Steep in tradition and superstition, the Rawa (Rao) community performs a ritual called “berjojak” (berjejak tanah in standard Bahasa Malaysia) for toddlers before they are allowed to step on the ground.
This age-old ceremony dates back to the time of the royals in Rawa, West Sumatra, Indonesia where story has it that a child of a princess was kidnapped by the people of Pagar Ruyung and forced to ascend the throne of their deceased Sultan.
The princess, angered, placed a curse on the descendants of the royals. To break this curse, staunch believers put their babies through this ritual before they are allowed to step foot on the ground. It is believed that if the curse wasn’t broken, ill-fate would befall the family.
If a family has a string of children, every one of them has to go through the same ritual, and subsequent children after the first child need to have their ceremonies performed when they are not older than when the first child had his/hers.
Conducted by an experienced shaman of the community, he/she would continuously chant mantras, whilst the toddler, under a yellow strip of cloth to signify the sky, has cooling rice powder (bedak sejuk) applied onto her joints, and then made to walk to and fro on the ground that has been laid with a particular type of leaf, daun gelenggang (Cassia Senna).
This is repeated with yellow clay applied on the toddler’s joints. After walking on the leaves, black clay is applied instead, and then she has to take a final walk on the leaves before being carried to have a symbolic bath, shielded by an umbrella under the yellow “sky”.
Fire crackers are let off at three different junctures of this ritual, a way to inform villagers near and far that the toddler has already undergone the ceremony, and is now “of age”.
After her bath, and with rice and popcorn thrown over her head before entering her house, the toddler is dressed in her resplendent yellow-coloured frock, and fed with a meal especially prepared for the event, consisting of a plate of yellow glutinous rice and half a chicken cooked with turmeric. The other half of the chicken dish is presented to the family of the shaman.
Yellow is the colour of the day, the colour of royals, as they are believed to be descendants of the Rawa royal family.
Still, even after undergoing the ceremony, the toddler is not allowed to walk on the ground until three more days have passed.
Those interested in the ethnic culture and tradition of the Rawa people and would like to witness first hand this cultural presentation of Adat Berjojak (sans the mantra chanting) may do so at Homestay Gopeng, which has the largest Rawa community in Malaysia. 99% of the Malays in Gopeng are said to be Rawas.
This homestay is well-known for its adventurous and outdoor programmes, such as whitewater rafting, caving and water abseiling.
For further information on Homestay Gopeng and/or Adat Berjojak Melayu Rawa, contact:
Pn. Noradidah Hj. Mokhtar
(Chairperson Homestay Perak / EXCO Homestay Malaysia)
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