Dieng Culture Festival 2016: Shaving off Dreadlocks in the Abode of the Gods

1 Jul 2016

The mist-shrouded highlands of the Dieng Plateau in Central Java will come alive with festivity from 5th to 7th August 2016 when the Dieng Culture Festival 2016gets underway.  Held annually as a community celebration, the festival presents a variety of art and cultural performances, an exhibition of Dieng's finest products, and as pinnacle the unique dreadlock kids’ ritual ceremony  (or Ruwatan anak gembel/gimbal).


The festival is highlighted with the release of traditional lanterns, a popular leather puppet wayang  show, traditional art and cultural performances, and a fireworks fiesta. Adding sparkle to the festival will be a Dieng Film Festival and Jazz performances entitled Jazz above the Clouds. And, as in every year, the pinnacle of the festival will be the ritual of trimming off of dreadlocks of kids.


Being the main feature of the festival, this ceremony is truly exceptional. While globally dreadlock hair is commonly known as Rastafarian style from Jamaica, here in the highlands of Dieng, dreadlock, or matted hair is not a chosen style but rather a mystifying feature that only occurs in children of the Dieng plateau.


Dieng's dreadlocked children are born with normal hair, but at a certain moment in their young life, their hair amazingly turns dreadlock all by itself. Various studies to scientifically investigate the cause have not resulted in any logical explanation. According to local belief, however, these kids are somehow chosen by the ancestors to accept these gifts.  The dreadlocks may, therefore, not be trimmed unless the children themselves ask for it, or such hair will continue to grow back. The precious moment when the dreadlock kids’ hair is shaven off is celebrated in a series of ritual ceremonies known as the Ruwatan Anak Gimbal.


The ceremony commences with the procession of the dreadlock kids carried around the village, paraded on a Javanese traditional horse drawn carriage orDokar guarded by Manggala Yudha or royal troops and followed by various traditional art processions. The special kids will then be taken to the Arjuna Temple in the Dieng Temple complex where the ritual of the dreadlock hair cutting will take place. Subsequently, the shaven off hair is taken to the lake and submerged here as symbol of returning the hair back to the ancestors.


Located about three hours’ drive away from Yogyakarta or two hours south west from the city of Semarang, the Dieng highlands are truly a marvel all their own. Literally translated as the "Abode of the Gods", the Dieng plateau not only presents a remarkable collection of temples believed to have been built in the 8thcentury, but it is also set in a fascinating mountainous background and surrounded by the mystical culture of its people.

More Information is available at the event’s official website: http://www.dieng.id/

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