Doa Dana, sacred mount and local piety

Natural disasters are quite often seen beyond scientific realm. More particularly in Bima, West Nusa Tenggara, natural disasters like volcanic eruptions are believed to be a mystical event. As found in Javanese mysticism of mount Merapi, many Muslims in Bima figure out natural disasters in mystical ways. As Mbojo, a local term for Bima, is popular for its historical remnants of sultanate legacy, the well-being of the kingdom depends on the Sultan’s relationships with powerful spiritual beings as well as with God. According to elderly I met in Kampung Pane of Rasanae district, Mbojo-Islamic notions of authority, the Sultan is the shadow of God on earth.

It is widely believed that every Mbojo Sultan has personal spirit residing at every mount beginning at mount Tambora in the west passing through mount Londa to the city and heading on the coast to the north where mount Sangiang is located. Doro Londa, or mount Londa, is home to Mbojo Sultan. While mount Sangiang, from the word Sang Hyang (the powerful spiritual being in Hinduism), another volcanic mountain in Bima, is said to be the place of origin where Mbojo Sultan has received royal keris (asymmetrical daggermost strongly associated with magical powers).

About 70 per cent of Bima are mountainous, and the rest are valleys and farms. Doro Tambora is Bima’s popular volcanic mountain. It last erupted in 1815 which far-eclipsed in violence the more famous eruption of mount Krakatau in 1883. Tambora (2722 m) holds a special place in the mystical variant of Islam that is common in the regency. Tambora is becoming well-known following the death of Deputy Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Widjajono Partowidagdo during his climbing on 21 April 2012 (The Jakarta Post, 22 April 2012).

Given the fact, Mbojo people know very well how to treat their sacred mounts and traumatic feelings over natural disasters. One of the ways the locals perform is to hold the so-called Doa Dana by means of carrying out Ngaha Karedo. In the event, participants are encouraged to eat karedo, or bubur nasi in Indonesian (rice porridge made of rice and coconut milk). As I observed on Friday morning and evening (or two days before the 1st day of Muharram [the 1st month in Islamic calendar] in 2011, local residents conducted Ngaha Karedo by turn almost every week starting from the eastern to the western part of the kampung.

In previous times, before Doa Dana was to be conducted, a group of elderly announced to the rest of the villagers over the event. The mothers followed up the call by collecting rice and then cooked it together in an agreed place to turn it into rice porridge (Karedo). The mother usually cooks porridge in a place close to the venue, inside uma ceko (Bima’s wooden stilt house). Each household would present karedo as offerings to the Sultan thereafter. Failure to do so would violate the security of the Sultan’s affairs with spiritual beings as well as with God that might in turn risk the whole kingdom.

Photo 1

Photo 1

In present time, ketua RT (head of district) on behalf of elderly will announce officially that Doa Dana is to be held in a chosen area. As shown in photo 1, on Friday afternoon participants are asked to pray together before eating karedo at the kampung road led by an Islamic cleric usually referred to Lebe Haji. Offerings for the Sultan are no longer the case. Prayer should be oriented for the sake of Allah in the hope that the kampung will be away from disasters and misfortunes.

Doa Dana is conducted in three consecutive days starting from Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Adults are compulsory to attend the event in the afternoon on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (See Photo 1). The children are recommended to attend the event on Friday morning before school hours. The reason is that because the rice porridge is best served early in the morning, said Lebe Haji. Nonetheless, the children can attend the event on Friday afternoon as the culminating day of Doa Dana.

At the event of Ngaha Karedo, since the prayer of the children is most welcomed by Allah, the eldest among the children is told by the elder to begin by delivering supplication on behalf of the rest. As shown in photos (2 and 4), the pink-veiled little girl is the one elected to do that by reciting Surah Al-Fatihah (the first chapter of the Qur’an) following short supplication taken from the Qur’an. During the event, the children gather to share karedo put on young banana leaves and they take it with spoon made of pandanus leaves.

photo 2

Photo 2

Photo 3

Photo 3

Photo 4

Photo 4

As Doa Dana is also intended as sedekah (giving) or allowance (pocket money), children are also given some money (Photo 5). At the time, the minimum amount of money being given is 2000 rupiahs per child (less than 50 c). As Lebe Haji said to me, the money is given as a stimulant, so that many others will come to the event. Besides, there are also children who do not want to eat karedo, but need the money instead. “It is hoped that it stimulates children who lack appetite by eating altogether with their friends”, said Lebe Haji.

Photo 5

Photo 5

To sum up, Islam in Bima is seemingly tied with notions of sacred mount and local piety. Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942), a father of British social anthropology, with his functionalism theory can be analytically used in analysing Doa Dana in the sense that the ritual has enhanced the virtue of togetherness among villagers as exemplified in collecting rice, cooking and eating it together toward achieving an “overall social equilibrium”. He considered it crucial to consider the observable differences between norms and action; between what people say they do and what they actually do.

Doa Dana is a unique ritual on the basis that Bima Muslims still maintain the central practices of the ritual even as it changes with contemporary Bima society. The ritual is still in place but means many things at this moment. The current interpretation of Doa Dana is beyond fear of volcanic mount. More educated people in the region start to consider natural disasters as simply a natural phenomenon. In the anniversary of Bima municipality held in 2012 I attended, the local government conducted Doa Dana at night and I witnessed the show of Indonesian pop songs performed by local artists to attract many audiences to come. The Karedo is no longer served in banana leaves but in a plastic container. Although critique rises over the changes particularly from the elders, Doa Dana will continuously adapt to the changing situation and remain important to the identity making of Bima Muslims for many years to come.

Muhammad Adlin Sila

Muhammad Adlin SilaMuhammad Adlin Sila adalah Kandidat PhD pada Department of Anthropology, College of Asia Pacific (CAP), School of Culture, History and Language (SCHL), Australian National University, Canberra-Australia. Adlin saat ini sedang menulis disertasi S3-nya mengenai Being Muslim in Bima, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) dengan fokus pada tradisi ritual dan festival masyarakat Muslim Bima. Adlin telah mempublikasikan beberapa karya jurnal akademik. Salah satu bukunya akan terbit dalam bahasa Inggris yang berjudul, The Sada of Cikoang: a special case study of a Hadhrami community in Indonesia (forthcoming ANU e-Press, 2012).

One Response to Doa Dana, sacred mount and local piety

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