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).`



The Reincarnation of Putri Ayu

It was said that the crocodile was a Tomistoma schlegelii (a type with a long pointed snout.

It was said that the crocodile was a False Gharial, or  Tomistoma Schlegelii (the crocodile which has a long pointed snout). This picture was taken at a crocodile breeding farm in Jambi.

We came upon an interesting event that took place in February 2009, and it was what is believed by many to have been the reincarnation of a famous Jambi personality, Putri Ayu.1

According to legends, this woman was to have been the wife of a former sultan/king. You can read our translated legend about this woman with this link, as well as read about her sacred grave with this link.


Very Old Wood Head Stone

Behind the birthing clinic, PUSKESMAS Putri Ayu, and to the west of the water tower known as the Dutch Benteng (fort), there are a couple of graves, which nobody knows who or what is buried there. Since this area of the City of Jambi is said to have been the location of a palace for the sultan, there’s a tremendous amount of historical value to everything located in this area. While searching for the grave of Putri Ayu, we came upon these two unmarked graves.

I took some time to interview people in the surrounding neighborhood, as well as nurses in the clinic about who was buried there, but they didn’t know. Being unrelenting in satisfying my curiosity, I continued questioning the caretaker of the clinic, as well as the workers at the Jambi War Museum just across the street. I still came up with no clear answer.