Kirab Satu Suro; the Javanese New Year

The Suro Month is a special month for the Javanese as it marks the coming of a new year in the Javanese calendar. In Solo, Central Java,  Kirab Satu Suro (the first of Suro parade) is the highlight of the unique new year’s event, a colossal tradition for hundreds of years.

Celebrated for 250 years since the reign of the ancient Mataram KIngdom, led by Sultan Agung Tirtayasa, this event is held on the eve of the first of Suro by Kraton Hadiningrat Surakarta, to honor the coming new year and to seek blessings and prosperity from God.

The ceremony is open to the public. Visitors will be allowed to enter the palace on several conditions, you have to wear a Samir – a type of yellow fabric with red edge- that can be purchased at the palace’s secretariat office for around Rp 20,000, you are also required to wear a batik top, and footwear is prohibited in the palace area.

suro java new yearMad Scrambling For Food

Close relatives of the royal family also gathered in one of the great pavilions. They sat around a long table filled with fears of assorted food. The event began with a joined prayer guided by a spiritual leader of the palace.

After the prayer, the royal distributed food to hundreds of people crammed into the gates of the palace. Everyone thronged forward and tried to get a scoop of the food, a chaotic situation I wasn’t overly comfortable with. They believe if they accept the food, even only a handful, it will later bring fortune into their lives.

Arrival of Kyai Selamet

Approaching midnight, the sea of people slowly split apart to make way for Kyai Selamet, an important and anticipated guest of the event. But don’t jump  to any conclusion just yet. What I thought would be a holy person turned out to be pink-skinned buffalos known as Kebo Bule. From year to year, the number of buffalos participating in Kirab Satu Suro has varied from a couple to around a dozen.

suro jawaFor Solo residents and other locals from surrounding regions, these buffalos are regarded as saviors and are very sacred. Therefore, if a stray pink buffalo was found, no one would dare to bother it, let alone to kill it. Although this might sound disturbing, even the waste of Kyai Selamat is believing to bring prosperity and many blessings in the future and thus is also collected and fought over during the event.

Witnessing Kirab Satu Suro was very interesting. This timeless tradition enlightened me to the fact that the New Year does not need to be welcomed with wild parties. It should instead be greeted with prayers, hope and a positive attitude for the future.

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