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Tengger people
COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM Priesters uit het Tengger district Oost-Java TMnr 10001180.jpg
Tengger priests during Dutch East Indies era.
Total population
Regions with significant populations
East Java, Indonesia
Tenggerese dialect of Javanese
Hinduism (predominantly), Islam, Buddhism, Animism
Related ethnic groups
other Javanese sub-ethnic such as: Mataram, Cirebonese, Osing, Boyanese, Samin, Naganese, Banyumasan, etc.[2]

The Tenggerese or Tengger people are an Javanese ethnic group in eastern Java who claim to be the descendants of the Majapahit princes. Their population of roughly 100,000 is centered in thirty villages in the isolated Tengger mountains (Mount Bromo) within the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park in Eastern Java.

Scattered communities of Tenggerese also exist in the Pasuruan, Probolinggo, Malang, and Lumajang Regencies of eastern Java. They are traditionally believed to be the descendants of legendary Roro Anteng and Joko Seger.[3] The Tenggerese are considered an ethnic sub-group of the Javanese people.


Before the 15th century, the past of the Tenggerese was linked with the Majapahit and other kingdoms from the earlier period. According to legend, Jaka Seger and Roro Anteng are the ancestors of the Tenggerese.


The Tenggerese speak an archaic Javanese (Majapahit) dialect called Tengger Javanese. Elements of modern Javanese influences can be seen in their speech. They have their own written Kavi script based on the old Javanese Brahmi type.


The Tenggerese generally profess Hinduism as their religion, although they have incorporated many Buddhist and Animist elements. Like the Balinese, they worship Ida Sang Hyang Widi Wasa (Roughly "Big Almighty Lord") for blessings in addition to other Hindu and Buddhist gods that include the Tri Murti, namely Shiva, Brahma, Vishnu and Buddha. Their places of worship include the Punden, Poten and Danyang. The Poten is a sacred area of ground at Mt. Bromo's Sand sea, and becomes the focus of the annual Kasada Ceremony. Within the Poten, it contains several buildings and enclosures, arranged in a specific composition called the Mandalas (Zones).

The Tenggerese also worship a host of spirits (ancestor worship). They include cikal bakal, the spirits of the founders of the village, the roh bahurekso, the village guardian spirits and the roh leluhur, the spirits of the ancestors. Rituals to propitiate these spirits are conducted by special priests. During these rites little doll-like figures representing the spirits are clothed in batik cloth and are presented with food and drink. It is believed that the spirits partake of the essence of these offerings. The Bromo volcano is considered one of the most sacred places. If it erupts, they believe that their god is very angry.

The Tenggerese gave offerings to the gods in different forms. One of these, Sajenan, is presented to the guardian deities by the priest in formal liturgy. For different occasions different sorts of food are offered as Sajenan. For instance, during weddings a cone of rice, Tumpeng Walagara, is offered, and this is considered to be a source of blessing for the couple as well as the whole village. The second sort of food offering, called Suguhan, are those that are offered by ordinary Tengger Hindus to their ancestral spirits. The third type, Tamping, are food offerings to evil spirits so as to ward off bad luck, and typically consist of meat, rice and bananas wrapped up in leaves and placed at places considered inauspicious such as cemeteries, bridges and road intersections.

Their priests are called Dukun or Resi Pujangga, who play a middle role in their religious worship. They are believed to possess spiritual knowledge called Ilmu of the gods and the spirits, which they carefully guard from ordinary Tenggers. Membership of the priesthood is hereditary, and generally passes down from father to son. Each village has only one of these three priests, together with three assistants, namely Legen, Sepuh and Dandan.

However, in the past few decades, due to over-population in Madura, many Madurese settlers have exploited the Tenggerese land by clearing some of their nature reserves for land and converted 2-3% (up to 10,000 of them) of the Tenggerese to Islam in the process, particularly those living in the more accessible areas in the lowlands just outside the Tengger range. Because of this Islamic missionary activity, the remaining Hindu Tenggerese asked the Balinese Hindus for help by reforming their culture and religion closer to the Balinese. The Indonesian government finally declared the Tengger mountains as the Bromo-Tengger-Semeru national park, and has also declared that any more logging in this area is an illegal act, therefore protecting the Tenggerese from further disruption.


The Tenggerese are basically either agriculturalists or nomadic herders. The agriculturalists generally live on the lower altitudes, while the nomads live on the higher altitudes, riding on small horses.


Tenggerese children at a wedding in traditional attire

The main festival of the Tenggerese is the Yadnya Kasada, which lasts about a month. On the fourteenth day of the Kasada, the Tenggerese go to Poten Bromo and ask for blessing from the main deity Hyang Widi Wasa and Mahadeva, the God of the Mountain (Mount Semeru) by presenting annual offerings of rice, fruit, vegetables, flowers, livestock and other local produce. They will also see the examination of the medicine men memorizing prayers. The medicine man who passes the exam is chosen to be spiritual leader of Tengger tribe.

The origin of this festival is a legend which dates back to the Majapahit kingdom, during the reign of King Brawijaya, in which the queen of the Kingdom gave birth to a daughter named Roro Anteng, who married Jaka Seger, a young man from the Brahmin caste.

According to the legend, Roro Anteng and Jaka Seger were among many others who fled from the already tattering Majapahit kingdom during the 15th century, when the declining kingdom was already in a brink of collapse while the rapid spread of Islam in Java has begun. The couple with their followers later settled in the Tengger mountains and ruled the region jointly under the title Purbawisesa Mangkurat Ing Tengger. Tradition holds belief that they are ancestors of modern Tengger people.

For a few years the Tenggerese people flourished under the leadership of Jaka Seger and Roro Anteng, yet the king and queen were unhappy for they had no children. Desperate, they decided to climb to the top of Mt. Bromo and pray for help. Deeply moved by the couple's depth of his faith, the god of Mt. Bromo assured them of offspring but with the condition that the youngest child be sacrificed in the crater of the volcano. After giving birth to twenty-five children, the time came for Roro Anteng and to fulfil her part of the pledge. Although they were reluctant, they were threatened with catastrophe, forcing them to futfil their pledge and complying the god's wishes, they have no choice but to sacrifice their 25th child, Kesuma, by throwing him into the crater. In an alternate story, Kesuma was taken and consumed by the fire arising from the crater when he was about to flee from Mt. Bromo. The Tengger people then started to commemorate this festival until present time.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Tengger in Indonesia". Joshua Project. Retrieved 2015-10-05. 
  2. ^ "Index". sp2010.bps.go.id. 
  3. ^ Mount Bromo East Java tourism

External links[edit]

Media related to Tengger people at Wikimedia Commons