“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.
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.