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Events and Ceremonies

Tuanku Luckman Sinar Basarshah II in Ceremonial Procession
Tuanku Luckman Sinar Basarshah II in Ceremonial Procession

Each community of Malay culture has specific rituals and ceremonies which are still being trusted by them, and believed the ritual have close relation with supernatural beings or spirits. Just also Serdang Sultanate has rich tradition of rituals and ceremonies which are considered as the oldest Malay cultures. The rituals are still being performed by the ethnic Malay community of Serdang, as they were the one who received the cultural influences from Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam.

The Ceremony of Jamu Laut

One of the ritual processions performed in Serdang Malay society is the ceremony of Jamu Laut (sea offerings), which is one of the rituals to ward off misfortune. The ritual procession is intended to give offerings to spirits of the sea (jimbalang) who are believed to have close relation to each other in the Malay community. This ritual is derived from the old Malay society who lived and existed in accordance with their beliefs and customs. This belief and this ritual are in the same origin with the ancestors of the nations in the archipelago; it is of Asia Indo-Chinese which came hundreds of years ago.

The Role of Sea Handler

The ceremony of sea offerings is performed at least three times a year by the fishermen who live at the coastal areas. The ceremony is held if seems the sea has been decreased in producing fish than as usual, or when many fishermen had accident at sea on fishing. Therefore, it held the ritual  and ask the person to lead the ritual.

Sea handler is a person who is believed to have magical power and able to master the supernatural beings or evil spirit which occupy the sea. The person who called as “Pawang laut” Sea handler. Some of the restrictions are as follows: plays an important role in lives of fishermen. He becomes a mainstay of the fishermen to communicate with unseen things on the sea. The fishermen believe that the spirits would be angry if anyone breaks the restrictions. The Malay community of fisherman in East Sumatra (Serdang) believes that the disruption of sea spirit might only be resolved by 

  • Prohibited to catch fish at the sea on every Friday, from the sunrise (06.00) until the sunset (18.00).
  • Prohibited to catch fish at the sea on days of Islamic big events, from the sunrise (06.00) until the sunset (18.00).
  • Prohibited to catch fish at the sea on the independence day of the Republic of Indonesia (August 17), from the sunrise (06.00) until the sunset (18.00).
  • Prohibited to fight on the sea or around the estuary.
  • Prohibited to slam fish intentionally or unintentionally.
  • Prohibited to drop or take the fish from betel leaf as a bait before noon.
  • On the day and the day after the ritual is not allowed to catch fish in the sea.

The status of sea handler is obtained from hereditary family legacy. Generally, he is an elderly, who knows and has deep knowledge of the genealogy of the hometown and the place for the ritual, and memorizes all the Prophets and Messengers of Allah and understand all of them. He is considered as the origin man because of God's power to protect the fishermen, as well as morally responsible the continuity of his community. He is trusted to protect them while fishing at sea and keep the area from any diseases.

The daily life of Sea handler remains equal with the other, either as fishermen or supervisor. He did not get the privileges. However, a Sea handler should be an example and in complete control over the restrictions as well as eradication of immoral acts, such as gambling, drinking alcohol, prostitution, and so forth.

The Ritual Time

The traditional ritual ceremony of Sea offerings should ideally be implemented once for four years, but it's not obligation. It is usually adjusted with the advent of "sign" (usually a dream) perceived by sea handler. The civilian believed that the "sign" is following the interest and the state of the community, such as the fish on the sea began to less. However, the day of rituall can not be chosen any time.

Term of the execution time of ritual is usually performed on 1, 5, and 30 in the Hijri month or in the month of July and August. The length of time required for the ceremony is determined by an agreement between Sea handler, traditional leaders or representatives of Serdang Sultanate, representatives of local government, community leaders, religious leaders, and other community members. The ritual usually lasts for three days, seven days, or nine days.

Kinds for Offering

The fishermen believe that the entire ocean is controlled by supernatural beings, demons or evil spirits. The civilian call them Mambang Sea. According to their belief, Mambang Sea is divided into eight power resides in the eight compass points. Each ruler of sea known as: Mayang Mengurai, Laksamana, Mambang Tali Arus, Nambang Jeruju, Katimanah, Panglima Merah, Datuk Panglima Hitam, and Babu Rahman. Four of them are the leaders, which are Datuk Panglima Hitam (ruler of the north), Mambang Kali Arus (ruler of the south), Mayang Mengurai (ruler of the eastern part), and Katimanah (ruler of the west) .

At the midpoint of the four-way power ruling the sea (north, south, east, and west), the offerings are located. The place to put the offerings has previously been determined through consultation between the indigenous leaders, community leaders, local government representatives, and the. The location of the offerings should be located in a vast expanse of land, believed to be clean from sin and certainly does not interfere with the trees around it. In addition, the location must contain a historical value for the civilian (commonly the place is believed as the first came) and the location is easily to be visited by the public. sea handler

The offerings that will be presented in a ceremony of Jamu Laut are called “Ramuan Jamu Laut”.  Each of them has a specific meaning as well adapted to the customs and socio-cultural interests of the local community. The offerings consist of:

  • One plate of white rice
  • One plate of yellow rice
  • One plate of black rice
  • Unclean Bartih
  • Clean Bartih
  • One dish of potpourri flower
  • Kaffir lime and lime-fence
  • Frankincense and fresh flour.
  • Images of various types of fish (sea resources) made of lead, which is the smallest fish, such as bleary fish up to the big fish like pomfret fish, tuna, jenahar, shrimp, crabs, and others.
  • Five fabric colors for the flag, yellow, white, black, blue, and green.
  • One stick of Nibung
  • One dish of cake
  • One goat and one black rooster.

Ritual Procedures

The ritual implementation follows the ways and conditions that differ in their respective coastal areas. All depends on demand from Sea handler. For example, in the performing of the ritual Jamu Laut in Serdang Malay community which was held at Cermin Beach had differences with another Malay community in East Sumatra (North Sumatra). The ritual performed by Serdang Malay community at Cermin Beach, both belief and culture, creating a social phenomenon of Serdang Malay community in giving support to the ritual.

The places where the ritual will be performed are categorized into several sections. First, the area devoted to the preparation for the ritual, usually at the living room or the village hall for deliberation. Second, the place reserved for the entire participants of the ceremony, usually at the coastal area within about 300 meters into the sea. Third, the special place for the Sea handler for delivering the offerings, for example at Jaring Halus Beach and Cermin Beach.

The ritual ceremony of Sea Offering consists of several stages, besides the preparatory stages, are: (1) fixation of the banner and manufacturing the halls, (2) slaughter of the animals, (3) drain of the beach and take of the offering, (4) pledge and pray, (5) publication of restrictions, and (6) eating together.

First of all, the ceremonial hall is established. It is a modest building that was built at the location. The hall is built with tree trunks, no walls, and the roof is palm leaf matting. It lies lengthwise and parallel to the coast. These halls are used to put the offerings and there are believed as a place to welcome the spirits. In the hall, the sea handler rises the flag to call the spirits of the sea. In addition, he spreads the flowers and put the offerings dedicated to the rulers of the sea.

All members of the community are expected to contribute their best rice, used for the ceremony and eating together. Furthermore, there was provided a piece of bamboo measuring 6 meter to stake the flag and the banner equipped with a white cloth measuring two meters. On the white cloth, there has been written the sentence of Syahadat using Arabic-Javanese letter. The flag and the banners remain uphold for seven days prior to the ceremony.The calculation of the days is deemed appropriate to the date 13, 15, or 17 in BC calendar. All of these were done by the Sea handler at the sunrise.

At the ceremony hall, sea handler rises the flag to summon the spirits of the sea. The flag is tied on the piece of bamboo and established on two places at the location of the ceremony or ritual and one more is to be established in 100 meters far from the location of the ceremony. This is believed as a notification to the spirits of the sea that there will be held a ritual ceremony of sea offerings. It also means a warning for the community to to maintain cleanliness around the location of the ceremony.

Furthermore, there are provided the goat and rooster for the offerings. Both animals had been caged since the night before the ceremony. Before the slaughter, both animals were washed first by Sea handler using water of flower. In the next morning after Morning Prayer, the Sea handler leads the slaughter of both animals. The place of slaughter carried out over a small hole to collect the blood. This indicates the merging process of blood with soil containing a symbolic meaning, namely “the closeness of the relationship between living things, especially people with the environment”. Once slaughtered, the goat and the rooster cut separately into two parts. The head, the bones, and the skin packed to be presented to the spirits of the sea. While the meat is finely chopped and cooked and eaten together.

As the sunrise, offering ceremony is started and led by sea handler along with religious leaders and community leaders. As he established the banner and the flag, Sea handler is facing the Qiblah for a moment and reads the spells and splashes water of potion onto the flag and the ground where the pillar flag established. In addition, sea handler is also laying flowers and then puts the offerings and will be spread into eight directions of the compass.

The next procession is parading the offerings along 2 miles from the coast, in a place that is believed as a border base of turbulence. When the procession stopped, all the participants stood facing the Qiblah. Furthermore, one religious leader read Salawat under the sound of adzanSea handler to read the spells followed by the religious leader to pray, then all the participants left the ceremony with restriction to not look behind. (prayer call) in silence. After this, its turn for

After the main procession was over, then proceed with the submission of advices containing giving directions and guidance of life from local government representatives. In this words of advice means that the government also contributes and confirms the ritual as one of the activities of the community. After that, the committee invite all participants to eat food together. All participants must have ascertained the food to eat because it is believed that the ritual will not be perfect and will not reach its destination if there is one of the participants who did not or do not share meals together. Finally, after eating together has been finished, there will be held a prayer led by religious leader, then the whole participants return back to their home.

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