article by Lai-Kuen Tang for the States of Splendor

Mount Bromo, Javanese volcanic splendor

 Widely remembered for it’s 2011 eruption, Mount Bromo is a subject of ancestral worship amongst the people living at it’s foot, in East Java’s Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, Indonesia. 

/Lai-Kuen Tang

Recognized as a Réserve de biosphère (biosphère reserve) in 2015 by UNESCO, Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, is a land of wonders containing, amongst others, Indonesia’s highest peak (Mount Semeru). One of it’s most beautiful landmarks, however, is Mount Bromo, an active volcano reminiscent of the most archetypal dreams about the Javanese topography. I have been fortunate enough to have witnessed it’s massive presence; a sight amongst the ones no one can forget in a life’s experience.

Stairway to the crater

Stairway to the crater. – photo: © GEC Lai-Kuen Tang

To visit Mount Bromo, one must make his way to Cemoro Lawan, a medium sized mountain village. From there it takes about an hour to get there by foot. To fully appreciate Mount Bromo, it is necessary however to climb a nearby peak and observe the radiant reflexion of the steaming volcano in the Javanese skies. It is pure splendor that can only be partially reproduced by photographic means. Mount Bromo is a spleeping giant with a haunting look translating right over from prehistoric times.

Mount Bromo, to the left. – photo: © GEC Lai-Kuen Tang

Mount Bromo is a special mountain that was venerated by the Tenggerese people, who still live in the nearby city of Probolinggo. These people are one of the rare who have held on to their Hindu faith, in Indonesia. Every year, in their festival of Yadnya Kasada, of which some of the rituals last one month, the people make a pilgrimage to the top of the crater. Mount Bromo is considered a divinity by the Tenggerese people and so, they make offerings of fruit, rice, flowers and even livestock to the smoking volcano in a sacrificial ceremony. Today, when walking in these areas, amongst which there is the famous sea of sand ( Segara Wedi) that lies, timeless. The rock formations bear the markings of the Tenggerese people of bygone centuries.

Tenggerese petroglyphs

Tenggerese petroglyphs. – photo: © GEC Lai-Kuen Tang

The location is out of this world. Out in the distance, in the middle of the sea of sand, like a boat, is the Pura Luhur Poten Hindu temple. It is constructed out of volcanic stone that differs from the other traditional temples of Java. People from all the surrounding mountain villages consider it an important place. In olden times around the 14th and 15th centuries, the people living in the Tengger area were considered as having a sacred duty of protecting and taking care of Mount Bromo as a divinity. The Tenggerese people of the area thus used to have a special status in the Javanese society of that period.

Looking at the sea of sand.

Looking at the sea of sand. – photo: © GEC Lai-Kuen Tang

Upon completing Mount Bromo’s ascension, I could finally stare into the eye of the mountain god. The crater lies, fuming and suggesting it still holds an awesome power. Here is the location were sacrifices from a bygone era have been performed in scenes one can only imagine. Truly a symbolic sight to behold.

Peering inside Mount Bromo's crater

Peering inside Mount Bromo’s crater – photo: © GEC Lai-Kuen Tang

Mount Bromo’s name is etymologically related to the name of the Hindu god Bhrama. I can understand why one would relate this mountain to the likeness of a god. Seeing the awesome power that lurks in a volcano overlooking the sea of sand, you are much obliged to remember it does have the capacity to suddenly transform everything in it’s midst. When in Java, do go visit the legendary Mount Bromo.

Mount Bromo's splendor

Mount Bromo’s splendor. – photo: © GEC Lai-Kuen Tang

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