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Joined: 18 Jan 2005
|Posted: Sat Jan 22, 2005 1:42 pm Post subject: Hindu Resurgence in response to Islamisation of Indonesia
Jul 23, 2004
Great Expectations: Hindu Revival Movements in
by Thomas Reuter
Hindu empires had flourished in Java for a
millennium until they were
replaced by expanding Islamic polities in the 15th
the stage for Indonesia becoming the world's largest
Muslim nation. In
the 1970s, however, a new Hindu revival movement
began to sweep across
the archipelago. Hinduism is gaining even greater
popularity at this
time of national crisis, most notably in Java, the political heart of
Indonesia. Based on preliminary ethnographic research in five
communities with major Hindu temples, this paper explores the
political history and social dynamics of Hindu revivalism in Java.
Rejecting formalist approaches to the study of religion, including the
notion of 'syncretism ', the Hindu revival movements of Java are
treated as an illustration of how social agents employ religious or
secular concepts and values in their strategic responses to the
particular challenges and crises they may face in a specific cultural,
social, political and historical setting.
Expectations of a great crisis at the imminent dawn of new golden age,
among followers of the Hindu revival movement in Java, are an
expression of utopian prophesies and political aspirations more widely
known and shared among contemporary Indonesians. These utopian
expectations are set to shape the prospects of Indonesia's fledgling
democracy. In this paper, I will reflect on the different historical
conditions under which these and similar utopian expectations and
associated social movements arise, and may either either incite
violent conflict or serve a positive role in the creation or
maintenance of a fair society.
My interest in Java is recent and arose inadvertently from nearly a
decade of earlier research on the neighboring island of Bali. The
majority of Balinese consider themselves descendants of noble warriors
from the Hindu Javanese empire Majapahit who conquered Bali in the
14th century. A growing number of Balinese are conducting pilgrimages
to Hindu temples in Java, most of which have been built in places
identified as sacred sites in traditional Balinese texts (often
written in Old-Javanese language). Balinese have been heavily involved
in the construction and ritual maintenance of these new Hindu temples
in Java. They further dominate organizations representing Hinduism at
a national level. Finally, many Javanese Hindu priests have been
trained in Bali.
I had the opportunity to gain a first hand impression of the expansion
of Hinduism in Java and of Balinese involvement therein during a field
trip in late 1999. Following preliminary ethnographic research in
eight different Hindu Javanese communities it became evident that this
movement has its own dynamics and rationale, no matter how much it may
have been spurred by Balinese support. Most thought-provoking,
perhaps, were the emotional accounts of events since 1965 leading up
to a resurgence of Hinduism, and the constant references to the famous
Javanese prophesies of Sabdapalon and Jayabaya.
On an earlier field trip in 1995, I was also able to visit central and
southern Kalimantan where a large Hindu movement has grown among the
local Ngaju Dayak population. The lead-up to a mass declaration for
'Hinduism' on this island was rather different to the Javanese case,
in that conversions followed a clear ethnic division. Indigenous Dayak
were confronted with a mostly Muslim population of
government-sponsored (and predominantly Javanese) migrants and
officials, and deeply resentful at the dispossession of their land and
its natural resources. Compared to their counterparts among Javanese
Hindus, many Dayak leaders were also more deeply concerned about
Balinese efforts to standardize Hindu ritual practice nationally;
fearing a decline of their own unique 'Hindu Kaharingan' traditions
and renewed external domination.
The Javanese Hindu revival movement is in many ways unique, and its
recent expansion may surprise a casual observer. Java is often viewed
as the headquarters of Islam within the world's most populous Muslim
nation. On its own, however, this superficial image fails to do
justice to the immensely complex and varied cultural history of this
island; a history that continues to exert a profound influence on
contemporary Javanese society. A glance at one of the many ancient
monuments scattered across its landscape would suffice to remind one
of a very different Java, where a succession of smaller and larger
Hindu kingdoms flourished for more than a millennium, producing a
unique and dynamic mixture of Indic and indigenous Austronesian
culture. At the peak of its influence in the 14th century the last and
largest among Hindu Javanese empires, Majapahit, reached far across
the Indonesian archipelago. This accomplishment is interpreted in
modern nationalist discourses as an early historical beacon of
Indonesian unity and nationhood, a nation with Java still at its
That the vast majority of contemporary Javanese and Indonesians are
now Muslims is the outcome of a process of subsequent Islamization.
Like Hinduism before it, Islam first advanced into the archipelago
along powerful trade networks, gaining a firm foothold in Java with
the rise of early Islamic polities along the northern coast. Hinduism
finally lost its status as Java's dominant state religion during the
15th and early 16th century, as the new sultanates expanded and the
great Hindu empire Majapahit collapsed. Even then, some smaller Hindu
polities persisted; most notably the kingdom of Blambangan in eastern
Java, which remained intact until the late 18th century.
Islam met with a different kind of resistance at a popular and
cultural level. While the majority of Javanese did become 'Muslims',
following the example of their rulers, for many among them this was a
change in name only. Earlier indigenous Javanese and Hindu traditions
were retained by the rural population and even within the immediate
sphere of the royal courts, especially in a context of ritual
practice. In this sense, the victory of Islam has remained incomplete
To proclaim on these grounds that Javanese religion, or any other
religion, is a product of 'syncretism' is to say no more than that it
has a history, as every religion inevitably does. Given that history
has no definite beginning, 'syncretism' has been a feature in all
world religions from the start. Even a more modest distinction
between degrees of 'syncretism' or 'orthodoxy' in the religions of
different societies, or in those of the same society at different
times in its history, is rather unproductive unless this or similar
distinctions are situated in relation to much broader historical
processes affecting the societies concerned as a whole. A process of
religious 'rationalization' (in the Weberian sense), in particular,
may needs to be situated within a broader context of modernity.
Insofar as it is justifiable to speak of a trend toward increasing
'orthodoxy' in Indonesian Islam in the 20th century, a trend which
applies similarly to Indonesian Hinduism and Christianity, this
phenomenon must be assessed against the historical background of
colonialism, the subsequent establishment of an independent Indonesian
state, and the advent of modernity. In the colonial and post-colonial
era, an ever more popular and educated acceptance of Islam was gained,
in Java and elsewhere, through the work of independent or government
Islamic organizations with an anti-colonial and modernist
socio-political orientation. In the wake of this still continuing
process of rationalization, a conceptual potential has been created
for greater socio-political polarization among the followers of
different and, now, more precisely distinguishable 'religions'.
Nevertheless, the more orthodox among Javanese Muslims, who tend to
identify themselves with a more modern and global notion of Islamic
religion, are still a minority and are themselves divided into
factions (for example, over the issue of whether to aspire toward a
secular or an Islamic Indonesian state). Most recently these divisions
became apparent during the dismissal of President Wahid on charges of
To a large and growing number of equally 'modern' Javanese, however,
their ancient Hindu past is still very present indeed, and prophesied
to come alive once more in the near future. A utopian Hindu revival
movement has emerged in Java over the last three decades of the
twentieth century, and is gathering momentum in the turmoil of
Indonesia's continuing economic and political crisis. Drawing on
ancient prophesies, many of its members believe that a great natural
cataclysm or final battle is at hand in which Islam will be swept from
the island to conclude the current age of darkness. Thereafter, they
say, Hindu civilization will be restored to its former glory - with
Java as the political center of a new world order that will last for a
Adding to the concern of Muslim observers, the Javanese Hindu movement
is part of a wider national phenomenon of Hindu revivalism and
expansion. Situated at the heart of Indonesia, however, the Hindu
movement in Java may have the most serious implications yet for the
social and political stability of the nation as a whole. In addition,
the same mood of apocalyptic fear, utopian expectation and revivalist
zeal is shared by many Javanese Muslims. This is made evident in a
number of revivalist Islamic movements, whose members also tend to
describe the present as an age of moral and social decay.
Recent incidents of inter-religious violence in the Moluccas and
Lombok, and the major importance afforded to religious affiliation in
Indonesia's recent parliamentary and 1998 presidential elections are
both indicative of a national trend towards religious polarization
(Ramstedt 1998). Such polarization has not been characteristic of
Javanese society, particularly at a community level, where
neighborhood cooperation and social peace have been valued more highly
than religious convictions (Beatty 1999). With nominal Muslims now
openly converting to Hinduism this could well change, tearing away at
the delicate web of compromises that is the very fabric of Javanese
society. On a more positive note, Indonesians of all confessions also
share an urgent desire for political reform and genuine democracy, and
may still be prepared to cooperate in the struggle to achieve this
The emergence of a self-conscious Hindu revival movement within
Javanese society is thus a highly significant development. The
following preliminary outline of this movement is to provide an
appraisal of some of the deep social divisions and widely shared
utopian aspirations in contemporary Indonesian society which are set
to shape the immediate future of this fragile nation.
Hindu Revivalism in Historical and Political Context
While many Javanese have retained aspects of their indigenous and
Hindu traditions through the centuries of Islamic influence, under the
banner of 'Javanist religion' (kejawen) or a non-orthodox 'Javanese
Islam' (abangan, cf. Geertz 1960), no more than a few isolated
communities have consistently upheld Hinduism as the primary mark of
their public identity. One of these exceptions are the people of the
remote Tengger highlands (Hefner 1985, 1990) in the province of
Eastern Java. The Javanese 'Hindus' with whom this paper is concerned,
however, are those who had officially declared themselves 'Muslims'
prior to their recent
conversion to Hinduism.
In an unpublished report in 1999, the National Indonesian Bureau of
Statistics tacitly admits that nearly 100.000 Javanese have officially
converted or 'reconverted' from Islam to Hinduism over the last two
decades. At the same time, the East Javanese branch of the government
Hindu organization PHDI (below) in an annual report claims the 'Hindu
congregation' (umat hindu) of this province to have grown by 76000
souls in this year alone. The figures are not entirely reliable or
objective, nor can they adequately reflect the proportions of Java's
new Hindu revival movement, based as they are on the religion stated
on people's identity cards (kartu tanda penduduk or 'KTP') or on other
measures of formal religious affiliation. According to my own
observations, many conversions are informal only, at least for now. In
addition, formal figures often do not adequately distinguish between
religious conversions and general population growth, given that most
government agencies only record people's religion at birth.
Problems with estimating rates of conversion aside, it is remarkable
that despite their local minority status the total number of Hindus in
Java now exceeds that of Hindus in Bali. Data collected independently
during my preliminary research in Eastern Java further suggest that
the rate of conversion accelerated dramatically during and after the
collapse of former President Suharto's authoritarian regime in 1998.
Officially identifying their religion as Hinduism was not a legal
possibility for Indonesians until 1962, when it became the fifth
state-recognized religion. This recognition was initially sought by
Balinese religious organizations and granted for the sake of Bali,
where the majority were Hindu. The largest of these organizations,
Parisada Hindu Dharma Bali, changed its name to P.H.D. Indonesia
(PHDI) in 1964, reflecting subsequent efforts to define Hinduism as a
national rather than just a Balinese affair (Ramstedt 1998). In the
early seventies, the Toraja people of Sulawesi were the first to
realize this opportunity by seeking shelter for their indigenous
ancestor religion under the broad umbrella of 'Hinduism', followed by
the Karo Batak of Sumatra in 1977 and the Ngaju Dayak of Kalimantan in
1980 (Bakker 1995).
Religious identity became a life and death issue for many Indonesians
around the same time as Hinduism gained recognition, namely, in the
wake of the violent anti-Communist purge of 1965-66 (Beatty 1999).
Persons lacking affiliation with a state recognized-religion tended to
be classed as atheists and hence as communist suspects. Despite the
inherent disadvantages of joining a national religious minority, a
deep concern for the preservation of their traditional ancestor
religions made Hinduism a more palatable option than Islam for several
ethnic groups in the outer islands. By contrast, most Javanese were
slow to consider Hinduism at the time, lacking a distinct organization
along ethnic lines and fearing retribution from locally powerful
Islamic organizations like the Nahdatul Ulama (NU). The youth wing of
the NU had been active in the persecution not only of communists but
of 'Javanist' or 'anti-Islamic' elements within Sukarno's Indonesian
Nationalist Party (PNI) during the early phase of the killings (Hefner
1987). Practitioners of 'Javanist' mystical traditions thus felt
compelled to declare themselves Muslims out of a growing concern for
The initial assessment of having to abandon 'Javanist' traditions in
order to survive in an imminent Islamic state proved incorrect.
President Sukarno's eventual successor, Suharto, adopted a distinctly
nonsectarian approach in his so-called 'new order' (orde baru) regime.
Old fears resurfaced, however, with Suharto's 'Islamic turn' in the
1990s. Initially a resolute defender of Javanist values, Suharto began
to make overtures to Islam at that time, in response to wavering
public and military support for his government. A powerful signal was
his authorization and personal support of the new 'Association of
Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals' (ICMI), an organization whose members
openly promoted the Islamization of Indonesian state and society
(Hefner 1997). Concerns grew as ICMI became the dominant civilian
faction in the national bureaucracy, and initiated massive programs of
Islamic education and mosque-building through the Ministry of Religion
(departemen agama), once again targeting Javanist strongholds. Around
the same time, there were a series of mob killings by Muslim
extremists of people they suspected to have been practicing
traditional Javanese methods of healing by magical means.
Repeated experiences of harassment or worse have left adherents of
Javanist traditions with deep-seated fears and resentments. In
interviews conducted in 1999, recent Hindu converts in eastern and
central Java confessed that they had felt comfortable with a tenuous
Islamic identity until 1965, but that their 'hearts turned bitter'
once they felt coerced to disavow their private commitment to 'Hindu
Javanese ' traditions by abandoning the specific ritual practices
which had come to be associated therewith. In terms of their political
affiliation, many contemporary Javanists and recent converts to
Hinduism had been members of the old PNI, and have now joined the new
nationalist party of Megawati Sukarnoputri. Informants from among this
group portrayed their return to the 'religion of Majapahit' (Hinduism)
as a matter of nationalist pride, and displayed a new sense political
self-confidence. Political trends aside, however, the choice between
Islam and Hinduism is often a highly personal matter. Many converts
reported that other members of their families have remained 'Muslims',
out of conviction or in the hope that they will be free to maintain
their Javanist traditions in one way or another.
These observations provide no more than a preliminary sketch of the
changing landscape of cross-cutting and sometimes contradictory
social, political and religious identities wherein the Javanese Hindu
revival movement is taking shape. In essence, the collapse of the
authoritarian Suharto regime has allowed old rivalries between Islamic
and Nationalist parties to resurface in a changed environment and in a
new guise. This has led to a degree of socio-political polarization as
has not been seen since the 1960s revolution, although it may have
been an inherent conceptual possibility throughout modern Indonesian
Hindu Revivalism in Social and Economic Context
A common feature among new Hindu communities in Java is that they tend
to rally around recently built temples (pura) or around archaeological
temple sites (candi) which are being reclaimed as places of Hindu
worship. One of several new Hindu temples in eastern Java is Pura
Mandaragiri Sumeru Agung, located on the slope of Mt Sumeru, Java's
highest mountain. When the temple was completed in July 1992, with the
generous aid of wealthy donors from Bali, only a few local families
formally confessed to Hinduism. A pilot study in December 1999
revealed that the local Hindu community now has grown to more than
5000 households. Similar mass conversions have occurred in the region
around Pura Agung Blambangan, another new temple, built on a site with
minor archaeological remnants attributed to the kingdom of Blambangan,
the last Hindu polity on Java. A further important site is Pura Loka
Moksa Jayabaya (in the village of Menang near Kediri), where the Hindu
king and prophet Jayabaya is said to have achieved spiritual
liberation (moksa). A further Hindu movement in the earliest stages of
development was observed in the vicinity of the newly completed Pura
Pucak Raung (in the Eastern Javanese district of Glenmore), which is
mentioned in Balinese literature as the place where the Hindu saint
Maharishi Markandeya gathered followers for an expedition to Bali,
whereby he is said to have brought Hinduism to Bali in the fifth
century AD. An example of resurgence around major archaeological
remains of ancient Hindu temple sites was observed in Trowulan near
Mojokerto. The site may be the location of the capital of the
legendary Hindu empire Majapahit. A local Hindu movement is struggling
to gain control of a newly excavated temple building which they wish
to see restored as a site of active Hindu worship. The temple is to be
dedicated to Gajah Mada, the man attributed with transforming the
small Hindu kingdom of Majapahit into an empire. Although there has
been a more pronounced history of resistance to Islamization in East
Java, Hindu communities are also expanding in Central Java (Lyon
1980), for example in Klaten, near the ancient Hindu monuments of
It is a common feature of social organization in neighboring Bali to
find temples at the hub of various networks of social affiliation
(Reuter 1998). Temples may be equally important for Hindu Javanese,
though for different reasons. Clear ethnic or clan-like divisions are
generally lacking in Javanese society, and in any case, would be too
exclusive to promote a rapid expansion of new Hindu communities. How
social relations take shape within the support networks of Javanese
Hindu temples and how they differ from those among patrons of Balinese
temples remains to be explored, as is also true of the ritual practice
of Javanese Hindus. Some of the resemblances observed so far seem to
reflect not only the common historical influence of Hinduism in Java
and Bali, but also a common indigenous cultural heritage shared among
these and other Austronesian-speaking societies (Fox & Sathers 1996).
Taking Pura Sumeru as an example, it is also important to note that
major Hindu temples can bring a new prosperity to local populations.
Apart from employment in the building, expansion, and repair of the
temple itself, a steady stream of Balinese pilgrims to this now
nationally recognized temple has led to the growth of a sizeable
service industry. Ready-made offerings, accommodation, and meals are
provided in an ever-lengthening row of shops and hotels along the main
road leading to Pura Sumeru. At times of major ritual activity tens of
thousands of visitors arrive each day. Pilgrims' often generous cash
donations to the temple also find their way into the local economy.
Pondering with some envy on the secret to the economic success of
their Balinese neighbors, several local informants concluded that
"Hindu culture may be more conducive to the development of an
international tourism industry than is Islam". Economic considerations
also come into play insofar as members of this and other Hindu revival
movements tend to cooperate in a variety of other ways, including
private business ventures which are unrelated to their joint religious
practices as such.
Hindu Revivalism as a Utopian Movement
Followers and opponents alike explain the sudden rise of a Hindu
revival movement in Java by referring to the well-known prophecies of
Sabdapalon and Jayabaya. In this they reveal a number of shared
utopian and apocalyptic expectations, even though their
interpretations of the prophesies differ significantly. These mixed
expectations have been a reflection of growing popular dissatisfaction
with the corrupt and dictatorial Suharto government in the 1990s and
until its demise in 1998, following student riots and popular
demonstrations in many major Javanese cities in the wake of the Asian
economic crisis. They also draw inspiration from a deeper crisis of
political and economic culture still current in Indonesia today. The
Indonesia's present first democratically elected government under
President Abdurahman Wahid's leadership again has attracted criticism,
increasingly so in during recent months, as the nation continueds to
be threatened by religious conflict, secession movements in Aceh and
West Papua, and by government corruption scandals. Under the new
presidency of Megawati Sukarnoputri (from 23 July 2001) this sense of
political instability is widely expected to persist. At the same time
many also fear a possible return to the repression of the Suharto
years. It is the prophesies of Sabdapalon and Jayabaya that provide
perhaps the most ready vehicle for the interpretation of these
tumultuous political events, to the members of Hindu revival movements
as well as their opponents. The prophesies of Sabdapalon and Jayabaya
provide a ready vehicle for the interpretation of these events, to the
members of Hindu revival movements as well as their opponents.
Sabdapalon is said to have been a priest and an adviser to Brawijaya
V, the last ruler of the Hindu empire Majapahit. He is also said to
have cursed his king upon the conversion of the latter to Islam in
1478. Sabdapalon then promised to return, after 500 years and at a
time of widespread political corruption and natural disasters, to
sweep Islam from the island and restore Hindu-Javanese religion and
civilization. Some of the first new Hindu temples built in Java were
indeed completed around 1978, for example Pura Blambangan in the
regency of Banyuwangi. As the prophesies foretold, Mt Sumeru erupted
around the same time. All this is taken as evidence of the accuracy of
Sabdapalon's predictions. Islamic opponents of the Hindu movements
accept the prophesies, at least in principle, though their
interpretations differ. Some attribute the Hindu conversions to a
temporary weakness within Islam itself, laying blame on the
materialism of modern life, on an associated decline of Islamic
values, or on the persistent lack of orthodoxy among practitioners of
'Javanese Islam' (Soewarno 1981). In their opinion, the 'return of
Sabdapalon' is meant to test Islam and to propel its followers toward
a much needed revitalization and purification of their faith.
A further prophesy, well-known throughout Java and Indonesia, is the
Ramalan (or Jangka) Jayabaya. A recent publication on these prophesies
by Soesetro & Arief (1999) has become a national best seller. The
predictions of Jayabaya are also discussed frequently in daily
newspapers. These ancient prophesies, indeed, are very much a part of
a current public debate on the ideal shape of a new and genuinely
The historical personage Sri Mapanji Jayabaya reigned over the kingdom
of Kediri in East Java from 1135 to 1157 AD (Buchari 1968:19). He is
known for his efforts to reunify Java after a split had occurred with
the death of his predecessor Airlangga, for his just and prosperous
rule, and for his dedication to the welfare of the common people.
Reputed to have been an incarnation of the Hindu deity Vishnu,
Jayabaya is also the archetypal image of the 'just king' (ratu adil)
who is reborn during the dark age of reversal (jaman edan) at the end
of each cosmic cycle to restore social justice, order, and harmony in
the world. Many believe that the time for the arrival of a new ratu
adil is near (as the prophesies put it, "when iron wagons drive
without horses and ships sail through the sky [i.e. cars and
airplanes]"), and that he will come to rescue and reunite Indonesia
after an acute crisis, ushering in the dawn of a new golden age. These
apocalyptic and utopian expectations evoke the notion of a revolving
cosmic cycle, of a glorious past declining into a present state of
moral decay, where the ideal order of things is momentarily inverted,
only to be restored again in a future that is in effect a return to
Hindu Javanese emphasize with pride that their ancestors Sabdapalon
and Jayabaya represent a golden pre-Islamic age. Islamic opponents, in
turn, claim that Jayabaya was in fact a Muslim and that Sabdapalon had
only resisted conversion because what he was confronted with at the
time was but a muddled and impure version of Islam (Soewarno 1981).
Nevertheless, Muslim and Hindu interpreters agree that this is the
time of reckoning, of major political reform if not a revolution. They
also tend to agree that a truly democratic system of government may
only be realized with the help of a leader of the highest moral
caliber, thus blending modern notions of democracy with traditional
notions of charismatic leadership.
That the prophesies of Jayabaya are of profound significance to
Indonesians of very different persuasion and from all walks of life is
illustrated by the secret visits (once before he was nominated as a
presidential candidate and again before his election) of President
Abdurahman Wahid (then head of the NU) to the ancestral origin temple
of Raja Jayabaya in Bali, the remote mountain sanctuary Pura Pucak
Penulisan. After a solitary nocturnal devotion at this ancient
Hindu temple, as local priests told me, Gus Dur (the president's
popular nickname) spoke with them at length about Jayabaya's
prophesies and the imminent arrival of a new ratu adil. Opponents of
Gus Dur have prefered to identify his government with another passage
in the prophesies, which refer to "a king whose [interim] rule shall
last no longer than the life span of a maize plant".
In conversations in Java and Bali in late 1999, I was continuously
struck by the spirited political idealism of my informants, and their
readiness even to risk their lives in the pursuit of political reform.
It was sobering to note that they were envisaging for their Indonesia
of the future so ideal a system of government as even western
democracies could not claim to have achieved so far. I became rather
concerned as well, in contemplating a very different attitude of
cynicism and a sense of futility that now seems to permeate political
life in western societies, and is reflected in the decline of popular
participation and the silent attrition of important democratic
institutions, such as independent universities (Ellingsen 1999).
Studying Hindu revivalism in Java, in particular, reminded me also of
persistent utopian and apocalyptic undertones in western scientific
and technological worldviews, such as the early utopian predictions of
a new cyber-democracy among Internet users and the more recent
apocalyptic hysteria about the 'Y2K' computer bug.
The study of 'revival', 'millenarian', 'cargo-cult' or 'revolutionary'
movements has a long and somewhat controversial history in the social
sciences (Schwartz 1987). A common feature identified in studies of
such movements is the linking of apocalyptic and utopian expectations,
suggesting a tendency for people to readily believe what they most
fear or wish to be true. Most analysts have stressed the ease with
which charismatic and authoritarian leader figures can exploit such
powerful beliefs and sentiments (Adorno 1978), and how mass
manipulation may precipitate self-destructive behavior, such as
collective suicide, or bizarre acts of violence. At the same time,
social theory has produced its own visions of apocalypse and utopia,
Karl Marx' prophesy of a 'final class struggle' and subsequent
'class-less society' being the most prominent among them.
In both cases, the lingering impression is that highly fatalistic or
idealistic social movements are dangerous and destructive in the
extreme. This is often true enough, but not necessarily so. Utopian
expectations as such, judging by the original meaning of the word
utopia ('no-place'), do not suggest a need for a single radical change
so much as a continuous process of reform; a striving towards an ideal
that ultimately can not be located or reached. As for apocalypticism,
much may depend on whether it has some rational foundation. This may
well be the case in Indonesia, now poised, as it is, at a significant
A fundamental problem and simultaneously a source of inspiration for
this field of social research has been the immense variability within
the class of phenomena it seeks to describe. In the absence of a
comprehensive theoretical framework that would serve to identify major
categories of historical, political or situational variables in the
genesis, development and outcomes of such apocalyptic or utopian
movements, reporters and researchers alike are often seduced into
focusing instead on their more obscure and sensational
features.Although there have been repeated attempts to draw this
research together under the umbrella of a single paradigm, such as
Smelser's (1962) proposal for a more general category of
'value-focused social movements', discussion continues to be
frustrated by disagreements on matters of definition and terminology.
This problem pertains to discussions both across and within the
boundaries of contributing disciplines, including anthropology,
political science, sociology, social psychology and comparative
religion. A review of the extensive and varied literature on
millenarian movements is beyond the scope of this paper.
Under these adverse conditions, most attempts to transcend the
specificity of particular apocalyptic or millenarian movements have
been geographically or culturally restricted, and taken shape in
discussions among groups of area specialists. The more significant
among recent advances in the field, on the basis of such regional
comparisons, have come from anthropological research on 'cargo-cult'
movements in Papua New Guinea (Stewart 2000) and on 'endtime'
movements in America (Stewart & Harding 1999).
This regional focusing of the discussion has paid dividends as an
interim solution, but it also has detracted attention from a broader
anthropological project of understanding idealistic social movements
as a possible modality of social change in all human societies. While
the notion of 'millenarian movements' has become a kind of gateway
concept for researchers in PNG and the USA, for example, those working
in other regions may pay very little attention to the same topic even
though they may have cause to do so. Indonesia is one of these more or
less neglected regions, with only a small minority of scholars caring
to comment on millenarian movements and their recent proliferation
(including Lee 1999, Timmer 2000).
Collaboration among fellow Indonesianists will be essential for any
future attempt to raise the level of comparative research on this
topic to the same high standard that has been achieved elsewhere. Even
then, such a regional research project must be firmly anchored in a
general anthropological theory. Without such a broader comparative
framework to bridge the gaps between regional studies, the latter may
deteriorate, for example, into neo-colonial discourses about the
'inherent madness' of Indonesia or other non-western societies. This
particular objection has been raised most vehemently in recent
critiques of 'cargo-cult'
studies (Lindstrom 1993, Kaplan 1995).
While Javanese Hindu revivalism may serve as my privileged example, an
important future aim is to develop a more general theoretical approach
to 'value-oriented social movements', on the basis of four hypothesis.
Namely, that these movements; 1) can occur in all human societies, 2)
are an extreme manifestation or response to social change, 3) are
informed by radical some forms of 'religious' or 'secular' idealism,
and 4) are accompanied by a heightened self-awareness among
participants of being 'agents' or 'witnesses' of societal change.
These different dimensions of idealist social movements are assumed to
be interconnected. A heightened sense of agency and reflexivity, for
example, may reflect in different ways on underlying material and
symbolic interests that have been frustrated or denied to broad or
narrow sectors of the society concerned.
The link between value-based social movements and the general
phenomena of 'socio-cultural change' and 'reproduction' is a crucial
issue, and it is both complex and variable. As a force operating
within underdetermined and mutable socio-cultural worlds with limited
cohesion such movements can not be adequately described, by evoking
the metaphor of a homeostatic 'system', as either 'functional' or
'dysfunctional'. Even if we were to define cultural reproduction and
change more cautiously, as different takes on a single and largely
unpredictable historical process, some of these movements may appear
to be exerting a 'reactionary' influence while others are more
'radical' or a combination of both. Expressions of social critique (in
relation to society as it is or is perceived) are a common theme in
the discourses produced within different value-oriented social
movements. But we may also find combinations of restorative or
visionary idealism, in different proportions, depending on whether the
critique is focused on undesirable change or undesirable stagnation in
the society concerned.
In evaluating the significance of Hindu revivalism and similar
movements in Java for the stability and future development of
Indonesian democracy, it is thus of the utmost importance to adopt a
balanced view of processes of social change and their implications.
The acute danger normally attributed to rapid social change in general
and to idealistic social movements in particular must be weighed
against the less sensational dangers of political inactivity, cynicism
and complacency. Rather than casting a condescending judgement on the
state of Indonesian society, the current proliferation of
millenarianism therein must be evaluated within the context of a
critical project of cross-cultural comparison. In this context, it may
be worth pointing to the current "anti-globalization" movement in
western countries, for this movement too serves as a reminder: The
creation of a just society is a continuous, often circular, and still
unfinished project, as much for us as it is for the people of
 Islam, for example, incorporated elements from the tribal
traditions of Arab peoples and from Jewish and Christian texts such as
the 'Old Testament'.
 The other four state-recognized religions (agama) are Islam,
Catholicism, Protestantism, and Buddhism (mainly Indonesians of
Chinese ethnicity). Unrecognized religions are categorized by the
state as minor
'streams of belief' (aliran kepercayaan) or are simply treated as a
part of different local 'customs and traditions' (adat).
 As I am writing this, parliamentary procedures have been set into
motion so as to impeach President Abdurahman Wahid on allegations of
his involvement in corruption scandals.
 Pura Pucak Penulisan is still an important regional temple, and
was a state temple of Balinese kings from the eighth century AD
(Reuter 1998). Many statues of Balinese kings are still found in its
inner sanctum, including one depicting Airlangga's younger brother
Anak Wungsu. Literary sources suggest that intimate ties of kinship
connected the royal families of Bali with the dynasties of Eastern
Javanese kingdoms, including Kediri. Jayabaya's predecessor Airlannga,
for example, was a Balinese prince.
 Sometimes apocalyptic expectations can reach such a pitch that
members of the movement concerned may feel a need to bring about the
very cataclysm the have been predicting. The poison gas attack in
Tokyo launched by Japan's AUM Shinokio sect is a recent example. It is
still uncertain whether the recent bomb attacks on Javanese Christian
churches over the christmas period of 2000 were the responsibility of
radical religious groups, or were instigated by other political
interest groups wishing to destabilize the country by inciting
simmering inter-religious conflicts in Java to the same level of
violence as in the troubled Molukka Province.
Adorno, T. W. 1978. 'Freudian Theory and the Pattern of Fascist
Propaganda'. In A. Arato & E. Gebhardt (eds), The Essential Frankfurt
School Reader. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
Bakker, F. 1995. Bali in the Indonesian State in the 1990s: The
religious aspect. Paper presented at the Third International Bali
Studies Workshop, 3-7 July 1995.
Beatty, A. 1999. Varieties of Javanese Religion. Cambridge: Cambridge
Buchari 1968. 'Sri Maharaja Mapanji Garasakan'. Madjalah Ilmu-Ilmu
Sastra Indonesia, 1968(4):1-26.
Ellingsen, P. 1999. 'Silence on Campus: How academics are being gagged
as universities toe the corporate line'. Melbourne: The Age Magazine,
Fox, J. & Sathers, C. (eds) 1996. Origins, Ancestry and Alliance:
Explorations in Austronesian Ethnography. Canberra: Department of
Anthropology, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian
Geertz, C. 1960. The Religion of Java. Chicago: The University of
Hefner, R. 1985. Hindu Javanese: Tengger Tradition and Islam.
Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Hefner, R. 1987. 'The Political Economy of Islamic Conversion in
Modern East Java'. In W. Roff (ed.), Islam and the Political Economy
of Meaning. London: Croom Helm.
Hefner, R. 1990. The Political Economy of Mountain Java. Berkeley:
University of California Press.
Hefner, R. 1997. 'Islamization and Democratization in Indonesia'. In
R. Hefner & P. Horvatich (eds), Islam in an Era of Nation States:
Politics and Religious Renewal in Muslim Southeast Asia. Honolulu:
University of Hawaii Press.
Kaplan, M. 1995. Neither Cargo nor Cult: Ritual Politics and the
Colonial Imagination in Fiji. Durham (NC): Duke University Press.
Lee, K. 1999. A Fragile Nation: The Indonesian Crisis. River Edge
(N.J.): World Scientific.
Lindstrom, L. 1993. Cargo Cult: Strange Stories of Desire from
Melanesia and Beyond. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
Lyon, M. 1980. 'The Hindu Revival in Java". In J. Fox (ed.),
Indonesia: The making of a Culture. Canberra: Research School of
Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University.
Ramstedt, M. 1998. 'Negotiating Identity: 'Hinduism' in Modern
Indonesia'. Leiden: IIAS Newsletter, 17:50.
Reuter, T. 1998. 'The Banua of Pura Pucak Penulisan: A Ritual Domain
in the Highlands of Bali'. Review of Indonesian and Malaysian Affairs,
Schwartz, H. 1987. 'Millenarianism: An overview'. In M. Eliade (ed.),
The Encyclopedia of Religion, Vol. 9:521-532. New York: MacMillan.
Smelser, J. 1962. Theory of Collective Behavior. London: Routledge and
Soesetro, D. & Arief, Z. 1999. Ramalan Jayabaya di Era Reformasi.
Yogyakarta: Media Pressindo.
Soewarna, M. 1981. Ramalan Jayabaya Versi Sabda Palon. Jakarta: P.T Yudha
Stewart, K. & Harding, S. 1999. 'Bad Endings: American Apocalypsis'.
Annual Review of Anthropology 28:285-310.
Stewart, P.J. 2000. 'Introduction: Latencies and realizations in
millennial practices'. Ethnohistory 47(1):3-27. [Special Issue on
Timmer, J. 2000. 'The return of the kingdom: Agama and the millennium
among the Imyan of Irian Jaya, Indonesia'. . Ethnohistory 47(1):29-65.
Note: Dr Thomas Reuter is Queen Elizabeth II Research Fellow at the
University of Melbourne's School of Anthropology, Geography &
Environmental Studies. This paper was published in The Australian
Journal of Anthropology and is being reproduced with their permission.
Unity in diversity
Joined: 18 Jan 2005
|Posted: Sun Jan 23, 2005 11:15 am Post subject:
|Essentially, one of the reasons so many Inodnesians have Islam as their relgion on their identity cards is because in the 1950-early 60's your choice of faith could mean life or death. Initially only Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism were recognised, if one did not chose to be affiliated to those officially recognised choices a person was liable to be viewed a communist. There were many massacres throughout Indonesia...100,000 on Bali alone.
The Prophocy of Jayabaya...resergent Hinduism to restore unity and Javanese relgion as opposed to growing Islamisation.
Many thousands of Javanese, Dayaks, Torajans and others have become Hindu over the last couple of decades, finding that to be muslim, means increasinlgy to follow strict Islam, not tro be called muslim but practise their own relgion. This is not acceptible to millions in that part of the world.
1999 bureu of statistics accepted that almost 100,000 Javanese had reverted or converted to Hinduism.
The Government PHDI (Hindu Orgastation)of E java claimed 76,000 converts last year alone.
These are labelled muslims taking it in their own hands to embrace another religion, missionaries are not allowed by law to convert muslims in Indonesia.
Unity in diversity
Joined: 16 Feb 2004
Location: Paris, France
|Posted: Tue Jan 25, 2005 2:23 pm Post subject:
This is a REALLY interesting text which I have dutifully filed for future reference! It is written from an objective socio-historical perspective and so has nothing to do with any form of religious propaganda. It shows how complex and multi-layered the religious situation is in Indonesa/Java.
I am painfully ignorant about Indonesia (although I am smoking a Gudang Garam while typing this!) and I would like to know if there is any Buddhist revivalist movement in Indonesia? In fact, do you know roughly how many Indonesians/Javanese do consider themselves to be Buddhist?
You say in your last post that missionaries are not allowed to convert Muslims in Indonesia. Are there any legal restrictions on conversions? Presumably it IS perfectly legal today for a Muslim to convert to Hinduism without suffering any legal consequences. However, we do have here on FFI an Indonesian (Mohammed Kristen) whose movement does seem to be converting Muslims to Christianity. Is this technically illegal?
The text was of course written before the tsunami but speaks a lot about natural catastrophes as an important part of Hindu-inspired prophecies. Do you know if the Hindu revivalists have already interpreted this catastrophe according to the Hindu prophecies? Do you think it will have a major impact on the movement?
Please stay around FFI - your contributions are among the most well-balanced and informative I've seen!!
Joined: 20 Mar 2004
Location: Not on FFI anymore
|Posted: Tue Jan 25, 2005 3:15 pm Post subject:
|Buddhism had been replaced by Hinduism before the advent of Islam. Of course Buddhism and Hinduism didn't 'bite' eachother either in the eyes of many Indonesians.
Strangely one of the largest Buddhist temples (Borubudur) is still 'half' in use...a lot of the Buddha statues there are still covered with flowers.
Today the majority of Buddhists are the descendants of Chinese immigrants who arrived in the last two centuries.
Joined: 18 Jan 2005
|Posted: Tue Jan 25, 2005 3:32 pm Post subject:
I do not think Hinduism did replace buddhism in Indonesia, both religions were exported from India around the same time via trade contact with Indian Kingdoms. Hindusim and Buddhism both have a 2,000 year history in that archipeligo. In much of SE Asia it was not Hindusim replacing Buddhism but the reverse.
Infact in Indonesia Hindusim and Buddhism have long been syncretised long ago being declared as one and the same. When anthropologists speak of this they refere to Hindu-buddhism as a syncretic relgion or Hindu-buddhist period of Infuence.
A testament to this are the 500,000 Tengger hindus living in E Java, thier relgion is technically Hindu, but the they refer to it as Buddha-Mahayana.
there are Buddhist movements in Indonesia, offcially they make up about 1% of the population, but most Buddhists in the country are Chinese and not indeginous populations, although they do exist.
Unity in diversity
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