Lombok, Perang Topat

Written by on July 6, 2012 in Nusa Tenggara Festivals with 0 Comments

Lombok, Perang TopatPerang-Topat-01

Perang Topat… The Rice War!

Every year at Lingsar temple, a very special war takes place. This isn’t a riot between warring groups and it isn’t a real war, although the name “Perang Topat” literally translates as “war of the topat”. Topat are small parcels of rice, which are wrapped in woven coconut leaves and boiled – a delicious local alternative to boiled rice. In this friendly and fun war, the communities involved with the temple make a mock war, hurling the topat at each other amidst much fun and laughter.

Lingsar, located about 10 kms northwest of Mataram, is renowned for its unique temple complexes, especially the ancient Hindu temple called Pura Gaduh and the nearby Kedaliq, which is considered sacred to local Sasaks. Lingsar temple is the only temple where Hindus and Muslims on Lombok gather to worship and pray together. The temple has been associated with fertility, irrigation and rice for centuries and is an important link to the island’s animist roots. The annual ceremony, based around agriculture and rice farming, features a ritualised war with rice cakes, Perang Topat, which also serves as an offering to the Gods.

Built around 1714, Pura Lingsar was originally based on the prevailing animist beliefs of the time, and some of the original animist statues remain today. While the main courtyards of Pura Suranadi and Pura Lingsar symbolically unite the deities of Bali and Lombok, the second courtyards, called Kemaliq, contain sacred pools and unique altars of rocks reminiscent of ancient megalithic worship. These rocks, brought down from the top of the volcano and dressed in ceremonial cloths, are believed to contain the spirits of the ancestors of the land and are venerated in the temple.

The ritual of Perang Topat has been performed at Lingsar Temple for as long as anyone can remember; every year at the seventh full moon of the Sasak calendar. This year the event will take place on 12 December. The ceremony commences with several days of preparation beforehand by local communities, both Hindu and Muslim. On the day of the full moon, late in the afternoon, everyone gathers at the temple complex to participate in the ritual known as Pujawali, a ceremony which re-affirms the belief that everything in the universe is God’s creation and will come back to Him eventually.

The ceremony starts with an elaborate parade of the offerings that have been prepared by the community – flowers, fruits, rice cakes of all colours and varieties, and other offerings are carried in colourful towers on the heads of the women, who are dressed in beautiful coloured kebayak (traditional lace blouses) and fine sarongs. The ritual includes prayers and chanting, and traditional music and dancing, after which the offerings are carried in a circle three times around the area of the temple and Kemaliq and then blessed by temple priests. Thus the people pray for fertility and prosperity, for good rains and a bountiful harvest, both physically and spiritually.

The serious part of the ritual over, the event then concludes with a mock rice war: Perang Topat. Tall bamboo poles with the woven rice parcels tied to them are shaken and the topat that fall are gleefully grabbed by the crowd. Offerings are raided and others pull hidden topat from their clothes. Two sides are drawn as everyone, adults and children alike, starts throwing the topat at each other. It’s a hilarious sight, seeing everyone throwing the topat as far as they can into the opposing crowd and then scrabbling on the ground to grab at fallen topat, before someone else can grab it. The air is filled with good-natured yells and laughter and, after the solemnity of the holy ritual, it’s a good way to release the tension and bring the community together in a fun way, before they return to their homes to eat the left over topat and food from the offerings.

If you have a chance to join in the ceremony at Lingsar, it’s a great way to witness a fun, authentic Lombok event. The atmosphere at the temple is awesome and the display of offerings and traditional performances is well worth the visit. The local community is used to having foreigners visit their ceremonies and the crowd will make you feel welcome. Just watch out for flying topat – they pack a punch and are surprisingly indestructible!

Copyright © 2008 Siti Zainab

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