Traditional communities in Indonesia existed long before the arrival of Islam to the country’s shores. When this religion arrived via trade routes, whether or not it wanted to, it had to compromise with many of the preexisting traditions of the society here. This marriage between the sacred values of heaven and more earthly concerns has been tough, and sometimes wracked by conflict. However, as can be seen on Lombok in the West Nusa Tenggara region of Indonesia, religion and culture can indeed work together in harmony to produce a spectacular display that has also become an important tourism asset.
I witnessed an amazing spectacle in the village communities of the Wetu Telu, which are based in Kecamatan Bayan in North Lombok District. To celebrate the birth of Muhammad, the last prophet in Islam, these traditional communities organise the so called Maulid Adat in Bayan Beleq Mosque, which is believed to be the oldest mosque in Lombok.
The presentation of this centuries-old tradition proved to be full of colour and inviolability. The celebration lasted for three nights and reached its peak on the full moon of the fifteenth night of Rabiul Awal, which this year fell on Friday, 18 February. Almost everyone from Wetu Telu took part in the splendid festivities.
The full moon was shining brightly when I arrived at the village of Bayan, a 90-kilometre drive from the city of Mataram, the capital of Lombok and the international gateway to West Nusa Tenggara. The courtyard of the Bayan Beleq Mosque was crowded with the congregation.
There was no electric lighting, as there is no electricity here yet. The main source of illumination was a dile jojor, which is a torch made of bamboo, a cotton twist, and some biji jarak (seeds from a tree used to make castor oil).