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Larung Saji Ritual in Indigenous Religion’s Spirituality


  August 27th 2020

Larung Sesaji Melasti Ritual. (Photo Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Larung_Sesaji_Melasti.jpg)

On August 6, 2020, the Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies (ICRS) held the 13th Forum Kamisan Daring, an online seminar in cooperation with CRCS and other organizations such as Komnas Perempuan, Pusad Paramadina, LIPI, and Satunama. The discussion of the 13th edition of this forum centered on the Larung Saji ritual in indigenous religion’s spirituality. There were two speakers and one respondent for this online seminar. The first speaker was Sudibyo, S.H., chairman of Paguyuban Hangudi Bawana Tata Lahir Batin. The second speaker was Muslam Guno Waseso, an adherent of Paguyuban Pangudi Ilmu Kebatinan Inti Sarining Rasa/PIKIR. The respondent was Ufi Ulfiah from Lakpsesdam PBNU and the moderator was Erin Gayatri alumnae of CRCS UGM batch 2016.

Sudibyo, S.H. in his presentation, explained that in his community there are two kinds of ritual for giving an offering toward nature. First is Larung Saji or an offering to the sea which is usually conducted on Parangkusumo Beach. The second is Labuhan or the offering on Mount Merapi. Larung itself means to float in the sea, and Saji come from word Sastra Jendra or teaching about salvation or well-being. Sudibyo also explained that the primary intent of making an offering to nature is an effort to build harmonious relations between humans, God, nature, and all living things. Harmonious relations between humans and God is expressed by the harmonious relations between humans and nature. The well-being of humans also depends on their harmonious relation with God and nature. The effort to build harmonious relations with God and nature then becomes tradition and local wisdom in this local society.

Furthermore, Sudibyo shared that in the Larung Saji ritual there are many Ubo Rampe or offerings which are brought by people, and each of them has its own meaning based on Javanese tradition and language. There are three kinds of tumpeng which are provided in the Larung Saji ritual:

  1. Tumpeng Robyong: this tumpeng consists of bayam/spinach, which symbolizes hidup adem ayem or living in peace; kangkung/kale, which symbolizes linangkung or achieving a prosperous life; long beans to symbolize the length of patience and the length of kindness and fortune; sprouts symbolize the existence of a new spirit to fight for a better life; eleven boiled eggs symbolize compassion; and pisang raja/plantains symbolize the glory of life.  There are also some flowers used here, such as kantil/cantilever symbolize kantilaku or the integrity between words and action; kenanga/canganga symbolizes keno or the achievement of goals; mawar/roses symbolize mawiarso means that people should have ideals and ambition. Moreover, there are also cigarettes and benang lawe symbolizing respect to God.
  2. Tumpeng Megono: rice cooked with vegetables and spices.
  3. Tumpeng Kencono: savory rice is colored yellow with turmeric symbolizing gratitude to God. This tumpeng is served with all dry side dishes, omelette, fried peanut, shredded meat.

However, all these tumpeng are not floated into the sea, but will be eaten by participants of the ritual after the ritual is conducted. The offering which is floated contains ageman or clothes; mirror; comb; make up kit; jumputan shawl and batik Parangkusumo. There are also snacks such as yams or cassava, klepon, lemper, jadah, ongol-ongol. There are also seven kinds of fruits, green young coconut, black coffee and water. After the ritual’s leader invokes a series of prayers, then the offering is floated into the sea.

The second speaker was Muslam Guno Waseso, an adherent of Pangudi Ilmu Kebatinan Inti Sarining Rasa/PIKIR, Cilacap, Central Java. Interestingly, Muslam began his explanation of Larung Saji by refering the five foundations of Javanese traditional belief which are: Sangkan Dumading Bawana or the origin of the universe; Sangkan Paraning Dumadi or the origin of human occurance; Memayu Hayuning Bawana or the concept of relations between human and nature or the natural preservation concept; Manunggaling Kawulo Gusti or the concept of relations between people and God; and Berbudi Bawa Leksana or the action or practice in life and the relation between people. For him, the Larung Saji ritual is rooted in the concept of Memayu Hayuning Bawana. Muslam explain that memayu means to save or to protect, hayu comes from word rahayu means sustainable or safe and bawana means nature. Therefore, memayu hayuning bawana can be defined as an effort to preserve or to save nature. In order to do memayu hayuning bawana people should do ruwatan or taking care of nature, paying respect and offering gratitude to God and nature. There are many kinds of ruwatan, like Merti Desa or Bersih Desa which involves cleaning the village;  Larung Saji; ruwatan tetanduran a ritual occurring at planting time; and ruwatan hawa, a ritual for the air and atmosphere.

Related to Larung Saji, in Cilacap adherents of Paguyuban Pangudi Ilmu Kebatinan Inti Sarining Rasa/PIKIR prepare many kinds of offerings like: ageman or clothes, agricultural products (fruits and vegetable)s, food and snacks, even children’s traditional toys. In Cilacap, they also use special offerings like heads of cows or buffalos. The ritual begins at the district hall and progresses towards the sea. Muslam argued that ruwatan is especially important because people should realize that they cannot live their lives without nature and all the resources it provides. Furthermore, nature is also a form of legacy, extending from the previous generation to the present generation and then it will be bequeathed to next generation.

Lastly, Ufi Ulfiah as respondent also shared her experience of Larung Saji during her childhood in West Java. She remembered that people from different religions joined to conduct Larung Saji. Ufi Ulfiah argued that Larung Saji is a noble cultural tradition as it becomes a meeting point for people to pay respect and gratitude toward nature and God who gives them life. Nature is God’s creature which supplies humanity with resources and blessing. Therefore, people should live in harmony with nature, and  in Larung Saji’s context, this includes humanity’s relationship ith the sea. People should greet the sea with respect and gratitude. Unfortunately, the Larung Saji ritual experienced by Ufi Ulfiah in her childhood time has disappeared due to the negative stigma placed on the event by followers of larger religions. This condition reveals that many people do not understand the noble values of Larung Saji. As such, Ufi encourages adherents of indigenous religions in Indonesia to preserve the tradition of ruwatan or Larung Saji as a part the cultural richness of Indonesia. Larung Saji for people outside indigenous religion communities should be seen as a form of gratitude toward nature and God, and for adherents of indigenous religions they have a right to live out their own beliefs through the ritual.