By Irfan Nugroho
Sunday February 5th, 2012 was a bright
and sunny day. In Solo, Central Java, more precisely at the Masjid Agung
Surakarta, thousands of people flocked the Masjid area waiting for something
that can give them blessing.
Yes, the day was the end of a seven-day
Grebeg Maulud Sekaten Festival 2012; an event dedicated to commemorate the
birth of the Prophet Muhammad and to express the city’s ancient ruler – Karaton
Kasunanan Surakarta Hadiningrat – for abundant blessing from God.
The last day of Sekaten Festival usually
becomes a hectic day for the management of the Masjid Agung Surakarta,
remembering that a huge number of people will come to the Masjid, but
unfortunately not all of them perform the Shalat (prayer) on time at the
The time I came to the closing ceremony
of Grebeg Maulud Sekaten Festival 2012, about hundreds of people had already
been at the front yard of the Masjid Agung Surakarta.

Some were offering and selling
traditional foods and souvenirs typically the city of Surakarta (Solo), and a
number of them were waiting for two couples of Gunungan offerings, in which
they do believe that the Gunungan offerings could bring blessings for their
life in the future.
Amongst the crowd attending the closing
ceremony of Grebeg Maulud Sekaten Festival 2012 were granny mothers coming from
places that are far far away from the Masjid Agung Surakarta.
Some of them even came to the Masjid Agung
Surakarta by walking through a distance of more than 15 kilometres away with
the aims of getting their sins erased by God and an expression of answering the
call of Islam.
To me personally, I said in my heart,
“Moms, you don’t need to come here by walk just to get your sins erased by
Allah. There are things you can do to get your sins erased like reciting
Istighfar, performing the five prayers on time daily, and many more recommended
Islamic rites.”
Well, but it appears that such a believe
will always live at their hearts for their fanaticism to the Javanese culture
and tradition.
Then at this point, their fanaticism to
the Javanese culture had derailed from the true intention of Grebeg Maulud
Sekaten Festival; that is to respect and commemorate the Prophet Muhammad.
At around 10 o’clock in the morning, the
visitors got more crowded. Hundreds more people of all ages enthusiastically
came to the closing ceremony of Grebeg Maulud Sekaten Festival this year.
Those who were in charge of securing the
festival worked very hard to manage the visitors inside the area of Masjid
Agung Surakarta.
“I prefer securing a street strike
rather than this (the festival). It’s all about fanatic belief, thus they are
difficult to manage,” said a policeman to me.

Precisely at 10.15, the rite began with
an Islamic preaching by a famous Muslim scholar named Kiai Haji Ahmad Baidlowi
who talked about the great virtues of the nine Muslim scholars (Wali Songo) and
their ways of introducing Islam to the Indonesian people hundreds of years ago.
In his preaching, rather than making straight the people’s misleading belief to the Gunungan offerings and all
related to the mystic belief around the celebration of Sekaten Festival, Mr
Baidlowi, on the contrary, appeared to say that such a tradition should always
be there in such a way.
“This is a great virtue of the Wali
Songo, who knew very well that introducing Islam to the Indonesian people is
not an easy matter. So we must take high respect to them by knowing and
preserving such a tradition,” he said.
Only few
people listened to the explanation from Mr Baidlowi about the semiotic meaning
of the Kinang tradition at the Sekaten Festival.
Mr Baidlowi used the five ingredients of
Kinang as bearing the meaning of the five Islamic pillars: (1) testifying only
Allah who is rightfully worshiped and the Prophet Muhammad is Allah’s
messenger; (2) performing Shalat (prayer); (3) fasting in the Ramadhan month;
(4) paying the obligatory Zakat for those with wealth abilities; and (5) performing
Hajj to Mecca.
Kinang, in the Javanse tradition, is
composed of five ingredients; betel vine, Gambier, lime, tobacco, and betel
leaf. Each of these ingredients, according to Mr Baidlowi, represents the five
Islamic pillars above.
Unfortunately, explanation of the five
Islamic pillars was delivered very brief, and worse, only very few people
looked to attentively listened to Mr Baidlowi’s speech.
Consequently, local people and the next
generation of the Solonese people will always regard the Gunungan offerings and
the Kinang of Sekaten Festival of being able to give abundant blessings for
them in the future.

At approximately 10:45, Mr Baidlowi
finished his preaching, meaning that the Gunungan offerings would soon be brought
to the Masjid Agung Surakarta for a number of traditional Muslim scholars were
waiting to pray upon the Gunungan offerings.
Thousands more visitors were waiting
outside the Masjid Agung Surkarta.
They found it hard to go inside the
front yard of the Masjid for the main entrance gate was closed for the sake of
the smoothness of the event.
But the side gates of the Masjid Agung
Surakarta were left unguarded and therefore people went into the Masjid complex
from these two gates.
Time showed precisely at 11 o’clock, and
some of the Karaton’s servants had already came into the Masjid complex,
bringing a signal that the Gunungan offerings would soon arrive at the Masjid.
Far away there, the flags of Karaton
Kasunanan Surakarta Hadiningrat waved back and forth, meaning that soon the
Gunungan would be coming in.
Thousands of people were waiting enthusiastically, depicting the situation of the Anshar people in Medina were
waiting for the coming of the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca at a historical event
called Hijrah.
The Gunungan entourage were led by a
group of Karaton’s soldiers wearing blue uniforms, and accordingly, they were
in charge of guarding the Gamelan orchestra played during the journey from the
Karaton to the Masjid Agung Surakarta.
The entourage of Gunungan were another
group of Karaton’s soldiers wearing black uniforms, and as far as I know, they
were assigned to guard the Gunungan Kakung (male Gunungan).
For information, there are two couples
of Gunungan offerings, two couples of Gunungan Kakung (male Gunungan) and
Gunungan Putri (female Gunungan), were released by the Karaton Kasunanan
Surakarta Hadiningrat.
Each gunungan were shouldered by twelve
people, specifically old people. Yes, most of the Karaton’s servants are those
with ages above 50 years old.
The Gunungan Putri came into the Masjid
complex, following the Gunungan Kakung.

The situation got more hectic. Panic was
all around, with some people might find it hard to breathe when thousands of
visitors were eagerly watching the Gunungan offerings.
But this situation was much
‘comfortable’ if compared to another rite after the Gunungan offerings were
prayed upon by the locally traditional Muslim scholars.
Soon when those Muslim scholars finally
ended their praying for the Gunungan offerings, those flocking the Masjid Agung
Surakarta ‘attacked’ the Gunungan for grabbing some parts of the Gunungan.
They do believe that each of the
ingredients used at the Gunungan are able to give blessings for them in the
But of course this is not the true
intention of the Wali Songo when they first created such a festival.
There are highly valuable Islamic messages
behind the Gunungan offerings, which are now neglected by the Javanese people.
Instead of learning the Islamic messages
of Gunungan Sekaten offerings, people in the present seem to less care about the
messages tried to be delivered through Gunungan Sekaten.
They struggled with thousands of people
to get the Gunungan, but their struggle leaves no real changes in their Islamic
understanding; and worse, there is a Shirk (polytheism) within.
Some believe that the tobacco of
Gunungan Sekaten may bring luckiness
if it is put at the corner of their home.
Some other
believe that the rice of Gunungan Sekaten gives efficacy to abundant harvest if
they are farmers.
Well, Islam
teaches simple way to achieve such luckiness or abundant harvest actually. But
those people are willing not to learn the Islamic teachings in a correct way.
If only the
initiator of Grebeg Maulud Sekaten Festival still lives nowadays, they will be
very sad to see their innovative Islamic mission has derailed far far away from
their intention.

Finally, there
are great messages behind the celebration of Grebeg Maulud Sekaten Festival.
But people in the present seem no longer care about the Islamic messages being
delivered through the festival.
Grebeg Maulud
Sekaten Festival in the present are full of misleading belief and mystical matters
with no logical reasons on it.
It is the duty
for us, the Muslim activists to take them back to the right path of Islam as
what have been taught by the Prophet Muhammad because the reason for the
celebration of Grebeg Maulud Sekaten Festival is to express the love to the
greatest man in history, the Prophet Muhammad salallahu ‘alaihi wasalam.
And one of the
right way to express love to the Prophet Muhammad is by following his teachings
in daily life.
“This day have
I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have
chosen for you Islam as your religion…” (Al-Maidah [5]: 3).
“O ye who
believe! Enter into Islam whole-heartedly; and follow not the footsteps of the
evil one; for he is to you an avowed enemy,” (Al-Baqarah [2]: 208).
“Ye have
indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for any of
whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day, and who engages much in the praise of
Allah,” (Al-Ahzab [33]: 21).