Horse Race Gives Color to ‘Lebaran Ketupat’

07, Aug 2014 | Author: Embassy of Indonesia

Source: Jakarta Post

Some Muslim communities have their own traditions to celebrate Lebaran Ketupat, which is held a week after Idul Fitri to commemorate the conclusion of an extra six days of fasting following Idul Fitri.

The Tondano Javanese (Jaton) ethnic community in Gorontalo, for example, celebrates by conducting annual horse races and cow races. This year the three-day race event that ended on Wednesday was held at the racing arena and golf course in Yosonegoro subdistrict, Gorontalo regency.

“This year’s event was merrier because we had more participants,” said Alwin Dunda, chairman of the Gorontalo Horse Sport Association (Pordasi) and member of the race’s organizing committee.

He said 43 horses joined the race. They came from Gorontalo and other neighboring provinces, including Central Sulawesi, North Sulawesi and South Sulawesi. 

The prizes varied, ranging from cash to some racing horses and cows. 

Alwin said the annual horse races were first introduced in the 1960s and continued to expand in the 1980s after the regency administration decided to include them in the official calendar of events. Today, the races have become a tourist attraction. 

“Most Gorontalo people have indeed long been lovers of horse races,” he said.

The first day of the horse race was attended by thousands of enthusiastic spectators who cheered the jockeys and called out the names of the horses. 

Krisman and Nurhayati Limonu, a couple that lives in Gorontalo, said they have never missed a single horse race held for the Lebaran Ketupat celebration. 

“We feel as if something is missing if we do not come to the race,” Krisman said.

The Jaton ethnic group live in a number of subdistricts in Gorontalo, which include Yosonegoro, Reksonogoro, Kalioso and Mulyonegoro. 

During Lebaran Ketupat, they usually open their homes for guests to enjoy various special dishes with ketupat (steamed rice cooked in a diamond-shaped container made of plaited coconut leaves) taking center stage as the main course.

“Everyone is welcome to take all he or she can eat. This has been a tradition for years here,” Hassan 
Pulukadang, a resident of Yosonegoro said.

The Jaton ethnic group initially came about as the result of marriages between Javanese men and Tondano women. 

The community was formed after the arrival of Indonesian hero Kyai Mojo and his followers, who 
were exiled from Java by the Dutch colonial administration. Mojo and his followers finally settled in Tondano and their descendants grew into the ethnic group currently known as the Jaton.

The ethnic group developed a unique language that is actually a mixture of the Javanese and Tondano languages. The new language, however, can barely be understood by either the Javanese or the indigenous Tondano people.

Anthropologist Basri Amin of Gorontalo State University said the descendants of Kyai Mojo and his men, who originally came from Yogyakarta, Surakarta and Demak, had spread almost evenly across Sulawesi Island since 1902. They moved to Gorontalo for the first time in 1925. 

He said Lebaran Ketupat was a legacy from the Yogyakarta and Surakarta kingdoms, whose traces could still be found in the Jaton villages in Gorontalo.

“Ketupat unites many things beautifully, peacefully and deliciously. Rice, coconut milk and various spices are united in plaited coconut leaves,” he said.

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