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  • Alvie Putri Gustiningrum

Dancing with the Divine: Tarian Suling Dewa

(Image credits: luhusnulyakin.blogspot.com)


Rain-summoning rituals not only serve as a means of survival in an agriculture-dependent society but also highlight the spiritual connection Indonesians have with nature, emphasizing harmony and balance between humans and the environment. Revered figures in various Indonesian indigenous communities, known as rainmakers, perform intricate ceremonies that combine chants, dances, and offerings to invoke much-needed rain. Many regions in Indonesia have unique ways of summoning rainfall, including Bayan, a small district in North Lombok.


Bayan has long been recognized as one of the oldest centers of civilization in Lombok, preserving numerous cultures and traditions. Among these traditions is Tarian Suling Dewa, a dance performed as a ritual to summon rainfall during the dry season.


The Origins of Tarian Suling Dewa

Tarian Suling Dewa is believed to have originated during a prolonged dry season in the Bayan district, marked by severe consequences like drought and famine. As plants, animals, and people faced the threat of death, the community desperately sought rain. Allegedly, the village's traditional leaders and elders convened after receiving a mysterious "enlightenment" conveyed by a whispering voice from the sky.


Convinced that the celestial guidance held the key to addressing the urgent issues, the traditional leaders and residents of Bayan collectively decided to perform a ritual to summon rain. The bamboo flute, or suling bambu, takes center stage in this ceremony, as the Bayan people believe that the flute serves as an intermediary for communication between humanity and the sky.


The Ritual

Tarian Suling Dewa, like other traditional rituals, demands meticulous preparations. Traditional leaders serve offerings in a container called bale, comprising water, palm sugar, betel leaf, yellow rice, chicken eggs, and black chicken. An integral part of Tarian Suling Dewa is the elders' recitation of mantras and verses from the Holy Quran.


Following the ritual preparation, dancers take the stage, accompanied by offering bearers forming a traditional arrangement. The dancers stand behind the offering bearers, and once the formation is set and attendees bow in respect, Tarian Suling Dewa commences.


True to its name, the dance is accompanied by the sweet melodies by Jero Gamel, also known as the person who plays the bamboo flute, along with songs and poetry performed by Inan Gending, also known as Sinden. In this harmonious convergence, prayers for rain during drought are sent to nature as a blessing.


Flute and Philosophy

The bamboo flute, serving as the main instrument in the Tarian Suling Dewa ritual, holds profound significance for the Bayan people. They believe that the flute is as valuable as humans, as it only produces sound when played—a parallel to how humans depend on the divine spirit for their existence. Through this ritual, people express their hopes and prayers, entrusting that nature, empowered by the Almighty, will support them in overcoming the challenges of the dry season.


Rain-Summoning and More

While the primary goal of Tarian Suling Dewa is rain-summoning, reports suggest its versatile use for other purposes such as warding off wild animals and insects that may trouble the Bayan people. Additionally, the ritual frequently accompanies various cultural ceremonies, including the enduring tradition of Ngasah Ngaponin Sesinggan, or heirloom washing, a practice that endures to this day.


In contemporary times, Tarian Suling Dewa remains an integral aspect of Lombok's cultural heritage, particularly in the Bayan district. It mirrors the island's enduring spiritual connection to its environment and reflects the timeless values of its people. Beyond serving as a survival tool in an agriculture-dependent society, Tarian Suling Dewa underscores Indonesians' spiritual harmony with nature, emphasizing a balanced relationship between humans and the environment.

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