Photos: Indonesia volcano draws thousands for ritual sacrifice

Thousands of Hindu worshipers climbed an active volcano in Indonesia to throw cattle, food and other offerings into the smoking crater in a centuries-old religious ceremony.

On Monday, devotees swarmed over the edge around Mount Bromo’s basin, dragging goats, chickens and vegetables over their backs to the dusty peak as part of the Yadnya Kasada festival.

Every year, members of the Tengger tribe from the surrounding highlands gather at the top of the volcano in hopes of pleasing their gods and bringing good luck to the Tenggerese, an indigenous group in East Java.

Slamet, a 40-year-old farmer who, like many Indonesians, only has one name, brought a cow calf as a sacrifice.

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“We have a lot of cows at home and this one could be considered excessive, so we’re bringing it here … to give it back to God,” Slamet said.

“This is also an act of gratitude to God for bestowing prosperity… We give it back to God so we can come back here next year.”

The calf had a lucky escape, however, as it was handed over to a villager after Slamet’s prayers rather than being sacrificed to the volcanic cauldron.

Some villagers who do not belong to the Tengger tribe went into the steep slopes of the crater, equipped with nets, in an attempt to intercept the sacrifices thrown into the abyss and prevent their loss.

Joko Priyanto, a farmer, brought some of his farm produce in the form of cabbage and carrots to plunge into the smoky void.

“I hope I get a reward from Almighty God,” said the 36-year-old.

Monday’s ritual marked the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic that authorities have allowed tourists to visit the site.

The festival, which was restricted to believers last year, has its roots in 15th-century folklore from the Majapahit kingdom, a Javanese Hindu-Buddhist empire that spanned Southeast Asia.

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According to legend, a princess, Roro Anteng, and her husband, unable to bear children after years of marriage, begged the gods for help. Their prayers were answered and they were promised 25 children, as long as they agreed to sacrifice their youngest child by throwing him into Mount Bromo.

Their son is said to have willingly jumped into the volcano to ensure the prosperity of the Tengger people.

For shopkeeper Rohim, who threw potatoes, leeks and cash into the lava, it was a chance to pray for good luck. He said his fortune had improved after previous visits to the volcano.

“Business is better than before, hence my arrival here,” said the 32-year-old.

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“I hope my business can improve so I can come back next year.”