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 The Battle of Rice Cakes

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PostSubject: The Battle of Rice Cakes   Sat Jan 23, 2010 12:03 pm

The battle of rice cakes

Panca Nugraha , The Jakarta Post , West Lombok | Fri, 01/22/2010 12:47 PM | Culture
Ammunition: Sasak Muslims carry ketupat and offerings to the Kemaliq building.A
din fills the front yard of the Lingsar temple complex. Hundreds of
people have congregated into two camps, one Muslim, the other Hindu, to
fight against each other, with rice cakes.The Hindu community
occupies the yard of the Gaduh temple, a sacred place for them to pray,
while members of the Sasak Muslim community hold the front yard of the
Kemaliq building, also a prayer spot.After the initial
instructions have been given, the two groups begin hurling ketupat or
topat — rice cakes boiled in a trapezoidal packet of woven coconut
leaves — at each other. A frenzy ensues, with people running for cover
to avoid being hit, then taking up positions to throw more ketupat back
at the others.The event is a unique tradition in Lombok known as
the Perang Topat (Topat Battle), which involves people throwing ketupat
and nothing else at each other.Battles are usually synonymous
with anger and violence, a physical clash between two parties in
dispute. But the Perang Topat in Lombok, which involves hundreds of
people from two different religions, is an event that gives no
impression at all of being hideous or hateful.Rather, this
tradition, which has been passed down from generation to generation for
hundreds of years in Lingsar village in West Lombok regency, is
re-enacted to strengthen harmony between Muslim and Hindu communities.The
battle begins at 4 p.m., a time known as rarak kembang waru (when the
leaves of the hibiscus tree begin falling). The community believes
ketupat thrown at each other can bring blessing.After the
battle, they snatch the ketupat to plant in the rice fields, following
local farmers’ belief that it makes the land more fertile. The rice
cake is also taken to the markets in the hope that it will keep trade
going smoothly.“Since the time of our ancestors, and from
generation to generation, we’ve always carried out this tradition,”
says Lingsar villager and Kemaliq building employee Sahyan.“It’s
usually conducted after a large harvest. It’s an expression of
gratitude to god, and of hope that the next planting season will be a
productive one. It also helps strengthen social relationships with our
Hindu friends.”Every year, Lingsar village engages in the Perang
Topat at the Lingsar temple complex. The temple was built in 1759,
during the reign of King Anak Agung Gede Ngurah, a descendant of the
kings of Karangasem, Bali, who once ruled this part of Lombok.Pretend
war: Muslims and Hindus hurl ketupat (rice cakes) at each other at
Perang Topat at the Lingsar temple complex, West Lombok.The
temple complex is located 9 kilometers east of the provincial capital
Mataram, and is considered unique. It hosts the aforementioned Gaduh
temple and Kemaliq building, and is used for rituals and traditional
ceremonies, both Hindu and Muslim.The two buildings stand side
by side, and in front of each is a jabe or courtyard. Because of its
uniqueness, the Lingsar temple complex has since the 1990s been
declared a cultural conservation site.The village holds its
Perang Topat on the 15th day of the seventh month of the Lombok Sasak
calendar, or purnama sasih kepitu (the full moon of the seventh month);
in the Balinese Hindu calendar, this corresponds to the 15th day of the
sixth month, or purnama sasi kenem (the full moon of the sixth month).On
this night, Hindus celebrate odalan, or the anniversary of the founding
of Lingsar village, by holding their pujawali ceremony. Meanwhile,
the Muslims commemorate the epic journey of Raden Mas Sumilir, a Muslim
scholar from Demak, Central Java, who brought Islam to Lombok in the
15th century.Since midday, community members have gathered at
the Lingsar temple complex. At Gaduh temple, the Hindus prepare banten,
or offerings, for the prayers to pujawali. Over at the Kemaliq, the
Muslims prepare kebon odek, offerings in the form of fruit and
vegetables.The topat are prepared by communities from remote areas around Lingsar village, Hindu and Muslim alike.Once
the offerings have been prepared, they are paraded around the Kemaliq
building in a procession, to the fanfare of traditional musical
instruments.As the procession continues, thousands of local residents and visitors wait in the Kemaliq yard for the topat to be distributed.“Perhaps
it’s only in Lingsar that you can find a big event involving Hindus and
Muslims, which is performed at the same time and place, even though we
have different versions,” says Kemaliq head Suparman Taufik.Over
the past 15 years, the Perang Topat has become an annual tourist event.
This time, it is opened by West Lombok Regent Zaini Arony and his
deputy, H. Mahrip, who throw the first topat into the crowd in the
Kemaliq courtyard.Buildup: Hundreds of people wait for the ketupat to be distributed in front of the Kemaliq building, prior to the Perang Topat.“This
is the only war in the world that is fought without hatred, a war
without casualties, and a war symbolizing brotherhood and tolerance,”
Regent Zaini says in his speech.He adds multi-ethnic West Lombok has become one of the provinces main tourist destinations.“In India, where the majority of the population is Hindu, there is the Taj Mahal of Islamic heritage,” he says.“It’s
the same in Indonesia, where the majority of the people are Muslim; we
have Borobudur, which is Buddhist, and many Hindu temples, and there is
no reason why we shouldn’t live in harmony.“These are the riches of our culture, the colors of culture.”Once
the topat battle is over, the Hindus hold their pujawali ceremony at
the Gaduh temple. People usually go into deep meditation for three
nights at the temple. A similar tradition is practiced by the Sasak
Muslim community over at Kemaliq.For three days, the area around
the Lingsar temple complex is packed with vendors selling everything
from food to children’s toys. The crowd also includes visitors from across West Lombok and from Mataram.The
Perang Topat lasts less than an hour, but the whole series of ritual
processions runs for two days before the actual battle begins.The
day before the highlight of the Perang Topat, the Lingsar community
holds its ngeliningan kaok, a procession with two buffalos around the
Lingsar temple complex. The buffalo are provided by the community, and
later killed and their meat eaten communally.“This is a symbol
of tolerance. For Hindus, cows are sacred, while Muslims are forbidden
from eating pigs. So for a win-win solution we use buffalo,” says
Suparman.“We do not bring offerings made from beef or pork to the Lingsar temple complex. We are only allowed to bring poultry or buffalo. If this creed is violated, the repercussions are serious.”He adds the significance of the whole procession and the Perang Topat is to express gratitude to
god for the good fortune throughout the year. The Perang Topat ritual drew 25,000 visitors to the 2009 event, according to the West Lombok tourism office.“The
cultural beauty of the Perang Topat is that long ago our ancestors
taught us how to maintain mutual respect and safeguard religious
tolerance,” says Regent Zaini Arony.

— Photos by Panca Nugraha
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