Madura proves a valuable site for religious tourism

Air Mata Ibu graveyard

The Madurese people deeply respect their Islamic teachers, even when they are dead. One of their traditions is to pray at their graves to ask their blessings.

No wonder, then, that across the island are many graves of Islamic teachers (kyai), which are deemed sacred. As such, they are proving a boon for local religious tourism.

By Achmad Faisal

The people call such graves bujuk, a Madurese word that refers to the elderly members of a family. In context, it means a respected person whose advice and directions should be followed.

Bujuk are usually named after the birthplace of the kyai or the place where they grew up, or after an incident during their life. For example, Bujuk Banyu Sangka, located in Banyu Sangka village, (Tanjung Bumi district, Bangkalan), is the grave of a kyai named Sayyid Husein.

In Batu Ampar village (Proppo district, Pamekasan) is a grave called Bujuk Latthong; latthong means manure. According to Kisah Aulia Batu Ampar (Story of Aulia Batu Ampar), a book by KH Achmad Fauzi Damanhuri, a grandson of Bujuk Latthong, whose real name was Syekh Abu Syamsuddin, the kyai once hid the weapon of his enemy in a pile of cow manure.

There are also graves that bear the kyai's real name, such as Bujuk Sara in Martajasah village (Kota district, Bangkalan). The kyai's full name was Siti Maisaroh.

Hundreds of graveyards are found across Madura's four regencies, Bangkalan, Sampang, Pamekasan, and Sumenep, but only some attract many pilgrims from both nearby areas and outside Madura.

Observation of the numbers of visitors to the graves shows that among the most popular are those of Syaikhona Klolil and Siti Maisaroh in Martajasah village; Air Mata Ibu graveyard in Buduran village (Arosbaya district, Bangkalan); Batu Ampar graveyard; Desa Batu Ampar; the Asta Tinggi graveyard complex of the Sumenep kingdom royal families in Kebun Agung village (Kota district); and the graveyard of Sayyid Yusuf in Talango village (Talango district, Sumenep).

Some of the graveyards are dozens of years old; others date back centuries. Most of the kyai were the descendants of Arabs who came to Madura to spread Islam; some are believed to be the descendants of Wali Songo or the nine first Muslim missionaries to Java, or the descendants of royal families from Javanese or Madurese kingdoms who played significant roles in spreading the religion.

Bujuk Latthong was a great-grandson of Bujuk Banyu Sangka, who was a relative of a ulema buried in Luar Batang, North Jakarta.

Bujuk Bindhara Saud in the Asta Tinggih graveyard complex was in the same bloodline as Raden Fattah, king of Demak Kingdom in Java. Syaikhona Kholil was a relative of Sunan Kudus and Sunan Ampel of Wali Songo.

However, a Madurese scholar, Zawawi Imron, is not convinced that all those buried in the graveyards were kyai. Some of them, he suggests, might have been local public figures.

"Observing that a graveyard is often visited by many people, who are actually the deceased's relatives, locals later can get the idea that the deceased is an important person and the words are spread by word of mouth so that many people come to visit the graveyard," he said.

Many people believe that visiting a graveyard to pray for the deceased is encouraged by Islam.

Some graveyards, such as Asta Tinggi and Air Mata Ibu, are categorized as items of cultural heritage and receive great attention from the authorities.

By contrast, however, local governments seem to pay little attention to the many other graveyards, even though they do appear to have good commercial potential as tourist sites. Many beggars hang around the entrances to the modest graveyards, as do many hawkers. The facilities are maintained thanks to donations from pilgrims.

Before the fasting month, such graveyards usually attract many visitors from places as far away as Java and Kalimantan, who come in groups by bus or private car.

Syaikhona Kholil graveyard in Martajasah village, for instance, draws thousands of people from outside Madura before the fasting month, according to Muhammad Zainal, its guard.

"Ahead of Ramadan, about 80 to 90 buses come every day," he said.

It is believed that people visit the graveyard to cleanse themselves so that they are ready to enter the fasting month with a clean heart.

Said Abdullah, a visitor from Surabaya, said that they also come to ask for blessings. They believe that, if they pray at the grave of a person with lots of knowledge and who is close to God, their prayer is more likely to be answered.

"Going on a pilgrimage to a ulema's graveyard is our yearly tradition. It is also quite refreshing," said Said, who has visited graveyards in Madura several times along with other members of the congregation of Jamaah Sholawat Nariyahnya.

Public interest in visiting graveyards has been noted by travel agencies, many of which offer religious tourism packages to Madura.

Chairman of the East Java Association of the Indonesian Tours & Travel Agencies (Asita), Haryono Gondosoewito, said that the number of religious tourists to Madura is expected to increase by 20 percent, especially with the recently opened of the Suramadu toll bridge that connects Surabaya with Madura.

He called upon local governments to support religious tourism in the area, especially by improving access to the tourist sites.

Head of the East Java Tourist Agency, Djoni Irianto, said locals also needed to give their support by creating a clean and peaceful environment so that visitors could enjoy the atmosphere.

"What's important is that there should not be any beggars at the tourist sites," he said.

He said that the government had the concept for stepwise development of several locations for religious tourism. This year, he had asked the Culture and Tourism Ministry to provide Rp 600 million for the Batu Ampar graveyard.

Most graveyards in Madura have unusual and mystic stories, such as the Bujuk Nepa in Betiyoh village (Banyuates district, Sampang), where a ulema named Kyai Abdul Majid or Sunan Segara was buried.

It is said that the kyai did not want any gravestone to be placed on his grave, which was located in the middle of a forest inhabited by monkeys.

"A gravestone was placed on the grave several times, but they always disappear," said a villager "The guard later dreamed of being told to remove the gravestone."

People ended up putting a modest sign made of a piece of cloth and a little flag under the tree where the kyai was believed to be buried.

Natural features near the graveyards are also often considered sacred, such as the water in the spring at the Air Mata Ibu graveyard complex. It is said to be called Air Mata Ibu (Mother's Tears) because the wife of King Arosbaya, Syarifah Ambami, who was buried in the cemetery, cried when she prayed for her children with the hope that they would become the rulers of Madura.

The woman, who was also a granddaughter of Sunan Giri (one of the Wali Sanga), is said to have cried so much that her tears became a spring, which can now be found in the well. People believe that water from the spring can heal diseases.

Such magic water is also believed to be found near the Asta Tinggi graveyard compound, where the water flows continuously from stone walls instead of an underground spring.

Sumber: Jakarta Post, Fri, 09/11/2009

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