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Ziarah in Java Indonesia’s ‘Conservative Turn’ and the increasing popularity of religious pilgrimage in Java Pesarean Gunung Kawi and Makam Sunan Giri

Barretto, Paul Frederick (2018) Ziarah in Java Indonesia’s ‘Conservative Turn’ and the increasing popularity of religious pilgrimage in Java Pesarean Gunung Kawi and Makam Sunan Giri. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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Abstract

The popularity of pilgrimages to sacred grave sites (ziarah) on the island of Java in Indonesia has shown a marked increase in pilgrimage numbers since the country’s transition to a democracy in 1998 (reformasi). Shortly after ‘reformasi’ Indonesia experienced what scholars have termed the ‘conservative turn’, where liberalism had been threatened and conservative Islamic organisations took centre stage. Although Indonesia has a tradition of pluralism and one which is enshrined in the nation’s constitution, with the official Indonesian national motto being ‘Unity in Diversity’ (out of one many), Islamists have sought to dictate their fundamentalist view of Islamic law to the vast majority of Indonesians who are Muslims. Alongside this there has been a noticeable increase in the number of orthodox Muslims following more observant pious Islamic practices which one scholar has referred to as the ‘purification’ of society.

This thesis seeks to explain how the increasing popularity of ziarah on the island of Java can occur in the face of an increasing Islamisation of Indonesian Muslims. Islamists consider ziarah to be heterodox, primitive, deviant and even idolatrous. In contrast to this the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the largest Muslim organisation in Indonesia which has a membership of over 40 million people has emphatically supported the practice of ziarah particularly in relation to the Wali Songo (Nine Saints of Java) who first brought Islam to Java in the 14th Century.

This study examines two pilgrimage sites in East Java, the Mount Kawi gravesite (Pesarean Gunung Kawi) and the Sunan Giri gravesite (Makam Sunan Giri). These two sites are examined, compared and contrasted in order to offer possible explanations as to why pilgrimage numbers have been on the rise in the face of a more conservative interpretation of Islam in Indonesia. I will argue that the increasing popularity of ziarah on the island of Java is driven by the traditionalist NU organisation with its 40 million members. Alongside this, there has also been a deliberate government run campaign in the popularising and marketing of ziarah to Indonesians through Wisata Religi, particularly in relation to the Wali Songo. I have also identified seven other factors or combination of factors that has led to an increase in the popularity of ziarah. The ‘conservative turn’ in Indonesia I argue has not affected the increased popularity of ziarah in Java because for many traditionalist Muslims it is condoned and encouraged as an Islamic practice. For many Muslims they can still be devout and orthodox whilst still participating in the ziarah ritual.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Asian Studies
Supervisor(s): Reid, Anja
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/53417
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