At the foot of Mount Bromo, the sound of the dawn drums rose from several mosques in the middle of the Hindu Tengger settlements, as Hindus prepared for their annual Yadnya Kasada ceremony.
At the mosque, people prayed as another day of fasting began; in the Luhur Potent Temple, the shaman priests — the religious leaders of the Hindu Tenggerese — prayed too. Whatever their beliefs, all prayed devoutly, none disrupting the others.
The time of Yadnya Kasada is special for the Tenggerese because it is held every full moon in the month of kasodo (the tenth month). In this year, this festival fell on Sept. 5 and 6, coinciding with Ramadan.
But it causes no conflict in the community.
Although they have converted to Islam, Achmad Zaini, 35, a Ngadisari villager from Sukapura subdistrict, Probolinggo regency, and Satugia, 30, an Argosari villager from Senduro Lumajang subdistrict, still take part in Hindu rituals.
“Although I’ve now converted to Islam we still celebrate Kasada as our traditional ceremony,” Achmad says.
“It’s the same for any Tenggerese who are Christian. And there are plenty of Tenggerese Muslims who throw chickens, goats and flowers into the crater of Mount Bromo.”
Satugia also packed several kilograms of vegetables from his garden into sacks to be taken to the top of Mount Bromo. After performing dawn prayers, Satugia and several others got into a big truck for the hour-long drive to the famous mountain.
“Before we had access to a vehicle, we used to walk from our village to the Bromo area, which took more than four hours. Now we’re too lazy to walk, because I might break my fast because of fatigue,” Satugia said.
According to tradition, offerings are thrown into the crater of Mount Bromo to recall the sacrifices of the ancestors, and to make offerings to the Almighty in return for blessings of fertility and security.
The Tenggerese believe that the Kusuma god, the son of Rara Anteng and Jaka Seger, who was sacrificed to the spirit of Mount Bromo, is their ancestor.
Sutomo, one of the elders of Argosari village in Lumajang said that most of the Tenggerese, who live in 19 villages and four regencies –Probolinggo, Lumajang, Pasuruan and Malang – are Hindu.
However, since the 1950s, many have converted to other religions, especially Islam and Christianity.
“Islam, and the other immigrant religions, entered in a peaceful manner and without any confrontation,” he said. “There are no conflicts in our society even though people have different beliefs.”
Sutomo is among the first generation of the Tenggerese-Lumajang who has embraced Islam. His father, Imam Supii, joined the Islamic Union Party.
Although his father was sympathetic with Islam, he did not convert. Sutomo joined the Islamic Youth Organization in 1962, although at that time he was a Tenggerese Hindu.
“In 1948, many scholars came to the Tenggerese settlement. I converted to Islam in 1971. Since then every year there have always been Tenggerese who have converted to Islam, whether because of marriage or because of personal awareness,” he said.
According to data from the Argosari village office, of the region’s 3,468 residents, 1,380 are Muslim.
Sutomo said Tenggerese who had embraced Islam had similar lives to Indonesia’s other Muslims, and many have joined Islamic organizations Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah.
What all the villagers have in common is their piety, whatever their faith.
“Like Bali, the Bromo area is visited by many tourists and all sorts of liquor are available. However, no villagers dare violate the customary rules that prohibit gambling, adultery, theft and drinking liquor. All the liquor is just for the tourists,” he said.
This piety, however, does not translate to fanaticism.
“There is no group such as the Islamic Defenders’ Front [FPI] or hard-line Islamic group here. And there are no raids or appeals in the fasting month for shops that sell liquor to close down for the fasting month. We also do not prohibit people to eat and drink in front of us when we are fasting,” he said.
“Our customs and religious beliefs run in harmony here. We’re always open to religious differences, such as the rule of polygamy. Although Islam does not prohibit polygamy, all the Tenggerese have rejected polygamy,” he said.
Punishments apply to those who break social rules. According to Kartono Noto Raharjo, village head of Ngadas subdistrict in Sukapura Regency, any married man caught having an affair is fined 50 bags of cement, as is his co-offender; if the affair results in pregnancy, the couple is fined 100 bags of cement and expelled from the village in shame.
“This rule also applies to Tenggerese teenagers. If they are caught having sex before marriage they will be fined 50 bags of cement and made to marry.”
With one bag of cement priced at Rp 50,000 (US$5), the fines — up to Rp 5 million — are onerous, given the average monthly income of the Tenggerese is less than Rp 2 million.
Martiam, the village head of Argosari in Senduro subdistrict, Lumajang, also said there was no conflict or ill-feelings between Muslims and Tenggerese Hindu beliefs or those of other faiths.
“The Muslims here do not question their neighbors who follow different religions and look after dogs and sell food made from pork. We are used to dealing with stray dogs and occasionally they lick our feet,” he said.
During Idul Fitri, citizens embrace non-Muslims and offer hospitality, he said. And vice versa: During the Karo holidays or the Tenggerese holiday and Yadnya Kasada, Muslim citizens also celebrate.
“Whatever the religion, we believe that we are still Tenggerese and have a responsibility to maintain our heritage and traditions of our ancestors,” Martiam said.
“Although we follow different religions, we are still working in the rice fields together and we built a mosque by working together.”
Ayu Sutarto, a Jember scholar who has lived on the slopes of Bromo with the Tenggerese for five years, said that the Tenggerese community was like a miniature version of the Indonesian people who hold firmly to the values of Pancasila.
Despite their different beliefs, the Tenggerese society is friendly and open.
“Although they hold onto their traditions strongly, they are very tolerant about the differences,”