WARNING - THIS BLOG POST IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART. IT IS FILLED WITH GRAPHIC IMAGES OF BLOOD, DEATH, AND ANIMAL SACRIFICES. VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.
This past weekend, I had the honor and privilege to be invited to witness the Tiwah ritual that is part of the Kaharingan Hindu religion. It is when families take the bones of their deceased and move them to what is called a Sandung. This ritual happens very rarely because of the cost to put it on. I was told between 9 and 22 families got together for this one. The last one performed was at least 8 years ago. I will take you through the steps of what I witnessed and you can see the images in the gallery at the end.
This is a banner of all of the deceased being honored in this particular ritual.
I went to Balai Kaharingan and saw one of the Basir, a medium that communicates with the spirits, surrounded by offerings to their Gods. He was chanting in Dayaknese and asking the spirits what kinds of animals they would like sacrificed to them. He will be told what kind of animal, what color, etc. They will get these animals together and start the ritual. This is that medium.
Saturday morning I woke up early and went back to Balai Kaharingan. We were met by Basir Ugoi, the head Basir who invited me to watch the entire ritual. He is the father of my friend Tampung. Here's a picture of Basir Ugoi, me, another Basir, and my friend (and translator) Andin.
We left from here to another part of town where the new Sandung had been placed. These are hand carved huts that the bones of the deceased will be placed in as their final resting place. But before they are put in them, a lot goes on. Here's the new Sandung.
Basir Ugoi blesses the Sandung and the earth around it with oil and rice. A chicken was then sacrificed. They take the blood of the chicken and mix it with the rice and oil. There were 3 pigs already hogtied to pieces of wood when I got there. First, one was sacrificed, and then another. They used a long dagger, about 18 inches, for this sacrifice and stab it into the throat of the animal. I can honestly say the sound that the pigs made will be with me forever. It takes quite a few minutes for the animals to bleed to death, and they scream the ENTIRE time. It's haunting. For the second pig, the man who did the sacrifice actually jammed his hand into the open wound and pulled out what looks like a vein. I can assure you, the pig was alive the whole time.
After the animals are cut, some of the blood is collected and they mix this, again, with rice and oil and Basir Ugoi splashes it around the Sandung to bless them and the area. They then open the older cement Sandung and bless the bones of the deceased inside and pray. The family of the deceased then ceremoniously take out the bones and begin to clean them by hand. They use oil and wipe it all over all of the bones. While this is taking place, Basir Ugoi is blessing the Sandung with oil and praying to the spirits. When the family is finished cleaning, the bones are placed in what looked like silk sacks and filled with money, perfume, bamboo, and palm leaves. They are all blessed and the sacks are placed in the new wooden Sandung. This is their final resting place.
After this, everyone there waited for the pigs that were sacrificed to be cooked. During this time, a lot of people wanted to have their picture taken with me. Everyone was very friendly and happy to have me be a part of this tradition. They were very welcoming. It took a few hours of waiting for the pig to be cooked. Then we ate. After the meal, we drank some beer and then we went back to Balai Kaharingan where the buffalo were being brought for the next part of the ritual.
When we got back to Balai, 5 buffalo were being brought and prepared for the sacrifices, which would take place the following morning. They were brought in one at a time and their horns were decorated with colorful bands. They were tied up to Sapundu, which are like totems of the deceased, and left over night. The Basir and families of the deceased would pray all night long.
I arrived early Sunday morning. The place was packed and the sacrifices had already begun. I'd say around 100 or more people were there to watch this ritual. I missed 2 pig sacrifices (which I didn't mind....I can still hear those screams) and 2 buffalo sacrifices. They were in the middle of the third when I walked up. For the buffalo, the Basir and members of the families take turns plunging a ceremonial spear, called a Lunju, into the buffalo's chest, aiming for the heart. I'd say it took at least 20 jabs to drop these beasts. Surprisingly, the buffalo never make a sound during this. They try to fight off the spear, but don't make any sounds. Once the animal falls to its wounds, its feet are quickly tied, they slice the throat, and they collect some of the blood. The people who took part in the sacrifice take a drop of the animals blood and place it on their forehead and their chest. Symbolically, the blood is considered pure and this gets rid of any dark energy. Then they behead the buffalo and immediately begin to butcher it. The hide will be made into ceremonial drums and the meat is split between the families. And just as we did with the pig sacrifice the day before, we waited for this to be cooked and eaten the same day.
A total of 16 buffalo were sacrificed for this Tiwah ritual. And, from what I saw, at least 4 pigs and one chicken, if not more. Being able to witness this and be a part of it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I never thought I'd see these types of traditions ever performed. I feel very honored to be able to say I was there.
The gallery below shows VERY GRAPHIC images of everything I just described. I documented this event to show what types of religious traditions there are out here. As an American, I can appreciate the right of religious freedom, even though things like this don't take place in America. As a photographer, I find it important to be able to show the world what's out there. What some find barbaric, others may find beautiful and spiritual. There was a lot of love and beauty in this ritual and I hope I was able to show that in these images.
I want to thank everyone who allowed me to be a part of this, specifically Basir Ugoi, his son Tampung, my friend Andin, and everyone else who welcomed me and made me a part of their religious ritual. It was an honor and a privilege.
On Saturday I had plans to go on another adventure out into the jungle. First stop was Nyaru Menteng, a rehabilitation center for orangutan. This is actually a private place not open to the public, but my awesome new friend Allen knows everyone here so I got to go in. Since it's a place for orangutan to get healthy and ready to be reintroduced into the wild, the animals are in cages, so I didn't take any pics of them. I'm not really looking to capture those types of images. And being that it's Ramadan, we couldn't take the boat up river to the island where the orangutan actually live in their natural habitat. Once the holiday is over, you guys will see some wild orangutan. I did get some pics of wild monkeys though. These two babies I spotted is quickly becoming one of my new favorite shots.
After seeing these little guys, we drove about an hour to another "city" called Kasongan. It's like a smaller Palangkaraya, the city I live in. It has more Dayak natives and some REALLY old houses. I took some pics of those you can see in the gallery. This city is also known as the Durian City. Durian is known as "the stinky fruit" because, well, it stinks. I've been told that it's actually sweet and pretty good. I have not verified that. Maybe one day, but not this day.
We drove around for a while checking out the river life there and meeting some locals doing their thing. Then we went to a place called Bukit Batu, "The Rock Hill", which is an area in the middle of nowhere where these giant rocks, that really just don't belong, are just there. Some of them on top of one another. I was told that the locals started digging looking for more to see if they could understand where they came from. None others were ever found. My guess is aliens. Anyway, it's considered a sacred place as this local hero, Cilik Riwut (pronounced tjilik ree-woot) , meditated their and became spiritually powerful. Here's a pic of me by the place he meditated, it's actually on the OTHER side of that, and with a giant statue of him
After this place, we drove back to Palangkaraya and I experienced my first taste of Javanese food. If you haven't tried it, I would highly suggest it. It's delicious.
And that concludes this little jungle adventure. Here's a gallery of some more pics I shot and of me in cool places. Check em out. Thanks for coming by. Check back soon.
I was told about a special ceremony that takes place in the Kaharingan Hindu religion, a specific type of Hindu practiced by the Dayak people of Indonesia. The ceremony is called Tiwah. It's a ritual when they dig up the bones of their relatives and place them in a little "house" called Sandungs (which you saw photographed in my first post). Apparently, these ceremonies don't take place too often because they are very expensive, so I was lucky to find out about one. Now this ceremony has many different parts to it and lasts about a week. I saw the first part....
It started on Friday after school. My co-worker, Ms. Andin, took me out with her boyfriend, Tampung, who is part of the Kaharingan religion. He took me to their "church" which is called Balai Kaharingan. His father is a Basir (priest) there and gave me permission to photograph the event. He showed me the offerings that they give to the Gods and spirits of the deceased. He also performed a ritual on me that gets rid of any bad spirits. Here's a pic of that.
After this, they started the official Tiwah ceremony. This starts with all of the women doing a special dance around these large poles decorated with traditional garments called Batik. The men are playing ceremonial drums. This dance goes on for quite a bit. They have to go around at least 7 times, I think, or until they are tired. They probably went around for about an hour. Each time they go around, they're either anointed with a special oil mix, have a special powder put on their cheeks, or have to eat something in particular. When they are finished, they all go to the large poles and throw rice at it. This whole dance is asking the spirits of the deceased permission to go through with the ceremony. This was the end of the first part. When I was about to leave, they told me I have to come back and sit in on the second part which was taking place later that night. It was really an honor to be welcomed by them. They were very happy that I was interested and taking pictures.
I came back later that night. This part of the ceremony, the Basir all sit in front of the offering table and play a special drum while chanting in Dayaknese, another Indonesian language spoken by the Dayak people. The chanting is them speaking to the Gods and spirits of the dead. It was a beautiful ritual with rhythmic drumming. This goes on all night long. I was there for about 2 hours. While there, I tried a traditional food called manyipa which is a white paste that you spread onto a leaf. I'm not gonna lie, it tasted terrible and made my whole mouth numb. It also turned my tongue red.
The rest of the ceremony involves digging up the bones of the relative, cleaning the flesh off of them, and placing them in the Sandung. The actual digging up of the bones will take place on Tuesday. I doubt I'll be able to go to that, but if I do, I'll definitely post about it. On Friday, they have another part of the ceremony where they behead a buffalo and eat it. And the final part of the ritual is bringing the bones to the Sandung, which will happen next Sunday. Again, I'm not sure if I'll be able to attend any more of this ceremony, but if I do, you guys will read about it here.
Here's a gallery of more pics from this. Saturday I went on another jungle excursion. I'll post about that in another day or two. Enjoy!
I finally "taught" my first classes. I put that in quotations because it was the first class and the students did everything but learn! My first class was second grade and they don't like to stay in their seats. And they all love to talk at the same time. It was tough. Luckily, I have a co-teacher for that class who was able to help me keep them under control, somewhat. But all in all it wasn't as bad as it could have been. The next class was third grade and they were tougher than the second grade! Everyone wants to talk at once and they also love to get up and run around. And I don't have a co-teacher for them. It's just me and 23 little ones. For these first classes I was just trying to get an idea of what they understand and how well they can speak English. They're actually better than I had anticipated, which is a bit of a relief. I'm sure the next class will be better as I'll be more prepared and, hopefully, they'll be a bit less rambunctious.
Today was my first time with the seventh grade. I thought this would be a lot easier. Was I wrong! Getting them to talk to me was like pulling teeth! And I had them for 2 hours! I'm pretty sure it took a good hour and a half just to get them to open up and stop being shy. They can all speak English pretty well and can definitely understand most, if not everything, I was saying. The books for this class hasn't come in yet so I'm sure once I have a lesson plan, things will go much smoother.
To clear my head after school, I've been going for walks around the neighborhood. It's really quite beautiful in it's own way. I grab my camera and walk around for about an hour or so just shooting things I find interesting. I fee like a celebrity too because EVERYONE stares at me. A lot of people say hi and some people even stop their cars or roll down their windows to say hi. It's pretty funny. For all I know I'm the only white person around. At least I haven't seen any others. If I ever feel down, these people put a smile on my face. Some love having their pics taken and chase me down in order to take it. Here are some of those people and some other things I find interesting. I'll be going on another Jungle adventure this weekend to see some orangutans and who knows what else so you'll be seeing cooler stuff soon. Enjoy!
July 15, 2013 was my 31st birthday! Sadly, they don't celebrate birthdays out here. Weird, right? In America everyone celebrates their birthday for a week! It was also the first day of school. Since the first day is all about orientation, and it's all done in Bahasa Indonesian, the local language, I didn't need to participate. So the day was pretty uneventful. But the awesome principal of the school, Ms. Reni, who was the same person I corresponded with for two months before taking the position, went out and bought me a cake and got everyone I work with to make a big deal about my birthday. It was really sweet and made me feel special. Being thousands of miles away from home, and not being able to celebrate my birthday with my twin brother, this really helped me get by. So here's a picture of the Golden Christian School crew. Can you spot me?
I made it to Palangkaraya, Central Borneo on July 8, 2013 after 3 days of traveling, including 4 flights. It was nice to finally get into a bed. I was hoping for a shower, but don't have access to one of those yet! I came here after accepting a position teaching English at the Golden Christian School. I was looking for something different, after being unemployed for 3 years back at home, and looking for an adventure. Needless to say, I think I found it. I haven't started school yet. It actually starts tomorrow (my 31st birthday!). I'm very nervous. I've never taught before but I don't think it will be as bad as my imagination is making me think it will be....
The other day I went on my first jungle excursion. It was really incredible and beautiful. I took quite a few pictures while I was out. We started at the Kahayan Bridge. After shooting some pics there I was taken about 30 minutes outside of the city to a sacred Hindu site called Batu Banama, which translates to "A rock with a name". This is where families place the bones of their relatives into these little huts.
I was then taken to a little village just up the road from there where they still sift through the river looking for gold. You can see these big gold sifters in the third picture in the sixth row. The last few pics I took after hopping out of the car in random spots. I'm hoping to get to see some orangutans next weekend and do some more exploring.
Thanks for stopping by. Keep checking in for more pictures and stories. Feel free to leave a comment. Not many people here speak English so it would be nice to have some form of communication with people.