and Other Animals
at Sacred Graves
Upon arrival at the grave of Putri Ayu, an elderly woman was currently enjoying her lunch of rice, chicken, and an assortment of vegetables. I sat down next to the grave and quietly waited for her to finish, while observing a horde of ants making off with a large cockroach leg.
After she finished, and her letting out a long deep burp, I asked her her name as I introduced myself. She told me her name was Ibu Sopia and that she has been the caretaker of the grave of Putri Ayu for five years.
I explained to Ibu Sopia that I was a language student, and to study the language I incorporate the study of Jambi history and culture, and that at this time I was currently gathering information on the practice of releasing animals (ayam lepas) at graves considered to be sacred (makam keramat).
Ibu Sopia explained to me that in addition to praying at sacred graves, people will also bring offerings, such as various types of flowers, like: Bunga kemboja, bunga melati, bunga tanjung, bunga cempaka or bunga kantil. Chinese Indonesians, following Buddhism or Confucius religions, will also offer apples, oranges, and bananas, while burning incense.
After concluding prayers at sacred graves, Ibu Sopia told me that people will then release a chicken, goat, cow, and at times, some people will even release a water buffalo. Ibu Sopia said that at the grave of Putri Ayu, people release chickens around 2-3x per month, whereas a goat will be released about 1x every three months. She said the she has never seen people released a cow or a water buffalo there for as long as she’s been the caretaker of the grave (5 yrs).