Yadnya Kasada: The Javanese Volcano Festival

Overview of Mount BromoPhoto:
Image: Nature Explorer

Soaring nearly 8,000 feet high above the East Javanese horizon, Mount Bromo coughs up deadly pillars of toxic volcanic steam, sand and sulphur. But the locals don’t run from this giant tourist draw. They climb towards it. This time of year, you see, is when they feed the volcano.

Inside the crater of Mount BromoPhoto:
Image: Thomas Hirsch

The annual festival of Yadnya Kasada is observed by the Tenggerese people of Indonesia in remembrance of the legend of Roro Ateng, an historic Queen. Mythology holds that Roro Ateng bargained with the great volcano for fertility, promising to repay its gift of children with the sacrifice of her youngest offspring.

Each year, pilgrims journey to the top of Bromo to appease the great stratovolcano with whatever meager offerings they have, including food, animals, and money. They offer their sacrifices and prayers for happiness and good health, and that the mountain gods won’t send rivers of lava raining down the ancient slopes.

Javanese man selling flowers for </p> <p>sacrificePhoto:
Image: Alex Lapuerta

The disenfranchised of East Java don’t have to wait long for their prayers to be answered. The poorest among them gather during the month-long festival and await the sacrificial day. For, as the others shower gifts into the crater, geophysics won’t let those gifts stay for very long. With fishing nets and blankets at the ready, the Javanese poor collect the gods’ rejects and head home a little richer than before.

The festival, held unfailingly since the 15th century, guarantees a small, but reliable, cash bonus to a few lucky Javanese each year.

Sources: 1, 2