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 ‘Gawe nyiwu’, alms from the dead

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PostSubject: ‘Gawe nyiwu’, alms from the dead   Sat Jan 23, 2010 12:01 pm

Saturday, January 23, 2010 10:59 AM

Gawe nyiwu’, alms from the dead

Panca Nugraha , The Jakarta Post , North Lombok | Fri, 01/22/2010 12:39 PM | Culture
A parade of alms bearers are heading for berugak sekenem (shelter) led
by contributing kyai (religious figures wearing a white head cloth),
toward Raden Supardi’s house, who is holding a gawe nyiwu for his late
nephew in Karang Raden hamlet, Tanjung village, Tanjung district.
JP/Panca NugrahaGiving alms to the poor is not
just the preserve of the living. In North Lombok regency’s Tanjung
district, the dead can also play a part. Meant for not only
widows and the destitute, but also religious figures and communal
chiefs, the alms are given through gawe nyiwu, a ritual still observed
in the area.Raden Supardi’s home in Karang Raden hamlet, Tanjung
village, Tanjung district, is crowded and hectic on this late November
morning. Since dawn, local residents have been helping him prepare for
gawe nyiwu.Much
of the preparations take place in the house’s yard. Men weave bamboo
baskets and women prepare cakes, snacks and fruit to be carried in the
baskets. The berugak sekenem, a six-pillar shelter without walls, built
in the yard, is already neatly draped in white cloth to symbolize
sanctity.Meanwhile, Supardi and his family are readying all
kinds of produce and household goods, from unhusked rice, corn and
goats, to mattresses, shoes and cell phones, all newly purchased.The
gawe nyiwu, from the local Sasak dialect, is held on the thousandth day
of a person’s death. But unlike a similar ritual performed by
mainstream Muslims, the highlight of this tradition is the sorong
sadakah or almsgiving. The household goods and 44 types of food will be
handed over as alms.Supardi is holding the ceremony for his late
nephew, Raden Kharisma Dwi Pratama, and four close relatives, Raden
Jaya Kusuma, Mekel Rumisah, Juminah and Inaq Jun.“My nephew
never fulfilled his wish to buy a cell phone or shoes, and our parents
may never have gotten the chance to give alms to the poor in their
lifetime either,” he tells The Jakarta Post.Once everything is
ready, the people of the hamlet and guests are served food until the
call for the Friday prayers echoes from the nearby Bokuq Samaguna
Mosque.For the communities of Karang Raden and Karang Bayan in
Tanjung village, the ritual is not just a religious observance, but
also a moral and communal obligation to serve the interests of
ancestors and deceased relatives.“It’s been passed down from our forefathers, so it’d be unwise to skip it,” says Supardi.The
local community, despite being predominantly Muslim – and devout to
boot – still holds on to the animist wetu telu set of customs, from
which the gawe nyiwu comes. The former’s procedures and local wisdom is
passed down through the generations and held in high esteem amid the
advancement of modern ways.“A person who dies leaves behind a
grave, but when a custom dies, where do we find it?” says cultural
observer and Tanjung village chief Datu Artadi.“That’s why we’re trying to preserve these customary and cultural ways.”He
adds the wetu telu covers adat urip, or customs for the living, and
adat pati, or the customs for the dead. The former consists of
childbirth, circumcision and weddings, and the latter involves rituals
carried out during a funeral and after certain post-funeral periods.The gawe nyiwu is the final ritual in the adat pati series. After the funeral ritual, there is the mituk,
seven days after the person’s death, followed by the nyiwak (nine days
after) and nyatus (100 days), finally leading to the nyiwu, or
1,000th-day event.The other rituals must be observed on time,
but the gawe nyiwu can be held whenever the family is really prepared,
because of the effort needed and the high cost incurred, sometimes
reaching hundreds of millions of rupiah.The gawe nyiwu runs for
three days, from Wednesday to Friday, beginning with the removal of the
deceased’s headstone by their family for cleaning, and its restoration
to the grave. On Thursday, religious verses and customary manuscripts are recited in the berugak sekenem shelter. Written in ancient Javanese script, the texts tell of Tapel Adam, or the creation of Adam.On
this Friday afternoon, people from Karang Raden and Karang Bayan line
the alleyway to Raden Supardi’s home, carrying the baskets for the
handover. The men sport turbans and traditional sarongs, while women are dressed in kebaya, the traditional long-sleeved blouse.When
the time comes, the baskets are handed over one by one to the
recipient. The receipt of the alms is concluded by a handshake between
the two clerics. After this peak come prayer recitals, before local residents gather round to get the alms. “Besides
the philosophy, the ceremonies we’re preserving here are also meant to
foster togetherness and mutual assistance — ideals that are dying out
in urban areas,” says Tanjung village head Datu Tashadi Putra.He
adds that of the 10 hamlets in Tanjung, only Karang Raden and Karang
Bayan have consistently stuck to these traditional values. With
a combined population of about 650,000, the hamlets also share the same
ancestral customs of the wetu telu as the community of Bayan district
in North Lombok, where Lombok’s oldest mosque, Bayan Beleq, remains in
good condition.The local mosque here, Bokuq Samaguna, though not
as old as the 17th-century Bayan Beleq, is believed to have been built
during the reign of the legendary Javanese Prince Diponegoro in the
1890s.Tashadi points out the wetu telu is not a religious teaching, as many wrongly believe, or an Islamic sect.“The wetu telu isn’t a religion that obliges its faithful to pray three times daily,” he says.“It’s a customary norm with all its rituals and wisdom still fully practiced.”The
wetu telu also refers to the three realms of life — religious,
administrative and customary — that are meant to be symbiotic and lead
to harmony in life. Tashadi says it also implies the three fundamental
relationships: between men, between man and god, and between man and
the universe.
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