Mount Bromo is undoubtedly the most sought after nature wonder in East Java. It offers a phenomenal sunrise that requires challenging journey across the infamous “sea of sand” amid the freezing atmosphere. The summit itself is also a must see highlight. With the wide open crater, Bromo’s huge gut relentlessly spews out thick sulfurous smoke.
But aside from the beauty, Bromo is enchanting due to the strict Tengger people dwelling its surrounding. Tengger is an area deep in the slope of the mountain. The people, Tengerese, are descendants of Majapahit kingdom that moved away to avoid Islam invasion in Bali.
Tenggerese are unique. They are Hindu but they don’t cremate the dead like what Hindu Balinese do. You won’t find them primitive but simply naturally traditional. They live by farming with vegetables as the main crops. Modern stoves are not there in their kitchens as they still cook on pawonan (sort of small fireplace made of clay). It needs wood to fire the traditional stove up and the women usually walk barefoot along the winding mountain roads in search of the tree barks.
Tenggerese original culture and tradition live on to this very recent time. Dukun (or priest) has crucial role in religious realm especially in their most important ceremony, Kasada. According to Tengerese belief, this ritual is connected to the history of their origin.
They say Tengger actually comes from two names, Rara Anteng and Joko Seger, a ruling couple of Tengger region. They had been married for years but no descendants born to the spouse. Praying on top of mount Bromo, they were finally granted with 25 kids. They had to sacrifice their last child in return but they refused. The god got angry and mount Bromo suddenly erupted, dragging the last kid into the burning crater.
The historical incident now is celebrated with Kasada ceremony to prevent the same disaster. All Tenggerese participate in this ritual with all wearing white clothing. They parade piles of crops from their village to Luhur Poten temple on Bromo’s sea of sand during a freezing midnight. And after praying, they throw all the offerings into the mountain’s gut. Beside crops, live buffaloes, goats and chickens are plunged to their death into the crater as sacrifice.
This ceremony is held once in a year based on Tenggerese calendar. But it usually takes place between July and August. You better not to miss this legendary ritual, but if you do, you can at least find the leftover (drying flowers and food) all around the crater rim.
These days, not all Tengerese are Hindu. Some are Christians, some are Muslim and some are Buddhists. But they live in peace and continue to participate in Kasada ceremony.