Culture


Makam Keramat

(sacred graves)

Sacred graves are common in Indonesia, as many people are known to travel to them (bezirarah) and pray for every imaginable desire or need.

Here are a few of the things people will pray for at these graves:

  • To pass a test in school.
  • To cause someone to fall in love with them (love spell).
    • This will make them appear more beautiful to others.
    • This is also done to help them find a marriage partner.
  • To receive healing.
  • To bless a business.
  • To bless land prior to it being cleared and planted.
    • This special prayer is for obtaining permission from spirits that reside in and around this piece of land. The prayer could also be for the purpose of clearing the area of any spirits that would hinder the prosperity of that land.
  • Prior to entering into battles with enemies.
  • Protection from evil spirits.
  • Protection from any type of danger.
  • Winning gambling numbers.
    • Some say that when your prayers have evil motives, like to gamble or to hurt others, the evil will come back to haunt you.
    • People at the grave called “Makam Syech Keramat Tinggi,” say that people who’ve prayed for winning gambling numbers, or for other evil purposes, have reported that fierce tigers have rushed out of the brush and attacked them. Others reported that they were attacked by giant centipedes.

Releasing Chickens

and Other Animals

at Sacred Graves

C. speaking with men who were praying at the grave of Putri Ayu.

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).`

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Chicken Dreams

In Jambi there’s a considerable amount of mysticism associated with chickens, insomuch that some even say that dreams with chickens in them have a spiritual meaning, and these dreams can be interpreted as follows:

The Lean Ayam Kampung. (Neighborhood Chicken)

The Lean Ayam Kampung
(Neighborhood Chicken)

  • If in your dream you see many chickens, it means that your life will be filled to satisfaction.
  • If you dream of chickens that are laying eggs, it means that you will soon encounter good luck.
  • If you dream of chickens flying to the top of a tree, or to a branch of a tree, it means you will soon receive money from someone.
  • If you dream of a hen locked up, it means you will obtain goodness.
  • If you dream of giving food to a chicken, it means you will obtain success and your business or activities will move forward.
  • If you dream of getting a rooster, you will soon have a child or grandchild.
  • If you dream of your chicken being stolen, it means that something sad is going to take place.
  • If you dream of raising chicks, it means that you should become nervous or worried about your economic condition at this time.
  • If you dream of chasing chickens, it means you will obtain a helper in whatever task you are working on.
  • If you dream of offering a chicken as a sacrifice, it means you will become a great person.
  • If you dream of obtaining a chicken, it means you will soon have a child or grandchild.
  • If you dream of eating chicken meat, it means you will soon get some property of value.

Dutch Fort and Other Buildings

The buildings in the pasar (market) are all like this--Dutch architecture.

The buildings in the pasar (market) all have
Dutch architecture.
The date of this building is posted just below the second story window (1937).

In the City of Muara Tebo

For those traveling through the City of Muara Tebo and you’d like to take a short 30 minute break, you could drive through the small city to look at the old Dutch wooden buildings which are still in use. The buildings located in the very center of the city, called the pasar, or market, are all wooden buildings of Dutch architecture from 1930 era. As you drive around you will see that people are still living in homes and barracks that were at one time used by the Dutch solders and their families.

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Bad Luck Amulet

Magic paper inclosed within a deer skin.

Haikal Kulit Kijang (Empowered Deer Skin)
Magic paper inclosed within a deer skin.

We’ve written a number of articles about amulets (jimat) that are in common use in Indonesia. Recently we wrote about the Haikal Kulit Kijang, or “Empowered Deer Skin.” After talking with an Indonesian acquaintance of ours about that deer skin, he told us that people should be extremely cautious about becoming involved with these objects, because these amulets may bring curses, instead of protection and good luck. This is his story….

Deer Skin Amulet This shows the paper with the Arabic writing which is believed to be empowered by spirits.

Deer Skin Amulet
This shows the paper with the Arabic writing which is believed to be empowered by spirits.

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Deceptive Amulet

A number of years ago I saw a small boy in my neighborhood who was wearing an amulet necklace. The necklace had a small piece of bamboo fastened to it and the ends of the bamboo was sewn shut (just like the Haikal Kulit Kijang we wrote about not too long ago). I asked the boy if I could see the necklace, but he didn’t want me to. I then insisted that he show it to me, so the boy finally gave it to me. I then broke open the small piece of bamboo that was fastened to the necklace, and inside was a piece of paper rolled up, about 4 inches square. The paper had a sentence written on it in the Indonesian language which said something like: “You will die on November 2, 2004.

From what we were told, the shaman / witch doctor (dukun; orang pintar; orang pandai) that prepared and gave the boy that necklace must have made a deal with the evil spirits. It’s assumed that this shaman would occasionally be required to place a curse on people, and sacrifice someone from time to time, so his spiritual powers would continual to work.

An Icon in The City of Sarolangun

Ikan Keloso (or Kelisa) This is a 15' long fish monument that is located at the entrance leading to the government offices in Sarolangun (Kantor Bupati)

Ikan Keloso (or Kelisa)
This is a 15′ long fish monument that is located at the entrance leading to the government offices in Sarolangun (Kantor Bupati)

While visiting the City of Sarolangun we had the opportunity to meet in the home of the Sekretaris Daerah (Sekda) Kabupaten Sarolangun, Bapak (Mr.) H. Thabroni Rozali. This man invited us to the Kantor Bupati (Bupati’s office) the next morning, where he introduced us to eight men who were kepala adat & ketua adat (cultural experts), as well as the heads of various government agencies.

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Cutting Into Lines

Butting into Lines   /   Queue Jump

 There are many wonderful things about Indonesian culture that we find fascinating. There is, however, one social practice that is very stressful to us, and it is the overwhelming amount of “cutting into lines” that takes place. Many Indonesians have indicated that they don’t like the behavior either.

Lines can become dangerous, and even more so when someone tries butting in and tempers begin to flare. It’s especially dangerous when there is little to no law enforcement to supervise and control such a situation.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that every time we leave our home there will be somebody, somewhere, that will want to cut in on us. Whether it’s on the road, lines at stores, at gas stations, or while paying bills. For us to be able to deal with this situation we have grown to expect it, give way to it, and realize that it isn’t our place to change this behavior. If Indonesians grow tired of this negative social behavior they will have to change it from within.

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