Pelet Kandhung: Pregnancy Ritual from Madura, East Java, Indonesia

In Madura, just like in Java, people make various life cycle ritual from baby is born to death. There are various aspects related to those rituals whether it is a respect to human it self, to social environment and especially to God.

Literally, Pelet Kandhung or Peret Kandhung or Lelet Betteng or Selameddhan Kandhungan is massage to mother during pregnancy. Traditionally, Madurese tend to do preventive action so when the time to give birth will run well. Thats why those pregnancy period is considered as period of thread and danger, that they need to do something to neutralize that by holding ritual. This effort is embodied in a ritual and then known as an individual life cycle ritual constitutes of pregnancy, birth, circumcision, marriage and death ritual.
East Madura has different ritual with Central and West Madura, and even between village can be different to each other. Yet, those rituals have same purpose, such as for Pelet Kandhung or other rituals. What is going to be written here is Pelet Kandhung in general.

Pelet Kandhung is held when a mother pregnant for her first baby, and if it is held for next baby, usually it is not as vibrant as the first one.  This ritual is held conducted when the pregnancy enters seventh month, as during that month baby is formed that it is necesarry to be treated well. This ritual is held by the pregnant woman’s family. But sometimes also held by husband’s family. This is depends on agreement. In East Madura, it is held at husband’s family house. Far before Pelet Kandhung is held, on the first month nandai ritual is held. Nandai is giving a sign that woman is already pregnant. This ritual is putting jackfruit seed to a saucer and put it on table. Every month the saucer is added with a seed according to number of month until 7 month.

As ritual in general, Pelet Kandhung is also done stage by stage. Those stages are:
-pelet kandhung (tummy massage) stage
-penyepakan ayam stage
-stepping on young coconut and egg
-Showering stage
-orasol / thankgiving stage
All of the stages should be done in fullmoon after night prayer after night prayer (sholat isya), and sometimes at 2 pm. This depends on situation. Full moon is a good place as village is bright beside this is symbol of brightness.  If it is held noon or afternoon as they give change for invitees to come after working from farm lands. Invitees are girls and house wives.

Pelet Kandhung procession held in room of the pregnant woman, for   pelet kandhung, penyepakan ayam, and stepping on egg and coconut ritual. Shower ritual is held in bathroom or behind the house. This ritual is led by dukun baji and assisted by agung bine or emba nyae (the grandma of the pregnant woman). Thanksgiving party is held at the living room led by local ullema. People who are involved in pelet betteng ritual are the father, mother  and relatives of the pregnant woman and family and relatives of the husband. Beside that neighbors (adults women or married women) will attend this ritual.

Equipment should be prepared in pelet betteng ritua or pelet kandhung are: 1,5 meters white fabric used to cover the pregnant woman during shower ritual, water in a jar with various flowers, usually 40 kinds of flowers as symbol of purity and fragrance, coconut skin water ladle with handle made of banyan trees with its leaves, an egg boiled and an unboiled egg, one saucer of cooked yellow sticky rice, a young chicken, coconut oil, Arabic incense, setanggi, coins, pair of ivory coconut painted with Arjuna and Sembadra, and also written with Arabic or Javanese alphabet, various menu of arasol (kuwe procut, yellow sticky rive in cone shape, jubada, lemeng/ sticky rice grilled with bamboo, tettel, cendol, la’ang and flower of coconut family plant)
In the procession, dukon baji has an important role as she will lead the ritual. Beside dukun baji, there will be ullema to lead prayer.

In the procession day, all participants gather at the house of the pregnant woman. The ritual is initiated by reading verses from the Koran (Yusuf and Maryam ) by male invitees led by kyae. While the males praying, in pregnant woman’s room is held pelet kandhung ritual. Dukun baji massage (melet) tummy of the pregnant woman with coconut oil to set baby position. In this procession, one by one her grandma, mother in law, auntie, sister in law, rub her tummy. While rubbing her tummy, they pray that the woman and the baby will be undre protection of God.

After massaged, the pregnant woman then led by dukon naji to a chicken tied to one of foot of the bed. When the woman is close enough to the chicken, she then kicks the chicken until the chicken says ‘kiaok’. The chicken then released and put in cage behind the house. When finish, chicken is given to dukon baji. After kicking the chicken, the woman then covered with white fabric and asked to step egg and young coconut on with her right foot. She then asked to step on a boiled egg with her left foot. If the egg is broken means the baby will be a boy. If the egg is not broken then the dukun will take it and roll it from the tummy of the pregnant woman. When the egg broken, the attendants will say ‘jebbhing, jebbhing’ means the baby will be a girl or ‘kacing, kacong’ means the baby will be a boy.

Later, the woman will be led to dukun baji to back of house for shower procession. She sits on a short wooden chair with a jar of water. Dukon baji hold a coconut skin ladle and shower the pregnant woman. Afterwards, one by one woman in her family shower her until water in the jar finish.

After that, she is taken to her room for make up and dressed in beautiful dress, and taken to the living room to meet all invitees. Invitees will say ‘radin, radin’ means ‘beautiful’.  After that than submitting 2 ivory coconuts painted in Arjuna and Sembadra to kyae or ullema to be blessed.  After finish praying kyae gave the coconuts to mattowa bine’ ( mother in law) to be put in her daughter is law’s room. Since then, the pregnant woman husband should not have sex with her until the baby born and reaches age of 40 days.

Later, the pregnant woman enters her room again and given jamu dek cacing towa poured in a cengkelongan (coconut skin). After she finishes the jamu, then she throws the cengkelongan to the yard. If cengkelongan hit the ground open means the baby will be a boy. And if it is the opposite, the baby will be a girl.

The pregnant woman then will be fed with nasi ponar (yellow rice), sticky rice and and boiled egg. This ritual is the end of Pelek Kandhung.

From nandai ritual, pelet kandhung ritual until the day when the baby born, the pregnant woman should obey various rules, such as diet and other behavioral rules. Food that should be avoided by her are insects, crab, janggireng, seyongan, ennos, lamb, cecek, shrimp pasta, young pineaple, dorian, mango, kweni lembayung and plotan lembur.  She should avoid those food so there will be nothing bad things happened, such as losing the baby, unsmooth birth process or too much bleeding on the birth. And the activities should not be done by her are work hard, working in a hurry or suddenly, quick walk, go up and down stairs, hurting animals, sleeping in circle position, sit in front of door, etampa (eating by carrying the plate), asanrasan (gossiping), cursing, and have sex on Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. If thise rules broken, Madurese believe that the baby will not be healthy.

Pelet Kandhung ritual is a reflection of cultural activities from generation to generation. There are various values in the ritual such as togetherness, details, safety and spiritual and religiosity. Togetherness can be seen from how all family, relatives and neighbours gather and pray together. Detail value can be seen from the procession it self, as a ritual that takes preparation, to finish and post ritual.

The preparations are not just about the ceremonial, but also the place, time, leaders, and participants. Everything should be prepared well that it takes detail preparation. They also work together in harmony so the ritual will run well. Neighbors help to prepare food and drink. Safety and blessing are reflected in a belief that the change of individual life from time to time will through various dangers and challenges.  To solve that crisis, in someone’s life cycle, a ritual should be held. Pelet Kandhung is one of ritual to get blessing and safety of transition period from pregnancy to the world. The religious and spiritual value reflect on prayer by all attendants  led by ullema so that the baby will be protected by God.

These days, this tradition is not held in full procession but more simple only by inviting neighbors to pray and then they are entertained with various menus.