Mudik, or Pulang Kampung, is an Indonesian term for the activity where migrants or migrant workers return to their hometown or village during or before major holidays, especially Lebaran (Eid al-Fitr). Although the mudik homecoming travel before Lebaran takes place in most Indonesian urban centers, the highlight is on the nation's largest urban agglomeration; Greater Jakarta, as millions of Jakartans exit the city by various means of transportation, overwhelming train stations and airports and also clogging highways, especially the Trans-Java toll road and Java's Northern Coast Road.
The primary motivation of this homecoming tradition is to visit one's family, especially parents. However, people might seek to come to their hometown during this period to attend a rare opportunity: a gathering of members of the extended family, the seldomly seen relatives that are normally scattered in other cities, other provinces or even overseas.
Mudik for Eid al-Fitr, or its similar traditions, exists in countries with Muslim majorities, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Other similar annual homecoming traditions are also observable in various parts of the world, including Chinese New Year in China, Thai Songkran, Christmas in Europe, Divali in India and Thanksgiving in America, where family members are expected to come home during these specific holidays.
The term mudik in Indonesian means "to sail or to travel to udik (upstream, inland) by the river". The term mudik or udik is also found in local Indonesian languages, including Malay, Minang, Betawi, Sundanese and Javanese languages.
The tradition to visit one's hometown, home village or family ancestral home is not a new tradition in Indonesian history. Manuscripts dated from the Majapahit period describes that nobles and royals often travelled from the capital city in Trowulan to their ancestral home, in order to honor and appease ancestral spirits. In Balinese tradition, Hindu Balinese people came home to their hometowns or their home villages during Galungan and Kuningan sacred days, as they believed it marks the time when the ancestral spirits visit their descendants in the mortal world.
In most parts of Indonesia where Islam is the majority, the homecoming or mudik tradition is most often conducted in the month of Ramadhan, between a week to several days prior to Lebaran (Eid al-Fitr). Nevertheless, other ethnicities such as the Madurese are known to conduct their mudik tradition prior to Eid al-Adha instead. Indonesian Christians, on the other hand, especially Batak people, might travel to their hometown prior to Christmas.
The term mudik to coin the specific homecoming activity, started to enter common Indonesians' vocabulary since the 1970s. It is suggested that in 1970s, during the start of Suharto's centralized New Order regime, the prominence of Jakarta as the center of the nation's politics, administrative and economic activities prompted massive urbanization, where the population of rural Javanese villages flocked and migrated to Jakarta and surrounding areas (Greater Jakarta) seeking jobs and economic opportunities. The majority of the migrants came from rural Javanese areas; nevertheless, Jakarta also attracted migrants from all over Indonesia. These newcomer migrants, that still nurture their links to their hometowns in rural Java or other corners in Indonesia, were actively involved in the annual mudik travel.
Outside of Java, Mudik homecoming is also significantly observable in Sumatra, especially in West Sumatra, Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra corridors, where numbers of migrant workers, especially Minang perantauan (migrant) return to their hometown to celebrate Idul Fitri.
The government of Indonesia provides additional transportation to handle the massive surge of travellers in several days prior to and after the Lebaran. In 2013 there were around 30 million people travelling to their hometowns during Lebaran. They spent a total sum of around 90 trillion rupiah (around US$9 billion) in rural areas. The numbers of Indonesians that take mudik or pulang kampung travel is quite tremendous. In 2017 it was estimated that the people that took annual mudik travel reached 33 million people. The numbers is approximately equal to the whole population of Malaysia (31 million, 2017 est.). This causes massive traffic jams and a sudden rise of demand and volume of intercity transportation.
The demand for train and airplane tickets usually spikes a month or two prior to Lebaran, prompting an unusually higher cost for tickets for highly sought days of departure. Some airlines might add extra flights or operate larger airplanes to deal with the surge in demand. Indonesian train operator Kereta Api Indonesia usually offers additional train trips or introduces longer trains with more cars in order to meet the demand. The private operators of intercity and interprovince buses usually charge higher ticket costs during this period.
The impact is indeed tremendous as millions of buses, cars and motorcycles jam the roads and highways, causing kilometres of traffic jams each year. The massive congestion usually occurs along Trans-Java toll road and Java's Northern Coast Road.
The mudik travellers take various modes of transportation to reach their hometowns. Some of them might even ride a motorcycle. Although it might be done for short range of travel, the police and authority have discouraged this practice, citing the motorcycle's potential danger and unsuitablity for mid- to long-range mudik travel. Large numbers of mudik accidents involve motorcyclists. To reduce mudik travellers using motorcycles, the government tried to lure motorcyclists away from mudik travel by offering mudik gratis, or free mudik program. The program offers motorcyclists a free service to send their motorcycles via railways, trucks or ships to their towns separately, while they travel with another mode of transportation instead. Despite initial success in reducing mudik motorcyclists in 2014 and 2015, the number of mudik motorcyclists spiked in 2016 to 5.6 million motorcycles.
The sudden exodus of large numbers of migrant workers — most of them are low-skilled labourers, domestic helpers, and those who work in service sectors — has created a void in Jakarta and other major cities' daily activities, as numbers of business, services, establishments, warung and restaurants are closed for Lebaran. The sudden loss of occupants after Mudik is also observable on relatively empty Jakarta streets during Lebaran, which normally suffers from clogged traffic. Additionally, the wealthier classes — who do not participate in mudik travel — often go to local hotels or overseas to accommodate the absence of their domestic servants, drivers, and even security guards.
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- (in Indonesian) Mudik culture followed by urbanization culture