Garebeg Sekaten, Javanese-Islamic Acculturation
Let’s go to Sekaten, the gamelan is playing!). That is an old sentence often uttered by rural Javanese people to announce the start of the annual Sekaten ritual. The Surakarta Kasunanan Palace is holding the Grebeg Sekaten. In fact, this celebration is the political strategy of the rulers handed down by the Demak Kingdom to make Islam more into Javanese culture instead of Islamizing Javanese people as has been believed so far.
Let’s open the dictionary. In Javanese, the words “garebeg”, “grebeg”, or “gerbeg” means the sound of howling wind. Soetedjo (1991) further examines the etymology of the word “garebeg” into an old Javanese word, which means “noisy or crowded”. This word also means “the roar of the wind”.
Referring to the etymology, the meaning or definition of the Garebeg ceremony shows the existence of a crowd or celebration based on the present understanding. The term “garebeg” or “grebeg” here still refers to the physical meaning of the Garebeg ceremony, which until modern times is still crowded by hundreds to thousands of people and creates a commotion, especially at the moment of fighting over food which is arranged like a mountain or “gunungan” in the courtyard of the grand mosque (Masjid Agung).
Garebeg ceremony is a royal or state ceremony held by those who have the intenon, namely the king, sultan, sunan on behalf of the kingdom or state. In this context, the meaning of garebeg is related to the event of the king wearing a robe, then walking out or miyos from the palace to sitihinggil. The king was accompanied (ginarebeg) by hundreds of people consisting of sentana dalem, sons, family, and relaves of the king, as well as soldiers and invited guests, so the sound of the procession (arak-arakan) is like a roar. All those present at the ceremony wore state clothes.
They then listened to the gamelan played by the courers of the niyaga of the palace. Umar Kayam (2012) explained, Gamelan Kyai and Nyai Seka are not ordinary gamelan. Therefore, anyone who listened to it all got goosebumps. Goosebumps in a good context, not goosebumps that make them horrified or scared. but make them amazed, calm, and serene. The sound of plang plung plang plung, ning is very touching in the heart and mind.
Tens to hundreds of people languish in the courtyard of the grand mosque, under the gate, on the overhang, and under the tree, while listening to the sound of the gamelan with its solemnity. Old women (simbok) coming from villages around Solo listen to the sound of the gamelan which makes their hearts and minds at peace, and enjoy the fresh betel leaves that will keep them young. This is one of the collective attractions of a tradition handed down by Walisongo to make Islam more into Javanese culture. We are aware that Islam is not from Indonesia; instead, it is brought (imported) from other parts of the world.
The local culture then modifies the foreign culture according to its characteriscs or interests. The most obvious example is the term “sekaten” is intended to make the syahadatain more acceptable to Javanese culture. The syahadatain are two sentences of the creed which read asyhadu alla ilahaillallah wa ashhadu anna Muhammadar Rasullah which means I testify that there is no God but Allah and the Prophet Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.
It is also seen how Islamic teachings are taught to the community not through violence or coercion. The original, flexible Javanese culture was actually embraced as a “tool”, not put in a historical coffin and branded as heresy. Moreover, Javanese people in the past had a sophiscated cultural strategy not to accept foreign cultures easily, namely Jawa ayo digawa, Arab digarap, Barat diruwat” (Let’s do Javanese culture, understand Arabic culture, filter Western culture).
What is also interesting is that visitors from various regions and across ethnic-religious groups meet face to face and interact. Their meeting in the Sekaten neighborhood is a portrait of the harmony of the residents, although the me is short. Social values are recorded, the palace as the organizer and the surrounding community as supporters feel reliable for this cultural activity. There was social contact that supports each other.
Today, the Sekaten ceremony which is held every Maulud month has shifted its function to a cultural tourism mission, no longer purely an Islamizaon acvity. However, it is actually a “living museum” that tells the story of the greatness of the ancestors in dialogue with foreign cultures without having to abandon their culture. Sekaten functions as a collective memory store that shows how tough the Javanese people were in the past (Heri Priyatmoko, 2016).