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Perang Topat Festival: Lingsar, West Lombok

The quiet island of Lombok, is separated from Bali by the Lombok Straits. The indigenous Sasak people make up roughly 90% of the island’s population and their language and culture are unique to the island, their religion, Islam.

Annually there is an ancient agrarian ceremony called Perang Topat where Muslims and Hindu’s gather together to carry out rituals giving thanks to God. Panca Nugraha explains about this communal celebration.

‘Topat war’ promotes religious tolerance, harmony in Lombok

War between people of different faiths is not generally something looked forward to with excitement, unless one is a participant in the annual Perang Topat festival in Lingsar village, West Lombok.

Muslim and Hindu villagers annually celebrate the colorful ritual at the Pura Lingsar temple on the 15th day of the seventh month of the Sasak calendar.

At first glance, Pura Lingsar resembles most other Hindu temples — what makes it unique is the presence of Kemaliq shrine inside the complex, a site revered as sacred by the many of the Sasak Muslim community on Lombok.

“This is one of the only places where two faiths can carry out religious activities together, despite performing their separate rituals,” HL Emmy Suhaemi, said.

Pura Lingsar is located in Lingsar village, some nine kilometers east of the West Nusa Tenggara provincial capital of Mataram. In the temple, two structures stand side by side, only separated by a jabe, or courtyard. On one side is the Gaduh temple, a place of worship for the Hindu community, while on the other is the Kemaliq.

According to history, Pura Lingsar was built in 1759 during the reign of Raja Anak Agung Gede Ngurah, a royal descent of the Karang Asem kingdom in Bali, which ruled West Lombok at the time.

The Perang Topatwar” is part of an ancient agrarian ceremony. Before the planting season and after the harvest, the community carries out a series of rituals to express their gratitude to God.

“There is a spring (in Lombok) that never dries up called Langser, from which the name Lingsar originated. The people express their gratitude for this blessing from God,” Suhaemi said.

The Sasak community believes that the spring was inherited from Raden Mas Sumilir, their ancestor and also the founder of Kemaliq. To show their gratitude, they place offerings there.

Lingsar residents are not the only people who benefit from the Langser spring — it flows and irrigates the farms throughout West and Central Lombok, which mean many people participate in the Perang Topat.

At the same time, residents from the Hindu faith living in Lombok perform the Pujawali ritual in conjunction with the temple’s anniversary, by holding a series of rites in what is known as the Usaba.

The Perang Topat, or war of ketupat (rice cooked in coconut leaves), marks the peak of this celebration, in which ketupat, prepared by villagers is paraded around the temple complex in a procession involving people from the two faiths.

Viewers pack the temple complex waiting for the food’s distribution.

West Nusa Tenggara provincial secretary Nanang Samodra marked the official beginning of hostilities by tossing packages of ketupat into the crowd.

Then the war really began, with people dividing themselves into two groups, one occupying the upper jabe and the other the lower jabe. Full of nervous laughter, the participants aim for the body when throwing the packages, being justifiably afraid of the sting produced — ketupat are the size of an adult’s fist.

But the 30-minute melee also has its upside — people are encouraged to take the spare ketupat home — and then there is the spiritual dimension of pain.

“In this tradition, we believe that we will be blessed if we’re hit,” said one participant, Harmin.

The remaining ketupat from the revelry is then taken and buried in rice paddies and farms before first planting begins. The colorful festival also has a more modern purpose — it is being used to draw in tourists to the area.

Perang Topat has certainly become an important tourism event in West Lombok. But the most important thing, is for us to be aware that our ancestors have been encouraging religious tolerance for a long time,” West Lombok Tourism Office head Tjok Suthendra Rai said.

Panca Nugraha