Exploring the Tradition of Larung Kepala Kerbau in Trenggalek, Java

  • Experience the Tradition of Larung Kepala Kerbau in Trenggalek

buffalo head attraction

Trenggalek, Suarajatim.com - Every Friday Kliwon during the Selo month in the Javanese calendar, the community of Trenggalek holds a tradition of throwing a buffalo's head into Dam Bagong. This event always attracts the attention of thousands of people to witness the procession held on the riverbank.

Dam Bagong has been the central location for this event for thousands of years, as it was built by Adipati Menak Sopal and has become the center for water distribution in the Trenggalek region. "This tradition is held as an expression of gratitude for Adipati Menak Sopal's service in creating a water system that allowed the Trenggalek rice fields to receive even water distribution," said Naim, the caretaker of Menak Sopal's grave.

Buffalo Ketan Ceremony and Celebration

The ritual begins with a tahlilan next to Adipati Menak Sopal's grave, followed by a visit to the gravesite by local officials and residents. Meanwhile, in the yard surrounding the cemetery complex, Jaranan dance performances are presented.

This heroic dance typical of Trenggalek is presented with enthusiasm, accompanied by dynamic gamelan music and beautiful pesinden singers. This dance is popular because it is associated with magical and mystical nuances, and the dancers are often possessed while performing the dance.

The most anticipated event in this ritual is the throwing of the buffalo's head towards Dam Bagong. As an expression of gratitude, the community cuts a buffalo that is then cooked and enjoyed together, while the head, skin, and bones are thrown into Dam Bagong.

Interestingly, under the river where the head and skin are thrown, dozens of people are waiting in several groups. They swim and occasionally dive into the strong currents of the river to compete for the buffalo's head. Cheers erupt as dozens of men in the river chase and compete to obtain the buffalo's head.

"This is a symbol of charity and sacrifice to ward off disaster, so that the rice fields in Trenggalek can continue to be irrigated and fertile," said Naim.

The cheers grow louder when one of the men successfully lifts the buffalo's head that he obtained from the bottom of the river. "There is a belief that those who successfully obtain the buffalo's head will be blessed with good fortune in their future life," said Naim.

At night, a wayang kulit show is held in the same location as part of the ritual procession.

The tradition of Nyadran at Dam Bagong originated from the story of Adipati Menak Sopal, who struggled to build Dam Bagong in the Ngantru Village.
buffalo head rituals tradition

Ancient story tells of someone from Mataram tasked with organizing the eastern region of Ponorogo, now called Trenggalek or commonly abbreviated as Ki Ageng Galek. Ki Ageng Galek was assigned to care for a princess from Majapahit named Amisayu. Amisayu was so named because despite being beautiful, her legs were diseased and smelly.

At that time, Ki Ageng Galek was confused about how to treat Princess Amisayu's legs. He ordered Dewi Amisayu to bathe in the Bagongan River located in Ngantru Village.

While bathing in the river, suddenly a White Crocodile appeared, who transformed into a very handsome man named Menak Sraba. Menak Sraba then treated the wound on Dewi Amisayu's leg by licking it. Finally, the disease on Dewi Amisayu's leg was cured and Menak Sraba married Dewi Amisayu.

Not long after their marriage, Dewi Amisayu became pregnant and gave birth to a son named Menak Sopal according to Menak Sraba's message. When Menak Sopal grew up, he asked his mother Dewi Amisayu who his real father was.

Reluctantly, Dewi Amisayu revealed that his real father was the white crocodile who guarded Kedung Bagongan. When he found out who his father was, Menak Sopal asked his mother's permission to meet his biological father. Finally, Menak Sopal met his father Menak Sraba in Demak Bintara. There, Menak Sopal was taught about the teachings of Islam.

Upon returning from his father's place, Menak Sopal tried to spread Islam in Trenggalek. As most of the residents were farmers, Menak Sopal wanted to build a dam to irrigate their fields.

In building the dam, Menak Sopal was assisted by the community, but the construction always failed. Then Menak Sopal asked his father for advice on how to build the dam successfully. Menak Sraba suggested sacrificing the head of a White Elephant.

Menak Sopal followed his father's advice and slaughtered the White Elephant. Its head was then put into the Bagongan River and its meat was distributed to the community members who participated in the construction. After the White Elephant sacrifice, the dam was successfully built and is now known as the Bagong Dam.

As a result of Menak Sopal's struggle, the farmers' fields could be irrigated and their harvest increased. Since then, the people of Trenggalek embraced Islam.(*)