Traditional Idul Fitri festivities in Lombok

On Aug. 11, three days after celebrating the Idul Fitri holiday on Aug. 8, the Wetu Telu traditional community in North Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), were engulfed in another celebration: a customary Idul Fitri commemoration rooted in local culture instead of Islamic tradition.
The festivities centered on the Bayan Beleq mosque, one of the oldest mosques in Lombok, located in the Bayan Beleq village in Bayan district, some 90 kilometers to the north of Mataram, NTB's provincial capital.

According to local customs, the sacred rites were held not only to preserve ancient traditions, but also as a remembrance of how Islam first came to the island centuries ago.
Similar to the Islamic Idul Fitri held three days prior, the Wetu Telu's Idul Fitri was marked by a special prayer commonly known as the Ied prayer.
Only 44 customary clerics participated in the prayer, without the involvement of the entire community, as is common in other led prayers.

The clerics, comprising both kyai kagungan (senior clerics) and kyai santri (junior clerics), wore all-white attire of woven sarongs, shirts and sapuk (traditional head covers).
The Ied prayer began at around 11:30 a.m., after all the 44 clerics had gathered at the Bayan Beleq mosque. This was also different from other Ied prayers, which are commonly held in the morning at around 6:30 a.m. or 7 a.m.

Following the prayers, a senior cleric gave a sermon from a podium. He read from a text written in Arabic on a traditional parchment.
The message was basically about giving thanks, living in harmony with nature and keeping good manners.

“This customary procession is held to accompany and to strengthen the religious Idul Fitri festivities, so that harmony can be achieved between religion and local custom,” Bayan community elder Gedarip, 70, said.

“During the [Islamic] Idul Fitri, we hold a Ied prayer at the mosque and join in the celebrations. However, because we also have local customs that must be preserved, we celebrate the customary Idul Fitri as well,” he explained.

“This is a customary procession, not a religious one. Wetu Telu is not a religion. It's a set of local traditions. We never mix tradition and religion together,” he added.

According to Gedarip, local custom dictates that there will be bad luck (known as “pemaliq” in the local tongue) for the entire village if the clerics do not hold the customary Idul Fitri procession.
The Wetu Telu community believes that its ancestors, the rulers of an old kingdom in Bayan, were the first people converted to Islam by the Wali Songo (nine holy preachers), who came from Java in the 17th century.

Nowadays, the Wetu Telu tradition is observed by communities in more than 30 villages in three districts of North Lombok: Tanjung, Gangga and Bayan.
When the prayers were finished, members of the community prepared food in a kampu, or a particular location fenced with bamboo.

Men slaughtered livestock – cows, goats and chickens. They also prepared ancak, or plaited bamboo covered with banana leaves, on which the food was placed. Women cooked rice, side dishes and snacks.

Men also took food to the ancient mosque as a gift to the clerics.
A reception was also held in each village’s kampu led by its respective customary leaders. The people enjoyed the food in begibung style, which entails sharing the same ancak between four to six people.
The festivities signify a local belief called ngiring rebak jungkat, which means, “laying down the spears” or “burying the hatchet”.

Jungkat or weapons, according to Gedarip, have often been perceived as symbols of hatred. “Thus, this is the time for us to leave hatred behind and forgive one another,” he said.

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(Photo by Panca Nugraha)

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