Muslim village, Balinese culture

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Anton Muhajir, Contributor, Buleleng | Thu, 09/25/2008 1:07 PM | Surfing Bali

Night descended slowly on Pegayaman, a village nestled in a hilly region in the southern part of Buleleng. The quiet ambience was gradually filled with the noise of people getting ready to break their fast.

Groups of children walked along the village’s dusty main road. In their hands were plastic bags filled with cakes and fruits. They chatted animatedly as they delivered the plastic bags to the homes of their relatives and neighbors.

The children were carrying out ngejot; the Balinese-Hindu tradition of sending food-parcel gifts to relatives and neighbors, which is practiced in this predominantly Muslim village.

Ngejot illustrates the close relationship enjoyed by the village’s population of around 5,000 people and underlines their willingness to share.

Food gifts usually include traditional cakes, such as jaja uli and dodol, and fresh fruits.

Ngejot is carried out faithfully by members of the village during the fasting month of Ramadan and other Muslim celebrations.

The tradition signifies the close cultural affinity between members of the Muslim village and their surrounding, pre-dominantly Balinese-Hindu environment.

Ngejot is customary in major Balinese-Hindu rituals and temple festivals, during which people send gifts of food, usually lawar (shredded vegetables with minced meat) and satay, to their neighbors, relatives and traditional leaders.

The perbekel (head) of Pegayaman village, Ketut Asghor Ali, said the tradition demonstrated that the people of Pegayaman practiced many of the cultural traditions that belonged to Balinese-Hindus.

“As long as that tradition does not violate the basic tenets of (our) religion, then I think it’s OK. After all, ngejot is all about extending good will and sharing, which are social values promoted by every religion,” Ketut said.

Several Muslim villages in Bali practice the ngejot tradition. In the village of Kepaon in Denpasar, for instance, Muslims send the food gifts to their Hindu neighbors during Ramadan.

The Balinese-Hindus in the village make a similar gesture during their Galungan and Kuningan festivals.

Muslim villages in Bali were built during the island’s feudal, pre-independence period, which explains their adaption to the surrounding Hindu communities compared to that of Javanese and Lombok migrant communities that have relocated to Bali in the last three decades.

These “old” Muslim villages included Kepaon and Serangan in Denpasar, Loloan in Jembrana, Lebah in Klungkung and Saren in Karangasem. Each village shows a different degree of acculturation with its cultural host.

Pegayaman is arguably the Muslim village with the highest degree of cultural acculturation, and ngejot is a small part of the whole picture.

The people of Pegayaman have also incorporated elements of Hindu festivals into their Muslim festivities: Prior to any major Muslim festival, residents of Pegayaman carry out several preparatory stages, including penyajaan (the making of cakes), penapean (the making of fermented cassava) and penampahan (the slaughter of animal). These stages mirror the ones undertaken prior to the Galungan and Kuningan celebrations.

The only difference is the type of animal slaughtered: Hindus sacrifice pigs while Muslims sacrifice cows.

During Muludan, a celebration of Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, the people of Pegayaman hold a colorful street parade, which includes the Balinese Ogoh-Ogoh, a papier mache giant doll carried by Balinese Hindu in a street procession to celebrate the Hindu new year.

The parade also features Sokok Basa and Sokok Taluh. The former is a multi-colored decoration while the latter is a dish made from chicken eggs. Both are similar to that used in the Balinese Hindus’ Gebogan.

A troupe chants sacred verses during the parade using the Balinese-Hindu chanting melody known as kidung. Moreover, Hadrah musicians join the parade dressed in traditional Balinese attire.

However, acculturation goes beyond the religious rituals: The Pegayaman farmers manage their rice fields and clove and coffee plantations through subak, the Balinese traditional irrigation organization.

Another example of the acculturation lies in the first names of the Pegayaman residents: They still use the Balinese names of Wayan, Made, Nyoman and Ketut, which indicate first born, second born, third born and fourth born, respectively.

The residents also use variations of those traditional first names, such as Nengah, Putu and Kadek, while their last names are mostly derived from Arabic and other popular foreign words.

For example, Muslim resident Nengah Panji Islam named his children Putu Ayu Maziyya, Made Eva Nadya and Nyoman Alvin Gautama.

“My little brother, who is married to a woman from Solo, Central Java, also insisted on giving his children Balinese first names,” he said.

Nengah said Pegayaman and its cultural acculturation had made Bali a more colorful island.

“The strong acculturation between Islamic, Balinese and Hindu cultures in Pegayaman have bestowed this island with a unique color, an enriching one,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ketut Asghor Ali said social and cultural values could be practiced by members of different faiths without impinging on the sanctity of each respective religion.

“The acculturation we have practiced here in Pegayaman sometimes makes me wonder why there are certain groups in Indonesia that insist on imposing Islamic law in this country,” Ketut said.

“Why should we impose our law on people of different faiths? Islam has multi-interpretative teachings. How can we ask (people of different faiths) to accept Islamic law while Islam itself is still divided into Shiite and Suni, which until now are still struggling to find a common ground,” he added.

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