Saturday, November 28, 2009

Selamat Hari Raya Idul Adha!

Warning: This post contains graphic descriptions and photos. Vegetarians may want to think twice about reading this.

Several weeks ago I found out that UNG would be closed on November 27th for a Muslim holiday. Fantastic, I thought – a three-day weekend! I didn’t know what the holiday was called or even what was being celebrated until about two days beforehand. When I finally did find out what it was all about, I was extremely surprised, to say the least. The holiday is Idul Adha, which roughly translates as Festival of Sacrifice, and involves the slaughtering of many cows and goats. This tradition stems from the Muslim belief that they should sacrifice something for others as a way of honoring Abraham’s devotion to Allah. As the story goes, Allah appeared to Abraham one day and ordered him to sacrifice his son to prove his loyalty. When Abraham went to kill his son, the son turned into a goat. An important part of the holiday is distributing the meat from the sacrifice to the neighbors and especially to the poor.

Tia invited me to come watch the slaughtering of a cow in her family’s yard. I wasn’t sure if I could stomach it, since I generally don’t like to think about where my meat comes from, but I decided to go for the cultural experience and I kept telling myself that what I was witnessing was just a religious ritual, not the brutal killing of an innocent animal. I also tried reminding myself that killing animals is just part of the food chain. Every single cheeseburger I’ve ever enjoyed was made possible by the death of a cow. Consequently, I tried to make myself feel as numb and objective as possible as I witnessed one of Tia’s relatives slit the cow’s throat. From my vantage point, I had a clear view of the squirting blood. I watched in horrified fascination as the blood quickly filled a dirt hole that that had been dug under the cow’s head for this sole purpose. The cow’s tongue hung limply out of its mouth and the animal made a few last full body twitches before finally dying. Then the men began skinning it. It is a sight I will never forget.

Many families, like Tia’s, perform their own private sacrifice. Alternatively, people can also go to a sacrifice at the nearest mosque. So, after we watched the sacrifice at Tia’s place, we went around town in a bentor and visited several mosques that were at various later stages of the ritual process.

The first mosque we stopped at was one that I pass every day on my way to work. Today, there was a tent set up in the yard and a dozen or so men were at work chopping up the meat of eight cows. People crowded around to watch the work as women served the men cool drinks and rice snacks wrapped in banana leaves. Children played nearby and the atmosphere was one of great happiness and merriment.

Down another road we stopped at another mosque where this man was happy to pose with his big knife.

At yet another mosque we could see the men dividing up the meat into equal portions on huge sheets of banana leaves.

At the last mosque we saw the final stage of the process. The meat portions were waiting in plastic bags to be picked up by those holding meat vouchers that had been distributed to the needy prior to the holiday.

And finally, I will leave you with this charming picture of a man holding a cow’s head. He joked that the two of them were twins, but I didn’t really get the joke.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting. This tells me a lot about both Indonesia and your on-going engagement with it.

    Would you or your students have any interest in making a parallel-text commentary of the photos? Maybe having the students interview people in Indonesian or the local language about what this holiday means to them, then have them translate it into English to be read side-by-side? That might be a way to get readers of both Indonesian and English to collaborate on a cultural introduction to Sulawesi.

    I'm trying to think of something that would require as extra little work as possible from you as a teacher but would give the maximum benefit both to your students and to any future ELFs.

    In Nepal, I went to an animal sacrifice temple and was revolted, fascinated, calmed, intrigued, in wave after wave of thought. When I saw blood spurt from a rooster's neck and when a young buffalo buckled it's knees and fell to the ground in a small stream of blood from hundreds of animals, I swore I wouldn't be able to eat meat for at least a week. That evening, however, with Mom and Dad, I had chicken and lamb biryani!