Garebeg is a royal event that has been held for centuries. Garebeg continues to be commemorated by the Sultanate of Yogyakarta to date. Not just a ceremony, Garebeg includes elements of the cultural heritage of the archipelago. Religious values, language, art, and customs are traces of the embodiment of our ancestors’ ideas and religious thoughts that are still visible in the ceremony.
Various symbolic expressions in Garebeg contain many socio-cultural values which have proven to be very useful to maintain the balance and harmony of people’s lives from past to present. In terms of history, Garebeg is closely related to the development of religious life and the history of Javanese-Islamic kingdoms in the country.
The Origin of Garebeg Mulud
The origin of the Garebeg ceremony long before the existence of the Yogyakarta Sultanate was when the kings held wilujeng nagari (royal slametan or ritual feast) every new year. The royal ritual feast was also called rojomedo (king sacrificial animal). Often, this ceremony was held on Tuesday Kliwon or Friday Kliwon. The purpose of this sacrifice was that the king, the kingdom, and the people would be blessed with safety dan security.
In this ceremony, the king usually stepped out of the palace to the Ponconiti Ward accompanied by the sons and all the courtiers (employees) of the palace. Then, the King stayed in Dampar Kencana, the golden throne, to receive visits of respectful devotion or sembah bakti from the people who sowan (who came).
Another historical story comes from the Kingdom of Pengging during Prabu Haji Pamoso’s leadership. It was told that the kingdom was hit by an infectious disease outbreak spread by the Batari Durga army spirits who dwelled in the Krendowahono forest. After King Haji Pamoso held a sacrificial ceremony to be offered to Batari Durga, the plague disappeared. This sacrifice ceremony is called Mahesolawung. As the name suggests, mahesa means buffalo and lawung means wild, because the sacrificial animals used are wild buffalo. This sacrificial ritual was preserved by the kings until the end of the Majapahit Kingdom, circa 1522 AD.
By the time Raden Patah was named the first Sultan of the Demak Sultanate titled Syah Alam Akbar Panembahan Jimbun (AD 1478), the sacrificial ceremony was abolished. Because this habit is considered to be inspired by Hindu values that are contrary to Islamic principles. However, the act of abolishing the sacrifice is not possible because it creates public restlessness. The people cannot accept the king’s actions to abolish the old beliefs that have been adopted for centuries.
Restlessness increased with outbreaks of infectious diseases. At the suggestion of Wali Songo, the old belief was celebrated again, but adapted to Islamic values and prayers offered according to Islamic teachings. This historical experience greatly influenced the kings in Java to not easily give up their old beliefs. The sacrifice ceremony at the beginning of the year or the new year is celebrated by the Kingdom of Pajang, the Kingdom of Mataram, and the Sunanate of Surakarta.
Garebeg and Islam
In the Sultanate of Yogyakarta the celebration of the Garebeg Ceremony is inseparable from the establishment of the Yogyakarta Palace in 1755 AD. For his service in fighting the Netherlands for eight years, Kanjeng Prince Haryo Mangkubumi was inaugurated as Sultan with the title Sultan Hamengku Buwono Senopati ing Ngalogo Ngabdurrahman Sayidin Panotogomo Khalifatullah I. The Sultan was the first to hold a Garebeg Ceremony in the Yogyakarta Sultanate.
Sultan Hamengku Buwono I, son of Susuhunan Prabu Amangkurat IV (1719-1726 AD), has had a great interest in the Palace procedures and customs from a young age. Therefore, it is not surprising that after becoming a Sultan, he continued to carry out and preserve the ceremonies and customs of the Javanese Palace. These efforts shown how the Sultan respected his ancestors. In addition, the royal ceremonies also reflections of the glory and prestige of the kingdom.
The Garebeg ceremony involves all community members and high-to-low- ranking royal officials. The Yogyakarta’s Palace, a Javanese-Islamic kingdom, organizes religious ceremonies that are formally associated with the Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad SAW (12 Rabi-ul-Awal) and the Islamic holidays of Eid-al-Fitri (1 Syawal) and Eid-al-Adha (10 Zulhijjah). Grebeg Mulud was held to celebrate and commemorate the birthday of Prophet Muhammad, PBUH on the 12th of the Islamic month of Rabi-ul-Awal.
Commemorating the Birth of the Prophet is a new tradition that developed along with the development of Islam outside the Arabian Peninsula. The Prophet’s birthday was actually not an Islamic holiday, because Islam only knew two Hari Raya or Islamic holidays, namely Eid-al-Fitr and Eid-al-Adha. But in Indonesia, the Prophet’s Birthday has been recognized as a National Holiday. Commemoration of the the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, PBUH has become a part of people’s lives, because every 12 Rabi-ul-Awal the people celebrate muludan (the festivity in the month of Mulud) or also known as rasulan by serving nasi tumpeng or cone-shaped-rice. The real purpose of the commemoration of the birth of the Prophet is to learn from the Prophet’s kindness, nature and attitude in and toward life or to take the Prophet’s life as an example.
During the Garebeg Mulud Ceremony, the palace takes out five gunungan (Javanese cosmic mountain) as almsgiving or kucah dalem. These five gunungan are Gunungan kakung, putri, darat, pawuhan, and gepak. Garebeg Mulud which takes place at the same time as the Dal year (the year of Java in an eight-year cycle/eight years) will be celebrated in a special way. The Javanese-Islamic calendar calculates that the birth of the Prophet Muhammad is commemorated on Senin (Monday) Pon, of the Javanese cycle, the 12th day of Rabi-ul-Awal (Mulud) in Dal year.
At this Garebeg Ceremony, the Sultan exhibited the most sacred Kraton heirloom, namely Kanjeng Kyai Ageng Pleret, as well as several other heirlooms which are only allowed to be displayed when celebrating birthday of prophet Muhammad, PBUH. At this Garebeg ceremony, not only five, but six gunungan (offerings of food in mountain-like shape) were made, because one more gunungan is added, namely gunungan Bromo (fire) or commonly called kutuq (smoky).