CELEBRATION AND COMMEMORATION OF THE LIFE CYCLE: SLAMETAN
Another type of adat that prevails in Cirebon is the
celebration or commemoration of the stages of the life cycle. Like other forms of celebration,
most life-cycle celebrations transform their main feature into a slametan. As a part of adat among Muslims,
slametan is a wide spread practice among both devout and
non-devout, high ranked and common people, rich and poor. Its essence involves performing
sedekah (sadaqa) and
Donga or do'a
(du'a) on certain important occasions. Thus it is
essentially Islamic; its roots can be found directly or indirectly in the formal Scriptures,
the Qur'an and the Hadith.
In fact, Islam recommends continuous sadaqa and du'a to its followers even while
facing or doing something of minor importance or even a technical activity. Removing an
obstacle in, or while using, a path-way is a form of sadaqa. Doing anything, including going to the toilet, has its own du'a.
The nature and pattern of Slametan
It seems clear that the Cirebonese share with other societies in the belief that life
evolves through stages: before birth, birth and after birth, death and after death; each
stage also has sub-stages. Turner (1964), who worked on van Gennep's “The Rites of Passage”,
describes the importance of the liminal period because at that period the neophytes, in
terms of social structure, are either removed or invisible.
In Cirebon, the movement between stages is also considered important because it
is either critical or precarious. People hope that moving from one stage to another goes
safely and smoothly without trouble. Unfortunately, they can do very little, because in most
parts, it is beyond the control of human endeavour. To hope something will go safely or to
celebrate something that has already gone safely and peacefully, people perform slametan.
The word slamet is
borrowed from Arabic salamah (pl. salamat) meaning peace or safety. Other words akin to slametan and in many cases used interchangeably are kajatan, syukuran or tasyakuran, and
sedekahan, each of which is also borrowed from Arabic,
respectively, from the word hajah (pl. hajat) meaning a need, syukr
meaning thanking, tasyakur meaning to thank, and sadaqah meaning to give alms or something to others.
In Cirebon, the term kajatan, originally meaning to
have kajat (a need, or an expectation) is used to refer
to a performance similar to slametan, but it also has
an important or cheerful connotation; more specifically it refers to the
expectation of well being after a ceremonial occasion such as a boy's circumcision or a
Syukuran or tasyakuran, on the other hand, means a celebration, large or small, for
expressing thankfulness (to God) or gratitude because something (not limited to stages of
the life cycle) has gone through safely and peacefully, such as a release from a difficulty
including recovery from a serious sickness, success in doing something important, having
something beneficial happened, or obtaining good luck.
Whereas sedekahan means to perform sedekah, it has
about the same meaning and connotation as slametan. In
many context the words slametan, kajatan, syukuran and
sedekahan are interchangeable. Their focal point is
expecting other people to pray (to God) for the well being of the individual concerned; in
return the individual provides foods either to be eaten where the slametan is held, to be taken home by the people who prayed, or both. Thus,
following Marcel Mauss, there is a sense of reciprocity in this performance.
That is, the gift (prayer or du'a) and the
return gift, the food; or, it may also go in the opposite direction with the foods being the
gift and the prayer being the return gift. The first occurs when a host, referred to as the
lord (majikan), who expects safety (sokibul kajat) invites people of other households, mostly
neighbours and kin, to come and sit together at his house to pray or to participate in
invocations led by a leader, after which food is served, either with or without brekat. For those who can not attend the gathering for some
acceptable reason, their food or brekat is sent to their
The second occurs when a sokibul kajat makes no
invitation; rather, he sends an assistant to bring the food (sedekah or alms) directly to the recipients (neighbours and kin), at their
homes. The structure and arrangement of the food bears a symbolic message of the
purpose implied and the type of slametan being requested
and implicitly say what the sender means. If he is ignorant, the recipient will ask the
carrier: “Seng sapa?” (Who sends this?) and/or “Apa-apa-an kiyenkih?” (What is he/she doing by this?), to which
the carrier will give the necessary answer on the sender's behalf. To this, the recipient
may or may not utter a prayer, but this is of less importance because the nature of sending
the food is sedekah.
The religious function of sedekah, for those who believe in it, is either to repel, drive
away or prevent disaster and difficulty, or to express thankfulness to God. The scriptural
basis for the first function is found in a hadith that states: “Giving alms repels disaster”
(as-shadaqah tadfa’ al-bala’). Whereas the latter is implied in the Qur'an saying: “If you thank (for what I
giveth), I (shall) give you more” (la in syakartum la
azidannakum). Either type of slametan
therefore is essentially Islamic and has a significant scriptural basis.
The Occasions for Slametan
In reference to the stages of the life cycle people usually perform slametan (or syukuran, kajatan,
sedekahan) on the following occasions:
In Cirebon there are normally three occasions on which slametan in relation to pregnancy (wetengan) occurs: the fourth, the seventh and the ninth month. In Cirebon to
be pregnant is called meteng or ngandeg. The hadith transmitted by
Bukhari and Muslim from Abi ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Mas'ud states that the early process of
pregnancy (nyidam) turns the ovum into a thick liquid,
then into a clot of blood, then into a clot of flesh.
Each stage, according to the
hadith, takes 40 days for maturation. The
time after the third of the 40 day periods, that is, after 120 days or four months is
considered critical because at this stage, a very important event occurs. It is the time
when God breaths a soul into the flesh and animates it, and designates its fate and death.
The Cirebonese call this event, “entering the alam
arwah, the fourth stage.” During these early stages of pregnancy the mother is often characterised as
having a strong desire to eat sour things, especially young fruits; as showing strange
behaviour, and having strange feelings, anxieties or wishes.
To commemorate this event, and at the same time for hoping the well being of
both the pregnant mother and the potential child, a slametan called ngupati is performed. The
slametan is usually signified by the presence of
kupat at the brekat. The ku-pat is said to resemble papat meaning four,
signifying that the slametan is either because the
fourth month of pregnancy has arrived or because the flesh in the womb has reached the
fourth stage of creation.
The next slametan held during pregnancy is
performed at the seventh month; it is called ngrujaki,
mitui or pepitu, from the word pitu meaning seven (in Central Java: tingkeban). The number ‘7’ is held to be very important so it is highly
recommended that the start of a mitui ceremony be at
7.00 a.m. on the 7th or 17th or 27th day of the month. It is believed that at this stage
the foetus in the womb has already grown into a full human being, a young baby. The
traditionalists describe it as entering the seventh stage, the world of the perfect human
being (alam insan kamil), the world wherein the baby, as a human, as well as having a complete
bodily structure, is also completely pure and, free from sin of any sort. This state of
purity and sinlessness becomes an exemplary condition to which the pious direct their
The mitui ceremony involves a more elaborate
procedure than that of ngupati. Its central point,
however, centres on bathing the pregnant mother to symbolise the intention of a complete
purification. The water to bath with, which is taken from seven different wells, is put in
a big jar or a large tank with seven species of flowers and other herbal substances in it.
The mother sits on a chair, dressed only in a new batik garment (tapi or kain panjang) of the nicest kind
which covers her from above her breasts down to her legs. During the bathing this garment
is replaced seven times with other new ones.
A young yellow hybrid coconut, carved with
Qur'anic verses and sometimes also with favourite wayang figures along with some coins inserted here and there, is put on her
lap just below her pregnant abdomen. The young coconut resembles the child who is
hopefully to be either handsome or attractive, whose personage is idealised by the
wayang figure, living happily with abundance
signified by the inserted coins, and with certainty of being safe in the hereafter as the
carved Qur'anic verses would imply. Placed on the ground beside her, is a special ceramic
clay jar called buyung containing water and flower,
including manggar (coconut flowers), and valuables,
especially gold and jewellery, symbols of dignity and prosperity that await the birth of
The bathing is initiated by an old woman known to be wise and pious who, by using a
water dipper, pours the water from the tank onto the mother's head. Preferably the old
woman should also have been successful in raising children who have become well to do.
After this old woman, follows the husband of the pregnant woman, and then the others,
mostly older men and women who pour the water for bath.
This bathing ceremony ceases when
all the elders have had their turn and the garment has been changed seven times.
After the bathing, the gold and jewellery in the clay jar beside her are taken out; her
husband takes the jar to a strategic place where many people usually pass and he smashes
the jar on the ground. Seeing the jar broken to smithereens children and youngsters
applause with a yell: “hooray!” My informant explained that the breaking of the jar in
such a place represents a wish for an easy delivery for the mother and wide social
recognition for the child.
When her husband returns home, her mother or an appointed woman performs curakan, throwing coins mixed with rice and flowers towards a
crowd of boys and girls each of whom eagerly struggles to get the sown money more than
his/her fellows. The curakan expresses an expectation
that the child should not be stingy and should care for others, especially the needy.
After curakan an ordinary slametan is held in the house, either by reciting tahlil or marhabanan.
The brekat served in the slametan is signified mainly by the presence of rujak (fruits salad) among the dishes, from which ngrujaki, meaning to treat with rujak,
the name of the ceremony, is derived. Rujak, my
informant said, serves as a reminder to both the expectant parents and society. Rujak is composed of various fruits and spices, with a great
variety of flavours: sour, sweet, hot, salty, bitter and many other tastes. If it is
properly mixed, it becomes delicious. People who eat rujak will taste all these things.
In its allegorical meaning, as soon as a
women bears a child and becomes a mother, and as soon as a man becomes a father, they are
considered to be fully functional as social beings. They have various tasks and
responsibilities to carry out for their own household and for the society; they are at the
same time parents, guardians, teachers, feeders, protectors and members of the society.
They will eventually experience a great variety of emotions and feelings as indicated by
the rujak; sadness, gladness, happiness, grief,
dissent, annoyance, cheerfulness, pleasure, displeasure. All have potential for causing
problems; yet, if handled wisely and generously, they can entail real happiness.
It is the hope for wisdom and generosity, delicacy and happiness which is implied in the
Although a baby at the age of seven months in the womb has become a complete human
being, it still needs a process of maturation which normally takes about two months and
then, at nine months, it is born. Giving birth, especially for the first time, is a
precarious event for a woman. Both her own and her child's safety are at stake. To expect
an easy, smooth, less painful and safe birthing process, in the ninth month of pregnancy
people pray to God by means of a slametan called
nglolosi. Nglolosi involves offering bubur lolos, to be distributed among neighbours and
Nglolosi belongs to the second type of slametan already described. There is no invitation, no
gathering and no formal du'a in the house, only hope
and desire in the heart accompanying the offering or sedekah in the form of bubur lolos.
Birth and after birth
Although more and more people prefer to give birth in hospital, or in a special clinic
(Klinik Bersalin), or send for a trained nurse
(bidan) for help, there are many others who do not do
so for a certain reason or because they are unable to afford the cost. When pregnancy is
around seven months, a midwife (dukun bayi) is
contacted. After that she makes periodic visits to the pregnant woman, her new client, and
makes the necessary diagnosis and treatment (mostly by massage) to set the baby into the
proper position. Her crucial role comes when the birth takes place. After this eventful occasion a small slametan, or more properly a thanksgiving called bancakan is offered.
Rice and other foods are put together in flat containers (cekedong) made of banana leaves, to be distributed to young
boys and girls from neighbouring households as if announcing that there is a new junior
child among them. This is the first slametan offered on
the occasion of a new born child. The second slametan
is puputan, performed when the navel cord falls off
(puput). This slametan involves offering sega bugana
(tasty rice cooked together with coconut and chicken), to be distributed among the
neighbours. The word bugana, derived from corrupted
Arabic bi-ghina meaning with abundance, is said to
represent the hope that God will nourish the child with abundance. For some, puputan is also used as an occasion for naming the child.
The next slametan is in relation to the
“hair-shaving.” The first “hair-shaving” is when the child is 40 days old; on this
occasion, red and white rice porridge (bubur
abang-putih) is offered in the morning (around 10.00 a.m) as bancakan. In the evening, especially for well to do parents, a
formal slametan called kekah (from Arabic ‘aqiqah), a purely
Islamic offering explicitly established by the Prophet for naming and shaving, is
performed. On this occasion one goat or sheep for a female and two for a male baby are
The ceremony takes the form of marhabanan,
with precisely the same things as performed in muludan,
as are used to commemorate the birth of the Prophet. When the participants chant marhaba (while standing), the father takes the baby amidst the
participants, followed by an assistant who brings a tray with flowers, perfume and a pair
First, the most distinguished participant performs a symbolic shaving by
cutting some of the baby's hair, then the father moves with the baby slowly to the other
participants one by one, each of whom takes a turn in the symbolic shaving. In the
meantime his assistant gives a flower and sprays the perfume over the one who has just
taken his/her turn to cut the hair. When everyone has taken his turn the baby is
carried back to the bedroom.
In practice the real “hair-shaving” is done the next morning.
The hair is weighed, then its weight is equated with the weight of gold whose current
price becomes an amount of money that the parents, on behalf of the baby, should offer to
Further “hair-shaving” occurs at intervals when needed. When the time comes, bubur lemu, bubur kule and sega
aking is respectively offered as bancakan at
the second, the third and the fourth of hair-shaving. Finally, a slametan called ngundun lemah is held to celebrate the child touching the
ground for the first time.
This is a fairly large slametan, carried out only by the well to do, usually in the morning. Its
special features appears at the brekat where a ladder
shaped stick with an artificial flower on the top is planted on piled rice. In addition,
in the midst of the dishes there are a number of toys representing either womanly or manly
work tools, such as an artificial bolo knife (golok-golokan), scissors, needle, comb, and mirror, depending on whether the
child is female or male. These toy tools signify the hope that the child will grow into a
diligent and handy worker and the mirror signifies the hope that the child will be an
independent and introspective individual.
Although Shrieke, B. (1921, 1922), as quoted by Wessing (1978:132), speculate that
circumcision in Java already existed before Islam came, on Java the practice of male
circumcision, or the removal of the foreskin, is an indication of the triumph of
Islam over the long established earlier religious traditions. Its current
prevalence and the idea that circumcision is a sign of being a Muslim is clear evidence of
It is true that circumcision is not mentioned in the Qur'an and is observed
not only by Muslims but also by other communities as well, especially Jewish and
non-Muslim communities in eastern Indonesia, but the fact is that on Java and other Muslim
worlds, circumcision has become a sign or hall-mark of Islamic practice. In Islam, its
roots are embedded in the hadith that states that Abraham, the great prophet, was
circumcised when he was 80 years old.
The Cirebonese literary traditions even say that circumcision was initially
practiced by Adam as a sacrifice, to express gratitude as soon as God accepted his
repentance. In addition, as the traditions imply, Adam did this as an outward expression
that he would always keep his bodily organs clean. This outward expression is to show that
his inward repentance was sincere and everlasting.
Almost everyone in Cirebon, as is the case in Java, considers circumcision (sunat) as a requirement since in this way a Javanese becomes a
Muslim, regardless of whether or not he will later fulfil the standards of piety. Another
refined Javanese word (krama) for circumcision is
nyelamaken meaning to Islamise. Thus, for a Javanese,
one could stay single or always be poor throughout life, but to stay uncircumcised is
A boy of circumcision age will be deeply embarrassed when his playmates tease
him for being a Chinese because he has not been circumcised. It is a common expression in
Cirebon that a boy who has no courage or is reluctant to be circumcised will later become
a Chinese (dadi Cina). The notion of being a Chinese
does not refer to being ethnically, racially or socially Chinese; rather, it is a form of
mockery in that, to be a Chinese is to be a non-Muslim and this, in their religious terms,
is quite an embarrassment despite the fact that materially most Chinese are
As a result of this peer group pressure it is often the boy himself rather
than the parents who proposes his circumcision. Parents may propose a circumcision but in
most cases the decision is made when the boy himself shows willingness or even asks his
parents. Usually, it comes when he is between seven and ten years old. The ceremony may
range from a simple or just safe one (padu slamet bae),
to a large and elaborate celebration, depending on the parents' material well being and
Once a decision is taken the necessary preparation is made. The first thing is to set
the date, which is usually decided by discussion between the boy's parents, grandparents,
or other elderly close kin. Consideration may be based on pitungan, common sense or convenience.
Next, talks will be held concerning how
elaborate the ceremony should be, the approximate costs, the number of people to be
invited or involved, and other technical details. When everything is decided the house is
cleaned, a practitioner either a physician, a paramedic, or a specialist (dukun sunat) is contacted. A few days before the due date,
close kin and relatives come with contributions of raw materials such as rice, sugar,
beans, coconuts and chickens. A festive atmosphere around the house begins to develop two
days before the celebration while overall preparations continue.
One day before the circumcision, early in the afternoon, the child is bathed and
dressed in either fancy aristocratic or santri clothes.
If both are to be worn, one set is worn in the afternoon and the other in the evening. The
boy is treated like a king or a groom called the penganten
sunat (circumcision groom). Led by an elder, he is put on an ornamented
horseback or a becak to visit and put flowers
(ngembang) on the graves of his parents' closest
deceased kin. On this occasion, on the way to and from the grave complex, he is
publicly paraded with a festival manner, usually accompanied by drums (genjring) or other musical performance, barong sae dance or the like, to attract more on-lookers along the way.
Participants are mostly boys and girls especially his playmates, peers, and kin.
Most circumcisions are held either in the evening after ngembang or in the morning around 7.00 a.m of the next day. At either time
the boy is first bathed, ceremonially dressed and taken to the site for circumcision. Some
people prefer going to a physician or a paramedic to circumcise their children, either for
reliability or for prestige; others prefer a dukun for
both reliability and cost. In Kalitengah, Pak Surur's son was circumcised by a dukun who was paid Rp. 15,000.00 (approximately A$. 12.00) for
the operation. The process took just a few minutes, and within four days the wound healed
and the boy was able to wear pants. Pak Jaelani's two sons were circumcised in hospital
for Rp.25,000.00 each (about A$ 20.00) plus the additional cost for a car rented to go to
the hospital; the wound took two weeks to heal.
Traditionally, if the circumciser is a dukun, the
operation is done in the yard of the house. The boy is put on his father's or an
authorised individual's lap. The dukun squats down
facing them, teaches the boy the proclamation of faith, utters a prayer and circumcises
the boy. If the circumciser is a medical doctor or a paramedic, the boy is taken by car to
the operation room, lies down on a mattress, is circumcised and taken back to the house.
After being circumcised, the boy is laid down on a mattress in the front room. His friends
and peers come to congratulate him with presents, so do the adults who come and give him
some money while saying: “Congratulations, you are called a real male” (Slamet ya, sira wis lanang bener).
The evening after ngembang is the real celebration,
the peak of the circumcision feast at which, for those who can afford it, there is some
sort of entertainment such as an orchestra or wayang
performance. Special guests, mostly men, come along that evening. They are
welcomed and led to sit on chairs to enjoy the entertainment, if any, and are served with
foods. When a guest asks permission to leave for home, while shaking hands for fare-well,
he passes a named envelope containing some money as his contribution to the host who is
holding the kajatan.
Women guests, on the other hand,
mostly come for bebuwuh or kondangan in the afternoon, pass their contributions to the hostess; in
return, unlike their male counterparts, they are provided with a small brekat. An ordinary brekat
is served at the slametan held the next morning to
conclude the celebration. All guests at the slametan
are men and are specially invited to recite prayers led by an imam who is usually the most prominent local kyai. After finishing reciting prayers, either marhaba or tahlil, they are served with
food along with the brekat which is specially provided
to be taken home. After the slametan the celebration of
the circumcision is completed.
Although a girl is also circumcised, usually as an infant, her circumcision does not
have ceremonial significance, probably because it is largely symbolic. It is her marriage
which is of important ceremonial significance. The intensity of the ceremony is at least
comparable with a boy's circumcision.
There is no clear limitation on the age at which one is allowed to marry but there are
certain restrictions concerning whom one can marry. Older people say that the minimum age
of akil-balig, legal responsibility, is after a girl's
first menstruation (around twelve) and after a boy's first ejaculation during dreaming
(around fifteen years old). Currently, a girl rarely marries before seventeen, whereas a
boy will marry after being able to produce enough cash (wis bisa
menggawe) and be potentially independent. A sign of this potency is when he
stops bothering his parents for money for his own basic expenses, although he still lives
and has meals with his parents. A clearer sign is when he occasionally gives his
parents, especially his mother, a present of money.
As in other parts of Java, the first marriage in Cirebon is basically arranged by
parents, although today, unless the parents have a very strong argument, the boy's voice
is mostly heard. Parents usually, directly or indirectly, keep a close watch on whom their
children fancy and they will show their agreement or disagreement. In accord with Islamic
marriage law marriage among siblings, including half siblings and one's breast siblings
(sedulur sesusu), and relatives across the
generational lines, are prohibited.
The first step in a marriage arrangement is nakokaken or an inquiry about the current status of the girl. The boy's
parents or their authorised agents come to the girl's parents asking formally whether the
girl is available and whether there would be any objection if they take the girl to be
The degree of formality in the procedure depends on how acquainted the
parties are; the more acquainted the less formal is the procedure. However, compared with
other Javanese (Geertz, 1976:53–54) or Sundanese (Wessing, 1978:141–142) the Cirebonese
seem to be more direct and to have less metaphorical expressions in dealing with this
matter. In most cases a set of preliminary and informal talks is carried out by a
mediator, usually a middle aged man or woman, called jomblang who goes to and fro on behalf of both sides.
When an agreement is reached the nakokaken process
becomes more straightforward and it is only a sort of formality as the real decision is
already known. This leads to the next step called nglamar (formal asking) which is taken a few days later. Although basically
nglamar means to ask for, in practice, in
Cirebon, its meaning has turned into a declaration that the boy and the girl are
formally engaged (bakalan). Lamaran and engagement may
be very simple involving only two or three people coming to the girl's parents, or it may
be elaborate involving a large number of people, depending on the social standing of both
Its focal point is the presentation of a gift from the prospective groom to the
prospective bride which ties them to a commitment to marry. The tying-gift (penetep) can either be jewellery, usually a ring, money, or
both put in decorated boxes, accompanied by other things especially food; all are
presented on trays. Except among some urban dwellers, in Cirebon, a ring is only provided
for and worn by the girl and thus, the so called tukar
cincin (exchange of rings) ceremony to signify the engagement rarely occurs
because their syari'ah discourages men from wearing
After the engagement, both sides must still meet to discuss the marriage date and
other related matters, especially when these things have not been decided at the nglamar. When everything is agreed upon, the next step is the
marriage contract (kawinan). To celebrate the
completion of this contract, a wedding party or ceremony is held, first in the bride's
family's house called munggah (in Central Java,
kepanggihan or temon) and, a few days later, in the groom's family's house called ngundu mantu. It is this celebration, whose intensity ranges
from very simple (padu slamet bae) to the most
elaborate (gedean, meaning a big feast). The simplest
form involves inviting neighbours, close relatives and selected friends, to come and be
served with food. The most elaborate procession is an enactment of court marriage
The current Indonesian Marriage Law (No. 1/1974 Part-I, article 2) states that a
marriage contract is valid only when the couple has passed through the religious
ceremony which, in fact, is a long established practice. The government records the
occurrence and gives the necessary advice and service to ease the procedure. For Muslims,
especially in Cirebon, the marriage contract is usually concluded at the girl's house; it
can take a day or more before the wedding or be on the same day just a few hours before
the wedding ceremony.
From his household, the groom and his group leave for the bride's
family house. They are welcomed and led to sit on carpets or mats on the floor at the
front room of the bride's house or in a nearby tajug
where the contract will be concluded and where elders and distinguished persons of the
bride's family, usually local kyai, who will witness
the contract or ‘akad nikah, are present.
Along with the marrying couple the Islamic law necessitates the presence of a
wali (legally responsible guardian according to
Islamic law) and two witnesses. At the due time, an official of the Ministry of Religion
at the Kecamatan level (naib, literally meaning
substitute) assisted by a Desa official called PPN (Pegawai
Pencatat Nikah, the desa official who is in charge of recording marriages)
comes and inspects the required documents for the marriage registry.
When everything is
correct he calls the groom to sit closely facing him. He also calls the bride and asks her
whether the marriage accords with her own will; if so, she is required to say verbally
that she will marry the groom, and pronounces the declaration of faith (syahadat).
Then the naib
asks the wali whether he (the wali) himself would like to administer the procedures of the contract
(akad nikah) or trust it to him (the naib). A distinguished kyai
usually prefers to perform the ceremony by himself whereas most ordinary people prefers
the naib to do it. The akad
nikah consists of the ijab and kabul, shortened into ijab-kabul.
Ijab is the utterance of the wali, or the
naib on behalf of the wali, stating that he marries the bride to the groom; the words may be like
this: “Brother so and so (he mentions the name of the groom), I marry the girl (or the
woman) named so and so (he mentions the name of the bride) to you with the
marriage gift (mas kawin) consisting of such
and such (he mentions the amount, volume and value of the gift), paid in cash (or debt).
Kabul, on the other hand, is the groom's response,
either in Arabic or the local language to the ijab,
saying that he accepts the marriage of the bride to him with the marriage gift as stated
by the wali. In local Cirebonese language it may be:
“Trima kaula nikahe or kawine si Anu (the name of the
bride) kalian mas kawin kang kesebat wau,” (I accept
marrying so and so with the marriage gift as stated).
The witnesses observe the groom's
utterance and proclaim it adequate, thus, making the marriage valid. After ijab kabul, the ta'lik talak
(a vow entitling the wife to divorce from the husband in case of his mistreatment), is
uttered by the naib and the groom repeats word by word.
The procedure is concluded with a prayer for the well being of the new couple and their
marriage. The prayer is led by someone, usually a kyai
or the naib.
Then the groom kisses the wali's hands, shakes the hands of those who are present and,
finally, food is served. When the wedding party is not held immediately, the groom and his
party go back to their home until the time when a group, sent by the bride's family, come
to the groom's house to fetch (mapag) the groom and
bring him and his group to the bride's house where the wedding ceremony is held. After
that the groom stays in the bride's family until a group sent by his family come to fetch
the new married couple (penganten), for another similar
celebration (ngundu mantu). The couple stay with the
groom's family for ngundu mantu, then they return to
the bride's family and stay there for an undetermined period. It is common to find a new
family with two or three children living with the bride's parent's household.
The purpose of the wedding ceremony is to express both joy and thankfulness as well as
the expectation of well being. One purpose is the display of the newly married bride and
groom to the public proclaiming that their relationship is lawful. After 4.00 p.m, dressed
in either traditional court or European style wedding clothes prepared by dukun paras (wedding stylist), the couple are seated on a
double seated chair in the fully decorated front room of the house. After giving
their gifts, guests, mostly the bride's and groom's friends, come to offer
congratulations. With a short break around sunset this exposition continues until late.
the evening of the wedding day, well to do parents sponsor an entertainment group such as
an orchestra, wayang, tarling opera or sandiwara (theatric play). In this case, the guests, mostly
the parent's guests, are seated on chairs set under a decorated tent built in the front
yard. While enjoying the performance they are served with food. Upon leaving, the guests
pass an envelope containing money to the host while they are shaking hands (salam tempel), as occurs at a boy's circumcision. The money is
their contribution to the host who is holding the ceremony. Each contribution is carefully
recorded and will be repaid (as a returned gift) at least at the same value sometime later
when the contributor holds a similar occasion.
A slametan, is held the next morning around 8.00
a.m., The invited guests consist of neighbouring household heads, relatives, elders and
distinguished kyai. Wearing sarung, shirt and topong (cap), they sit
on mats on the floor in a rectangular formation facing foods and dishes in the front room
of the house where the bride and the groom were displayed the afternoon and evening
Other guests sit on chairs, with one line facing the other, separated by tables,
on which brekat, food and dishes are also laid. On
several occasions I saw no less than 60 or 80 people at the gathering. When the time comes
and there are no more guests to arrive, without any formal speech, the host or the
authorised person requests the appointed kyai to begin
the proceedings with either tahlil or marhaba concluding with a du'a. On one occasion, only the du'a was
recited, after which the host requested the guests to eat by saying: “Mangga dikresakaken mawon sawontene” (“Please have what is
provided”). The guests start eating, while talking together. When they have eaten they
then ask permission from the host to leave the gathering. They shake the host's
hand while bringing with them the brekat,
that is the basket(s) containing the food specially provided to be taken home.
Variations occur in procedures before the bride and the groom are seated. There are
rituals such as siraman (bathing), kerikan (shaving eyebrows or other parts of facial hair),
tuggak jati leluhur (visits to ancestors’ graves),
sungkem (prostration on the parents’ lap), nugel lawe (cutting threads), ngidek
endog (breaking an egg with the foot) and sawer (chants of advice). These rituals, which are really enactments of royal
traditions, may or may not be included in a wedding ceremony, depending on individual
preference and social standing. The akad nikah or
ijab kabul, the religious procedure which legitimates
the relationship of the couple, the actual act of the marriage contract, is the core of
the marriage process among Muslims, whether they are devout or only statistical Muslims.
Without it there is no marriage; other sections of ritual, before and after akad nikah or ijab kabul
such as lamaran, ta'liq thalaq, prayer, various forms
of celebration and wedding party, elaborate or simple, including slametan, large or small, are secondary rituals which can be left out
without jeopardising the validity of the marriage. All these belong to adat.
Islam recommends such a celebration although the way of the
celebration is not specified and thus, provides room for local adat. It is interesting however, to ask, why most people, the Javanese Muslims in
particular, tend to make the marriage celebration important, elaborate, and in fact,
costly. One answer may be drawn from Pak Mardjuki:
For Muslims, the union of husband and wife is sacred or holy. Unlike eating and
drinking which end up in producing dirty residue, the husband-wife relationship is to
produce descendants. As a noble undertaking, generating descendants should not be done
at any time and anywhere at will. A newly married couple are the ones who will start
such a sacred and noble thing, producing descendants and, thus, the parents should
make all possible efforts to create an atmosphere where the new couple feels
honourable and happy. This is to signify an expectation of good, honourable and happy
descendants. As the most honourable and happiest individuals known on earth are a king
and queen who are just, wise and thankful to God, the bride and the groom are also
supposed to be treated like such a queen and king.
Eickelmann may be right in stating that deaths and funeral ceremonies in their essence
show the most consistent features throughout the Muslim world, more so than the other
rites of passage.
In Cirebon, as in other parts of Java, when someone is seriously ill, neighbours,
friends and relatives feel obliged to see and cheer the ailing person (tetilik, meaning to have a visit), usually bringing something
(gegawan) the ailing person likes to eat, especially
fruit. When the illness is thought about to bring a death, the Testimony of Faith is
whispered in the ailing person's ear and he is expected to repeat it (nyebut).
His/her bed and lying position is adjusted so that the
head is at the east and the feet at the west enabling the face to turn to Mecca. The
Qur'an is also continuously recited especially Surah Yasin (QS. 36), to ensure that the
person, if he dies, would die in a fully religious atmosphere. At the point of death the
eyes are closed, the jaw is bound with the binding going over the top of the head so that
the mouth is also closed. The arms are put over the lower chest, the right palm over the
left in a position as in prayer and the whole body is covered with a sheet (tapi or kain panjang). The
lebe (desa religious official) is sent for and the
relatives and neighbours are informed.
When a Muslim dies the syari'ah requires the living
to bathe the corpse, wrap it with white clothes in a certain manner, pray for it, bring it
to and bury it in a Muslims burial complex. Not surprisingly, when someone hears that a
person has died he feels that he should come to the dead person's house; women, in
particular, bring a bowl or container covered with handkerchief. It is filled with rice
and some money conveyed to the dead person's family as a contribution for the funeral.
This visit is called nglayat. Along with nglayat people work together to care and bury the corpse; this
working together is called rerewang. The funeral, if
possible, is carried out quickly on the same day the death occurs. When the death occurs
late in the afternoon the burial is postponed until the next day but the caring of the
corpse is done early in the evening keeping the corpse over night ready for burial.
A divan for bathing the corpse is put near the well where a tankful of water
containing herbs and flowers is ready. The corpse is laid on the divan, pillowed on three
sections of a banana tree trunk at the nape, waist and legs. The bathing, during
which the corpse's genitals are never let exposed, is led by a specialist or
lebe, involving the dead person's close relatives,
especially the older children. After the bathing is finished the corpse is taken and put
on mats in the front room of the house, the head is at north and the feet south.
bodily orifices are closed with cotton and the whole body is perfumed, embalmed with herbs
and wrapped in seamless clothes of white sheets and tied in around its feet, waist and top
of the head. A litter is placed along the west-wall of the house onto which the corpse is
placed. A long garment is spread to cover the litter; flowers in strings are put across on
the litter to honour the dead, with the ends hanging loose on both sides. A funeral prayer
(salat jenazah) is performed over the corpse together
led by either the lebe or, most commonly, a local
kyai, followed by a short speech on behalf of the
dead person's family requesting people to forgive the deceased. If the deceased had some
debt, the debtor is requested to contact the family for repayment. Then, accompanied by
people chanting the confession of faiths, the corpse, shaded with an umbrella, is carried
to the grave yard where a grave has been dug and is ready for the burial.
jump into the grave, the corpse is lifted from the litter and passed on to the three
people standing in the grave who, after the call for prayer (adzan) is recited, put the corpse on its right side in the smaller hole in the
grave facing the west. The head is on the north and the feet on the south; the tie of the
shroud is loosened and the face is exposed so that the cheek touches the ground. Planks
are laid to cover and protect the dead body from the dirt that is pushed into the grave
raising the grave mound about 30 centimetres above the ground. Two wooden poles as grave
markers are erected, one in the north, about the chest, another one in the south about the
knees of the buried body. When all is completed, talkin
and tahlil are performed. Concluding with a du'a for the
well being of the deceased and the survivor family, the burial comes to an end after which
all the mourners return to their homes or jobs.
In the evening after burial people gather at the dead person's family's house
(ta'ziyah) to cheer the surviving family and pray for
them and for the deceased's well being. They recite the Qur'an, especially Surah 36
(Yasin), and then tahlil. On the third day after the
death (nelung dina), food is served in a slametan. The ta'ziyah
proceeds for seven nights and on the seventh night (mitung
dina), food is again served along with brekat. This slametan, in which tahlil is performed, is again held on the 40th day (matang puluh), 100th day (nyatus), first anniversary (mendak pisan),
second anniversary (mendak pindo) and finally, 1000th
day (nyewu or mendak ping
telu) or third anniversary, with the last slametan, marked by the erection of a brick tomb with grave stones over the
Some informants relate the practice of the commemorative slametan to the decaying process of the dead body before it
finally dissolves altogether into the soil. In normal conditions, it proceeds through
seven stages; the first stage is three days after burial when the corpse is believed to
swell. The second stage is at the seventh day when the swelling reaches its culmination
and explodes. After that the flesh dissolves and begins to decay. After forty days (third
stage) the decaying process of the flesh is accompanied by a slow but sure movement of the
body. The head becomes erect, as do the knees while on the 100th day (fourth stage) the
decaying body turns from a lying to sitting position. The process goes on until
the feet move backward and the head forward.
In one year's time (fifth stage), the head
reaches the knees. In two years time (sixth stage), when the flesh has completely
disappeared the feet reach under the bottom and the head comes to the knees until finally,
in three years time or 1000 days (seventh stage), all the bones are gathered together
before finally dissolving gradually into the soil. The gathering together of the bones in
the dissolving process, especially the movement of the head, is believed to repeat, in the
reverse direction, the growing process of a baby (also in seven stages) when it was in the
mother's womb. According to local traditions of eschatology rooted in Sufi doctrine
(Syattariyah), this dissolving process has mystical significance. Each stage deserves
concern and it is for that reason the slametan are
Plate 10: Pagersari-kraton on "Muludan" ceremony prior to the "Panjang Jimat"
Plate 11: Kraton religious officials on "Muludan" ceremony prior to the "Panjang
Plate 12: A group of circumcision grooms.
Plate 13: A circumcision groom on becak returns from "ngembang" at his elders'
Plate 14: A circumcision ceremony.
Plate 15: A circumcision groom on display.
Plate 16: A carnival to fetch the groom for "munggah" ("marriage ceremony").
Plate 17: Seated: The bride, the groom and the Penghulu at a marriage contract.
Plate 18: A seven month pregnant woman is bathed at "Ngrujaki" ceremony.
Plate 19: Water with flowers, and a young yellow hybrid coconut crafted with Qur'anic
verses and coin inserted used at the "Ngrujaki" ceremony.
Plate 20: The bathed pregnant woman at "Ngrujaki" ceremony.
Plate 21: Chanting "Marhaba" to honour the pregnant woman.
Adobted from the Book