The Indonesian Ritual That Takes Place On An Active Volcano
By Erin Kelly | Edited By Savannah Cox
Published June 21, 2016
Updated February 26, 2018
The Yadnya Kasada Festival at Mount Bromo has worshipers toss goods into a volcano, but not many sacrifices make it to the bottom.
TO SOME, THE BEST WAYS TO PREVENT DISEASE and disaster are to make regular visits to the doctor and purchase insurance. To certain communities in Indonesia, it’s by throwing all of your worldly possessions into the mouth of an active volcano.
Ulet Ifansasti/Getty ImagesA villager tries to catch offerings thrown by Hindu worshippers at the crater of Mount Bromo during the Yadnya Kasada Festival.
Each June, the Hingu Tenggerese people of Probolinggo East Java, Indonesia celebrate the month-long Yadnya Kasada festival. On the festival’s 14th day, the Tenggerese make their way to the ridges of Mount Bromo, an active volcano. There, the worshipers hurl their worldly possessions (including crops and livestock) into the mouth of the volcano, in an effort to free the community from disease and natural disasters.
Ulet Ifansasti/Getty ImagesA Tenggerese worshipper stands at Mount Bromo’s ‘Sea of Sand’ during the Yadnya Kasada Festival on August 12, 2014 in Probolinggo, East Java, Indonesia.
Some rather opportunistic villagers don’t buy into the ritual, however. Instead of tossing in their possessions, these villagers actually enter the volcano in an attempt to cash in on one of the world’s most outlandish rituals of material sacrifice.
Here’s what that looks like — along with some information on the festival’s origin story — below:
Legend holds that the festival got its start in the 15th century, with the tale of Tenggerese royalty Princess Roro Anteng and her husband Jaka Seger. Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
The newly formed Tenggerese people flourished under their rulers. It was a bit of a different story for the couple, who could not conceive children.Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
Desperate for an heir, the couple climbed atop Mount Bromo offering prayers to Ida Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa, the supreme god of Indonesian Hinduism, in hopes of having their wish fulfilled. Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
The god answered their prayers — under the condition that they would sacrifice their youngest child into the crater of the volcano. Anteng and Seger were blessed with 25 children, followed the god’s wish of sacrificing their youngest, Kesuma, unto the mountain god. Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
Since then, the Tenggerese people have gathered each year to pray and offer food and livestock to Hyang Widhi Wasa.Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
The Hindu temple of Pura Luhur Poten is where the Yadnya Kasada ceremony is organized each year.Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
Shamans pray at the temple.Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
The people bring offerings based on how they make their living. Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
The Tenggerese are mostly either nomadic herders or agriculturists, which means that most offerings are livestock or agricultural goods.
In addition to the produce and animals offered up to the Mountain God, some Tenggerese also throw money into the mouth of the volcano. Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
Worshipers line up along the upper ridge of Mount Bromo.Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
Participants also pray over the volcano before casting off their offerings.Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
The conditions are harsh inside the volcano; many wear face masks to help filter the sulfur smell and other gasses. Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
After venturing across the "sea of sand," some villagers take up their positions inside Mount Bromo in an attempt to catch the offerings thrown from above. Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
These villagers attempt to collect their share of the offerings not only for their economic value, but also because many of them believe anything they can catch will bring them good luck.Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
Tenggerese Hindus throw their offerings into the volcano. Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
Villagers below await with their outstretched nets. Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
Villagers use both sarongs and nets to catch the tossed goods.Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
Villagers venture into the volcano at their own risk.Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
Heat, volcanic gasses, being hit by thrown objects, and falling are all risks when trying to catch the offerings from above. AMAN ROCHMAN/AFP/Getty Images
The scene in the volcanic rim can be a bit chaotic, as villagers compete with one another for possessions. Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
No one really knows what percentage of the offerings villagers actually intercept, and what percent ends up making it into the mouth of the volcano.Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
The cow is considered especially sacred, and is thus a highly valuable catch for crater-dwelling villagers.Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
A large bird attempts to fly away after being thrown into the volcano as an offering. Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
A man stretches his net out in an attempt to catch a chicken that has been thrown as an offering. Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
The steep interior walls of Mount Bromo make it difficult for the villagers to find a secure place for themselves and their spoils. AMAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images
Villagers stand with the vegetables they’ve collected. Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
A sacrificial goat rescued by villagers is tethered to the tent of its new owner. Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
An All That’s Interesting writer since 2013, Erin Kelly focuses on historic places, natural wonders, environmental issues, and the world of science. Her work has also been featured in Smithsonian and she’s designed several book covers in her career as a graphic artist.