Kepaon’s muslims hold ‘megibung’ feast

by on 2012-08-01

Shared joy: Muslim children partake in a megibung communal feast in Kepaon village, South Denpasar.  BD/Peni WidartiShared joy: Muslim children partake in a megibung communal feast in Kepaon village, South Denpasar. BD/Peni Widarti

The Kepaon Islamic village in Denpasar hosted on Monday night a megibung, the ancient tradition of a communal feast prior to the Idul Fitri holiday, which has been performed for hundreds of years.

Every 10th, 20th and 30th day during the fasting month of Ramadhan, hundreds of Muslim devotees in the village gather at Al Muhajirin Mosque to perform the megibung to congratulate members of the community who have completed the reading of the entire 30 juz (sections) of the Koran, also known as khataman.

Muslims reached the 10th day of fasting on Monday. At 6 p.m. on that day, hundreds of Kepaon residents broke their fast with sweet cakes and refreshments such as kolak (banana stewed in coconut milk) before proceeding to the megibung ritual.

The dishes were placed on large trays, each of which could cater for five to six people. On each large tray, placed on food-grade paper, a variety of dishes are served, including steamed rice, grilled chicken, boiled egg, chili condiment, as well as urap vegetable salad, which consists of boiled long beans, beansprouts and others green vegetables mixed with shredded coconut and spices.

“All of the dishes are contributions from the villagers here so they can eat together,” said Haji Ishak Ibrahim, 67, the takmir, or prayer leader, at Al Muhajirin Mosque.

Ibrahim said the megibung was originally a Hindu Balinese tradition that was being preserved by the Muslims to strengthen brotherhood in the village.

“Through this tradition, we hope that the Muslim brotherhood in our village will be stronger,” he said.

The residents sat around the trays of food and ate without using cutlery.

Firmansyah Al Mahida, one of the younger participants at the megibung, said he enjoyed the community feast very much. “It’s fun to eat together like this. Not to mention that all the dishes are free,” said the 11-year-old.

Centuries ago, megibung was a warrior tradition held during military campaigns. Kings and warlords shared meals with their soldiers to strengthen the esprit de corps during hard periods. The tradition still exists in numerous villages in Karangasem.

Beside the megibung tradition, the Muslims of Kepaon also maintain a long tradition of sending food to each other just a few days prior to Idul Fitri. The tradition is called ngejot, which is also originally Hindu Balinese.

“Both traditions aim to strengthen our brotherhood,” said Ibrahim, acknowledging that all traditions performed by the Muslims of Kepaon village were historically linked with Hindu Balinese traditions. The Kepaon Muslim village was established centuries ago during the rise of the Badung kingdom under the rule of the house of Pemecutan.

It is said that an explorer from Palembang, South Sumatera, arrived in Badung with dozens of his armed followers known as the Rhodat soldiers. These warriors assisted the soldiers of Pemecutan in the decisive battle against the house’s arch enemy, the neighboring kingdom of Mengwi. Pemecutan destroyed Mengwi and annexed its vast territory.

As a token of appreciation, the King of Pemecutan married his daughter to the Palembang explorer.

“The Princess then became a mualaf [convert to Islam],” said Ibrahim.

The king of Pemecutan also gave a plantation to the Rhodat army to establish their residence, which has now become the Kepaon Muslim village, home to around 600 families with various ethnic origins, including Javanese, Malay, Bugis, Palembangese and, of course, Balinese.

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