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 Waging war to promote tolerance in Lombok

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PostSubject: Waging war to promote tolerance in Lombok   Wed Jan 28, 2009 10:29 pm

Panca Nugraha , The Jakarta Post , West Lombok | Tue, 01/27/2009 5:39 PM | Lifestyle

War is usually associated with violence and bloodshed between two opposing parties, but this is not so in the case of the Topat War in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara.

Here, hundreds of community members from both the local Hindu and Muslim communities gather not for an outburst of hatred but for a celebration of tolerence.

The tradition, which has been carried out from generation to generation for hundreds of years in the village of Lingsar strengthens harmonious ties between Muslim and Hindu residents.

Every year, people from the village of Lingsar hold the Topat War in the Lingsar Pura *Balinese Temple*, which was built in 1759 during the rule of Raja Anak Agung Gede Ngurah, a descendant of the Bali Karangasem King.

The unique thing is that inside the temple complex there are two big buildings; the Hindu Gaduh Temple and the Muslim Kemaliq Mosque, which is used by the local Sasak Muslims for customary ritual ceremonies.

These two buildings stand side by side, they are not separated.

Because of its uniquenes, the Lingsar Temple complex was officially recognized by the government in the 1990s as a place of culture worth preserving.

The Topat War is always conducted on the 15th day of the seventh month of the Sasak calendar, or during the full moon of the seventh month. On the calander of Bali's Hindus, the was falls on the full moon of the sixth month, which was in December in 2008.

At the ceremony Hindus perform odalan or the temple celebration, by conducting a Pujawali (prayer ceremony). Meanwhile Muslims conduct an event to celebrate the life of Raden Mas Sumilir, the Muslim missionary from Demak, Central Java who spread Islam to Lombok in the 15th century. "It is possibly only in Lingsar that you can find a big event being conducted that involves Hindus and Muslims at the same time and in the same place together.

"Although our versions are different, Hindu members carry out Pujawali to respect Batara Gunung Rinjani (the god Batara who lives on Mount Rinjani), Batara Gunung Agung and Batara Lingsar.

"We who are Muslims follow a heritage trail in remembrance of the service of the spreading of Islam by Raden Sumilir," Suparman Taufik, head of the Topat War committee who is also the head organiser of Kemaliq Lingsar, told The Jakarta Post.

The two communities begin by preparing offerings for their respective gods at the Lingsar Temple complex. In the Gaduh Temple, Hindus begin by preparing banten, or offerings, for the Pujawali. Meanwhile in Kemaliq Sasak, Muslims, led by the Kemaliq *organiser* prepare Kebon Odek *Bumi Kecil - Small Earth*, fruits and other natural products which are also offered up.

The offerings are then carried in a procession around the Kemaliq building accompanied by music played on traditional instruments.

Topat or ketupat, *rice cakes* which are boiled in a rhombus-shaped vessle of plaited young coconut leaves as big as an adult fist play a crucial role in the ceremony. While the banten and the Kebon Odek are being offered up, thousands of community members and visitors congrgate in the yard of Kemaliq, waiting in for the topat to be distributed, so a communal throwing ceremony can begin.

The ritual of throwing the topat is carried out at the same time as the rarak kembang waru, the shredding of the leaves of flowers.

Over the past 15 years, the Topat War has become one of the province's biggest tourism attractions. Last months event was ceremonially opened by Deputy Governor Badrul Munir, who threw the first topat to the residents crowded in the Kemaliq yard.

The communities scattered, snatching up and throwing the topat. The community groups were divided into two: those in the higher up Gaduh Temple yard and those in the Kemalliq yard.

Loud shouts erupted as children, teenagers, adults and even housewives joined in the communal throwing. Far from being terrifying and frightening this war was full of hearty laughter, as people tried to dodge the flying topats.

"It's exciting too, though there is also the horrific feeling of being struck by some topat. But it's fascinating. It's said that if someone is struck by a thrown topat that means that you will get blessings," Ayu, 35, a housewife from the Lingsar community who took part in the communal throwing said.

The Topat War continued for around 30 minutes and, afterwards, the community took home the remaining ketupat. It is believed that the topat used in the Topat War has a special quality.

"It's usual that the topat brought home is planted in the rice fields in order to boost the agricultural yield and encourage fertility. It can also be put in merchandise to encourage high sales. This is the tradition," Sahyan, one of the staff members of Kemaliq Lingsar, said.

After finishing the Topat War, the Hindus conducted the Pujawali ceremony in Gaduh Temple, accompanied by a makemit. A makemit involves staying in the temple all night long or meditating while staying in the temple for three nights. Sasak Moslem members in Kemaliq do the same thing.

The heart of the Topat War lasts no more than an hour, but the series of ritual processions goes for two days before the ritual and it wonderfully demonstrates strong religious tolerance between the Hindu and Muslim communities.

A day before the Topat War, the resident of Lingsar conduct the Ngeliningan Kaok procession, in which they walk around the Lingsar Temple complex with two buffalos, which are prepared by members of both religions. They are then slaughtered for gifts and the meat is cooked and eaten together.

As Hindus consider the cow pure and Muslims are forbidden to eat pork the sacrifice is a symbol of tolerance.

"Therefore, in Lingsar Temple people may not bring offerings of cow meat or pork, only fowls or buffalo. If this rule is corrupted it is considered pemaliq meaning it will have a bad impact," the chief organiser of Kemaliq Lingsar, Suparman Taufik said.

He said the procession is to thank God for the blessings that have been given throughout the year.

"There is a more important things the beautiful culture in this Topat War; a long time ago all our ancestors taught us how to have mutual respect and maintain religious tolerance," said Badrul Munir.

Waging war to promote tolerance in Lombok
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