Baritan ceremony at Progo river

“Baritan” is a general name given to ceremonies of thanksgiving and fertility. Often, they involve paying homage to a river or to the sea. While the fine details of baritan are not fixed, it always involves a blessing and a sharing of food. As part of a cultural live-in event (getting Yogya city-dwellers back to their village roots), I was fortunate to participate in baritan at Sejatidesa village.


The village of Sejatidesa sits on the edge of the Progo river, quite west of the city center. In addition to growing rice and sugarcane, Sejatidesa is a center for lurik, a woven cotton cloth with colorful stripes. Here, it is made the traditional way with manual-powered looms. While lurik is sometimes made into traditional mens shirts, most of the lurik produced in Sejatidesa is for use as stagen, a kind of abdominal wrap worn by women under a kebaya shirt.

This loom produces one stagen-width piece of cloth at a time.

The baritan started around 6:30am. 3 cows were lead from their stable in the village to the river; all of us walked behind along a rough road through the forest. By the time we reached the river bank, a large tarp had already been laid out with platters of food. The man in charge of the cows led them one at a time into the river, splashing water over their muddy flanks. The master of ceremony performed a blessing with the food in front of him. The platters of food were then spread around, and all participants served themselves. In the end, all leftover food was “fed” to the river, as a sign of appreciation for water and a successful harvest.

Truck #1 is loaded with food, and heads to the river as the walking procession gets going. Among the food items is nasi kenduri, rice cooked in woven cases of banana-leaf, made special for ceremonies such as this.
Truck #2 carries some young plants (in addition to some young people). These are to be planted along the river bank to curb erosion and beautify the area. Planting is not typically a part of baritan, but the village took advantage of having so many willing participants.
The cows are washed in the river. Part of baritan is to give thanks to the livestock and wild fish that sustain the community, and to pray for the renewal of these living resources. It was especially auspicious that one of the cows being washed was many months pregnant.
Before any food is distributed, a blessing and prayer is given by the master of ceremony. This started in Indonesian, progressed to Javanese, and finished in Arabic. After a moment of silent reflection, the platters of food are spread out around the area. Notice: the men conducting the ceremony are all wearing lurik shirts.
Participants select food from larger communal platters, first taking rice and then adding various vegetables, meats, and fried items. Always reach with your right hand!
On the left, dukuh fruit and boiled peanuts. On the right, rice with boiled spinach, sprouts, friend tempe, and nangka (jackfruit)




3 thoughts on “Baritan ceremony at Progo river

  1. Oh ok, that’s so interesting! I hope you are picking up Indonesian more and more. I know what it’s like to live in a foreign country and not know the language! But thankfully my Hebrew has improved too! Here’s to challenges!


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