The Labuhan Ceremony of Karaton Yogyakarta

Labuhan is from the word Labuh, means to throw away into. The Labuhan ceremony of Karaton Yogyakarta is a ritual offering meant to preserve a long sacred relation between the Sultan of Yogya as the direct descendant of Panembahan Senopati – the first Ruler of the second Mataram Kingdom and the Goddess of the South Sea, Kanjeng Ratu Kidul.

There are other Labuhan ceremonies conducted by Karaton of Yogyakarta in the same day at other sacred places: Mt. Merapi, Mt. Lawu. The offering in Dlepih, about 30 Km south-east of Wonogiri is organized every 8 year in the Javanese year of Dal only.

The Labuhan ritual by tradition is always held one day after the Sultan coronation or commemoration of Sultan’s coronation. The present Labuhan under Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono X is held in the 30th of Javanese month of Rajab for the year 2007, it will be in August 14th. Every year is organized Labuhan Alit (small Labuhan); the 8th year, Labuhan Ageng (great Labuhan) is held.

The Labuhan Ceremony in Parangkusumo

The offering in Parangkusumo to Kanjeng Ratu Kidul is considered as very important ritual for the Yogyakarta Karaton. She has promised to always protect Panembahan Senopati and his descendants and the Mataram Kingdom in time of difficulties. Upon the advice from his wise and spiritually powerful advisers, among other Ki Juru Mertani, Panembahan Senopati was meditating in Parangkusumo, on the beach of the South sea.

The strong meditation had caused a gara-gara (natural disorder), affecting "chaos" in the South Sea Kingdom. She came to the Great Ruler of Mataram by saying that all his wishes were granted by God the Almighty. More-over she vowed her promise sincerely. Thus the agreement had been made, according to the legend of Babad Tanah Jawi (The Legend of the land of Java).

The link between the Kings of Mataram with Kanjeng Ratu Kidul strengthens the legitimacy of the Sultans.

Kanjeng Ratu Kidul is believed to have a powerful and loyal Patih (First Minister) by the name of Nyai Roro Kidul. So the offerings are sent to Kanjeng Ratu Kidul called Pengajeng (leader) and to the Patih, called Penderek (follower).

In the morning the ceremony began under the court official (abdi dalem) in charge, accompanied by many court employees and a lot of people. The offerings are ready. The Jurukunci (gate-keeper) of Parangkusumo solemnly says: Please permit me, my lordly Ratu Kidul. I would like to present the Labuhan offerings for you from your Grandson, the Venerated Lordly Sultan Hamengku Buwono X of Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat. Your grandson requests your blessing, his secured long life, his highly honored kingship, his secured country and people of Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat.

The complete set of offerings have been thoroughly prepared in the Karaton of Yogyakarta and brought by the assigned court employees to Parangkusumo.

The Pengajeng offerings for Kanjeng Ratu Kidul, consist of:

  1. 2 cloths as lower garment with design of cinde sekar.
  2. 1 green breastcloth, Gadung design
  3. 1 brestcloth with motif bangun tulak (dark blue with white color in the middle).
  4. 1 orange bright red breastcloth
  5. 1 breastcloth of papasan mateng (dark blue with red in the middle)
  6. 1 breastcloth of gadung melati (green with white color in the middle)
  7. 1 breastcloth of dringin – yellow cotton with woven gold thread
  8. 1 cloth of cangkring motif
  9. 1 cup of perfume
  10. 1 cup of body lotion
  11. 1 packet of incense
  12. 1 bottle of fragrant incense
  13. 1 small bag containing ten red guilders

The Penderek offerings for Nyai Roro Kidul, consist of:

  1. 1 waistband of red cotton, woven with golden thread
  2. 1 breastcloth, dark-brown with yellow part in the middle
  3. 1 breastcloth-green with white part in the middle
  4. 1 breastcloth dringin, yellow with golden thread
  5. 1 cloth for lower garment of poleng design (checkered)
  6. 1 cloth of tuluh watu motif
  7. 1 waistband of bangun tulak motif, dark blue, white part in the middle
  8. 1 piece of white cotton
  9. 1 packet of incense
  10. 1 cup of perfume
  11. 1 cup of body lotion
  12. 1 bottle of fragrant incense
  13. 1 small bag containing 5 red guilders
  14. 2 packets of withered flowers
  15. 2 small boxes containing hairs and nails of the Sultan
  16. 2 wooden trays
  17. 1 pandanus mat, which has been used by the Sultan, or a piece of cloth used to protect royal heirlooms, and an umbrella which has been used by the Sultan.

After spelling some sacred mantras, the offerings are brought toward the sea-Segara Kidul. The situation is solemn and mystical. Slowly with full confidence, the court employees bravely walk deeper and deeper into the sea, ignoring the huge waves and strong ocean currents. All the offerings "taken up" immediately by the sea. They are floating, being played by the ocean waves. As the ritual is an open ceremony, on the shore, there are many onlookers not only local people but also travelers from other parts of the country as well as foreign tourists.

Some of the offerings are brought back by the waves to the shore. Some try hard to have some parts of the offerings, believing these offered items have invisible power for safety, a good health, better life etc.

The Labuhan Ceremony in Mt. Merapi

Mt. Merapi is another important sacred place for the Karaton (palace) of Yogyakarta. the magical axis of Yogyakarta are: The South sea in the south, The Karaton of Yogyakarta in the middle and Mt. Merapi in the north.
(for detail of Mt. Merapi)

The spiritual rulers of Merapi have a strong traditional relation also to Panembahan Senopati, the first ruler of the second Mataram Kingdom. They promised to protect the safety of Mataram Kingdom and now to Ngayogyakarto Hadiningrat. To preserve the relation, Karaton Yogyakarta assigns a special employee as Jurukunci (gate keeper), stationed in the village of Kinahrejo, in the southern slope of the volcano.

The present Jurukunci is the native of Kinahrejo, his name is mBah (grand-father) Maridjan. His sole loyalty is only to the Sultan of Yogyakarta. A day after the commemoration of Sultan Hamengku Buwono X coronation, the Sultan’s messengers brought the necessary offerings to the house of mBah Maridjan, his name as court employee is Mas Ngabehi Suraksohargo.

The Ritual

The ritual is conducted as in accordance with the long years of inherited tradition. Usually, the ceremony is also attended by a lot of people, wishing to: ngalap berkah – to get a blessing from the Creator of the world. The biting cold temperature in the night in the slope of Merapi is not considered as serious obstacle. Even some people have been waiting the whole night in the place of ceremony which begin early in the morning.

The offerings are meant to honor Eyang Kanjeng Pangeran (The Lordly grand-father) Prince Sapujagad, a great respected leader of the founding-fathers of the second Mataram Kingdom.

Prince Anom Suryongalam; Eyang Kyai Udononggo and Nyai Udononggo and Kyai Juru Taman. Their domains are in several places in Merapi, respectively in the places locally known as: Turgo, Plawangan, Wukir Rinenggo, nearby Selogajah and Gua Rekso.

In the evening a proper preparation followed by a prayer were held in Kinahrejo. At around 4 o’clock in the morning, the procession moved to the place of Labuhan, it took 2,5 hours to reach Kendit. The offerings were carried by some court employees and some are carried by horses.

The items of the offerings are almost similar with the ones in the South Sea, among other important things are: several motifs of "nyamping", cloths for lower garment, destar, headresses, waistbands, "sumekan", breastcloths of several designs, perfume, body lation, incense and fragrant incense etc, a complete set of horse saddle and shoes are also in the list of Labuhan.

The morning cool fresh air of the mountain created more solemn and magical situation of the ceremony.

At the end of the ceremony, some items were distributed to the participants.

The Labuhan Ceremony in Mt. Lawu

The second Mataram dynasty is the descendant from Majapahit Empire, which in the 15th century had governed the territoty of the present Indonesia. Before the fall of Majapahit, the last ruler of the Empire, King Brawijaya V went to Mt. Lawu and lived as an ascetic, accompanied by his loyal servants, Sabdopalon and Nayagenggong. In his last day, it is believed he was ‘moksa’ (goes to eternity and the body also vanished). Since that time, the name of Sunan Lawu is famous (the King who lives in Lawu).

The Sultans of Yogyakarta as the direct descendants of King Brawijaya are obliged to honor their ancestor in the form of Labuhan/offering in Mt. Lawu.
(for detail of Mt. Lawu)

The court employees of Yogyakarta Karaton (palace) as Sultan Hamengku Buwono X’s messengers went to village of Nano in the slope of Mt. Lawu, bringing the offering. They met the village Head, who is also the Jurukunci (gate-keeper) of pesanggrahan (retreat house) Nano. In the evening a "selamatan" / pray was held together with the villagers. Then begin seven hours procession to the peak of the mountain in a place called Argo Dalem. There is a tradition rule that the boxes contained the offerings must be brought by 8 villagers of Nano as they have a very close spiritual relationship with the ruler of Mt. Lawu.

The offerings

The are devided to two groups respectively called:

The Kasepuhan (the leading elders) offerings, among other consists of:

  1. 1 cloth for lower garment with poleng (checkered) design
  2. 1 destar (head dress) with motif of bango tulak
  3. 1 waistband with purple red color
  4. 1 waistband, purple red, woven with golden thread.

The Penderek (followers) offerings, among other consists of:

  1. 1 cloth for lower garment with cangkring motif
  2. 1 cloth for lower garment with gadung motif
  3. 1 cloth for lower garment with teluh watu motif
  4. 1 breastcloth of dringin motif
  5. 1 breastcloth of songer motif
  6. 1 cup of perfume
  7. 1 of body lotion
  8. 1 packet of incense
  9. 1 packet of fragrant incense
  10. old money

besides the above offerings a complete set of Sultan Hamengku Buwono X’s dress were also offered in Argo Dalem.

The ritual in Argo Dalem

The Sultan Hamengku Buwono X’s messengers at 5 o’clock in the morning began the ritual in Argo Dalem. Solemnly, they give the offerings to Eyang (gand-father) Lawu.

After the Labuhan ceremony, all the offerings were brought back to the house in Nano village, to be kept there for one year.

Joglosemar Online is grateful to: Mr. Mulyono for the photos and Mr. Suryanto Sastroatmodjo for additional information.

(Suryo S. Negoro)

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