New Year is often associated with party and fireworks, but not in Yogyakarta. A traditional ritual, called Tapa Bisu Mubeng Beteng, is held annually in the first day of Suro – the first month in Javanese calendar* – to commemorate the Javanese New Year. The residents of Yogyakarta Palace, mainly Abdi Dalem – people who dedicate themselves to serve the king, and the public walk barefoot around the Yogyakarta Fortress (Mubeng Beteng) in silence (Tapa Bisu). When undergoing the ritual, they pray for the welfare and well-being of themselves, their family, their people, the nation and country, both outwardly and inwardly.
*The Javanese traditional calendar, as well as Islamic calendar, is based on cycles of lunar phases which consist of 12 months in a year of 354 or 355 days.
photo source: santapjogja
Abdi Dalem dressed in traditional Javanese dark blue clothes without carrying a kris (a traditional Indonesian dagger with a wavy blade), walking barefoot while carrying a flag or pennant. photo source: jogjanews
What can we learn:
Learn to Travel:
Talking, eating and smoking are prohibited during the ritual
Make sure to have dinner before going to this event so that you have energy to walk along the fortress (approx. 4 km)
Behind the sacredness of this tradition, Mubeng Beteng has deep meaning. It can be interpreted as an expression of concern, a meditation, a contemplation of self-introspection on what has been done in the past one year, as well as an expression of gratitude. The silence throughout the ritual symbolizes serenity, which represents the human reflection on God.
This tradition has existed since the reign of Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono II as a form of devotion of the people towards the king. Some people believe that the ritual of Mubeng Beteng was originated from the routine of imperial guards who patrol around the fortress to keep the palace safe. After a trench was built around the fort, the patrol duty was transferred to Abdi Dalem.
Regardless of the myths around this tradition and the month of Suro, we must acknowledge that evaluation or introspection is necessary before the turn of the year to improve ourselves and create a better year ahead.