute to Raden Hadi Kusuma and his 24 siblings.

It is truly a sight to behold.

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Reza Fitriyanto
Reza Fitriyanto is an Indonesia-based travel and editorial photographer currently living in Yogyakarta, at the heart of Java Island. His work aims to showcase the people of the world, focusing on their culture and the ways in which they interact with nature. His love for travel photography is rooted in its ability to help him truly see the world.