Pilgrimage to the Tomb of Sunan Bayat

Pilgrimage to the Tomb of Sunan Bayat

21st day of the Javanese month of Mulud
Islamic Pilgrims flock to the tomb of the Sufi saint, Sunan Bayat, in Tembayat, Java, Indonesia, each year on the anniversary of his birth. This type of birthday pilgrimage is known as a "mulid," or anniversary, festival. Sunan Bayat was a 16th-century non-Muslim king who gave up his wealth and privilege in order to pray, preach, and meditate. Many Indonesians consider Sunan Bayat to be one of the nine Sufi saints who converted the people of the island of Java to Islam. Others count him as an honorary tenth member of the exalted group.
Pilgrims visit his mountain-top tomb year-round, but the mulid pilgrimage is considered to be especially auspicious for pilgrims. The last leg of the pilgrims' journey begins in a modern parking lot at the foot of the staircase leading up the mountain. Here visitors can use modern facilities for the ritual washing that is required before formal prayers can be offered. Visitors also must buy a ticket to gain entry to the burial compound. They then ascend to the tomb up a winding staircase, where small stalls along the way offer food, drink, and religious tokens.
Once at the tomb, pilgrims rely on an attendant, seated in the antechamber, who prays on their behalf, alternating prayers with a recitation of the first chapter of the Islamic Holy Book, the Koran, in Arabic. As they enter the pitch darkness of the tomb itself, pilgrims often lay flowers at the graves of Sunan Bayat and his two wives, who are buried on either side of him. According to local custom, new buds will appear suddenly on the flower stalks as a sign that the saint is willing to answer a pilgrim's prayers. Because many Javanese Muslims believe that a saint's barakah —or grace—is strongest in the evening, they visit late and remain at the burial complex until at least midnight. Others pay extra money to sleep on the site in order to best absorb Sunan Bayat's barakah.
CONTACTS:
Embassy of Indonesia
2020 Massachusetts Ave. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036
202-775-5200; fax: 202-775-5365
www.embassyofindonesia.org
Lao National Tourism Administration
Tourism Marketing and Promotion Dept.
P.O. Box 3556
Lane Xang Ave.
Hatsady Village, Chanthabouly District, Ventiane Capital Lao PDR
www.tourismlaos.gov.la
SOURCES:
UndIslam-2004, p. 393
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