DixPix Photographs

     

INDONESIAN ARCHIPELAGO

 
     
  RELIGION, CEREMONY, SUPERSTITION  

 

Indonesia has been described as the most populous Muslim Nation, but it is Islam with its own flavor.  With the possible exception of the Aceh region in northernmost Sumatra, most of the harsher mandates which distinguish that religion in the Middle East are ignored here.  There are also customs which have been grafted in from older religions and superstitions, and given the huge number of tribal cultures, this adds a welcome spectrum on interpretations of Islam.  On top of this, there are also groups and areas where other religions dominate, mainly Christianity, and of course, a form of Hinduism in Bali.  There is also a substantial and influential Chinese population throughout the region.   Some of the more remote areas still harbor tribes which are basically animist, and a few of these are discussed under Indigenous Tribes.  Despite the onslaught of science and the monotheistic religions, many habitants have a deep respect for ancient superstitions and what might be called witchcraft.

 

A worker repairs the roof of a village mosque in Sumatra.  The moon and star symbol is universal for Islam. Click to see big picture (640x473 pixels; 58 KB)
Women are seldom seen in clearly Muslim dress  They are also free of the more outlandish restrictions on association with men in public. Click to see big picture (569x480 pixels; 124 KB)
Children hold out a basket in hopes of coins from passing motorists.  This can be for a range of causes, but here appears to be religious in nature. Click to see big picture (449x480 pixels; 61 KB)
Muslims are not supposed to partake of alcohol, so let us say that these are posing with a westerner's horde. Click to see big picture (640x409 pixels; 81 KB)
Actually the Indonesian beer is to be recommended, and they can bundle a dozen with string in this form so that it is rigid for transport.  "Bintang" means "star". Click to see big picture (546x480 pixels; 94 KB)
Drunkeness is not common to see in this largely Muslim region, but here in the port of Sandakan, Sabah is an exception. drunk
This is a traditional house from central Sumatra, named for the matrilineal Minagkabau Culture, although the Batak's and others seem to have similar styles.  The roof horns are supposed to prevent bad spirits from landing.  A Muslim symbol has been added to hedge bets. Click to see big picture (640x456 pixels; 99 KB)
Moderns Minagkabau houses can adorn the roof horns with religious symbols as on the left, or with more practical lightning rods as on the right. Click to see big picture (640x400 pixels; 78 KB)
Again in a village in central Sumatra, a joyful procession.  I am told that this is a suitor coming to propose marriage. Click to see big picture (640x412 pixels; 93 KB)
With a percussion band like this out front, I doubt if the target woman will be taken by surprise. Click to see big picture (640x411 pixels; 100 KB)
Muslims are not allowed to eat dog, it is classed as one of the "unclean" animals.  Here in the largely Christian northern Suluwesi, however, Fido is sold by the kilo in the market and considered a delicacy. Click to see big picture (640x428 pixels; 110 KB)
And while in that market why not pick up a singed rat for finger-food.  Alas this is also not on the Muslim menu (nor mine). Click to see big picture (640x428 pixels; 94 KB)
Also from northern (Minahasan) Suluwesi, near the village of Sawangan, there are 144 megalithic stone sarcophagi called 'waruga'.  The bodies have not been buried, but placed in these stone crypts. Click to see big picture (640x467 pixels; 147 KB)
This sarcophagus is known as the 'mother waruga' as it shows a woman giving birth.  Each one is distinct. Click to see big picture (485x480 pixels; 125 KB)
Also megalithic is the Watu Pinawetengan stone with cryptic markings. It was once a site where territorial disputes were settled, and still is considered sacred and potent.  Approach bare-footed please. Click to see big picture (449x480 pixels; 114 KB)
For much of its long history, Watu Pinawetengan was the site of sacrifices.  Now it is used for various ceremonies, and offerings of liquor (in bamboo tubes) and betel nuts or cigarettes are common. Click to see big picture (640x339 pixels; 67 KB)
Witchcraft is still an undercurrent throughout the Indonesian archipelago, and supplies such as this are available openly in markets. Click to see big picture (640x446 pixels; 107 KB)
In several places, evidence of pre-Islamic art have been preserved.  Both the Hindu cosmology and Chinese folklore have warrior monkeys, but our toothy friends here are likely just stray demons. Click to see big picture (640x453 pixels; 125 KB)
For the most part, pre-Islamic statues appear to relate to the Hindu religion, which preceded Islam through much of the region. Click to see big picture (640x392 pixels; 94 KB)
Some traditional dance costumes from Bali also show the demon influence in their interpretation of Hinduism. costumes
And, of course, it is in the island of Bali that a form of Hinduism has been preserved.  Here a sacred statue is kept festooned with flowers and food offerings. Click to see big picture (317x480 pixels; 79 KB)
The two most striking things about Bali shrines are the tall, layered temples, and the carvings, often of fierce, mythological creatures. hindu symbols
Ritual offerings at sacred sites are very important on Bali, and form part of the colorful traditions that have made this small island the tourist center of Indonesia. Click to see big picture (640x452 pixels; 110 KB)
One of the more intriguing sacred (and tourist) sites is the Goa Gaja, also known as the Elephant Cave, although one enters through the mouth of a demon with no elephant in site.  It is an ancient and somewhat enigmatic carving, which was only re-discovered in fairly recent times. Click to see big picture (640x423 pixels; 129 KB)
It seems that there are temples everywhere on Bali, most of them in the classic multi-layer style.  This one on the island's west coast is the Pilgrimage Temple, Pura Tana Lot, a major tourist site. Click to see big picture (640x409 pixels; 82 KB)
This temple grouping is the Pura Taman Ayun, which was originally the royal temple of the Mengwi Empire. Click to see big picture (322x480 pixels; 61 KB)
While higher on the flanks of the Mt. Agung volcano is the outstanding Basakih Temple group. Click to see big picture (640x448 pixels; 89 KB)
Funeral processions, especially for a male from a higher caste deceased, are colorful and chaotic. Click to see big picture (640x456 pixels; 139 KB)
The cremation tower is carried through the streets on many shoulders with a raucous band.  The body is in the central layer of the tower, as between heaven and earth. Click to see big picture (631x480 pixels; 131 KB)
The procession of funeral offerings are carried on special hats. offerings
The final cremation, tower and all, is believed to release the soul for reincarnation. Click to see big picture (341x480 pixels; 87 KB)