The Origine of Tenggerese, Bromo, East Java, Indonesia

Who are Tenggerese? Are they the descendants of Majapahit refugees? Are they still maintaining tradition?

According to active heir of Tenggerese oral tradition, especially Tenggerese dukun, Tenggerese are the descendant of Majapahit refugees. This statement is emphasized by story of Rara Anteng and Jaka Seger that are believed as the history of Tengger. People outside Tengger admit this, as Tenggerese tradition is different than Javanese in general.

Tenggerese identity is less recognized. It is not that they are primitive, but because their amount are not much. Jut like other small population, they have shortage of source to find their own history. Before 1980s, Tenggerese only know their history from local source. (Hefner 1985:17)

Here are villages where Tenggerese live : Jetak, Wanatara, Ngadisari (Kecamatan Sukapura, Probolinggo), Tosari, Wonokitri, Ngadiwono, Podokoyo, Mororejo (Kecamatan Tosari, Pasuruan), Ngadas (Kecamatan Poncokusumo, Malang) and Argosari (Kecamatan Senduro, Lumajang).

Tenggerese are known as tough farmers, and live on hilly location not far from their farm lands. They produce vegetables such as cabbage, potatoes, carrot, onion, and spring onion. The soil is suitable to plant corn. Corn was the main food of Tenggerese. As corn is cheap, now less people plant corn here.

For centuries Tenggerese see them selves as wong gunung or mountain people and different than wong ngare or people living in lower land. In the eye of Tenggerese, Wong Ngare are too different between the rich and the poor, wong ngare like to be alone and differentiate people according to status. While wong gunung see people same. But as modern change so strong, this sight is changing as well.

In 1880, a Tenggerese woman found an inscription made of brass in Mt Penanjakan area, administratively located in Wonokitri cillage, Pasuruan. This inscription is from date back 1327 Saka or 1405. This inscription reveals the background history of Tenggerese. This inscription mentions a village named Walandhit inhabited by hulun hyang or the servant of god, and in the vicinity of Walandhit was called as hila-hila or sacred. Walandhit village was a free-tax region as they are obligated to worship in Gunung Bromo, that are considered as sacred. The inscription was a gift from Bathara Hyang Wekas ing Sukha (Hayam Wuruk) in Asada month.

Walandhit inscription points that Bromo Tengger Semeru area was inhabited since the glorious day of Majapahit. A possibility that Tenggerese was  refugee from Majapahit should be reviewed again. There are two considerations, first though Walandhit people were not the descendant of Majapahit, but their religion is similar or maybe same to Majapahit period, Hindu –Buddhist. Second, Walandhit people perhaps accept Majapahit refugees as they feel that they had same religion, when Demak did expansion to Majapahit in 16th century. Later Majapahit refugees then settled there for centuries and Demak was never part of Demak. After conquering Majapahit inn1525-1527, Demak then conquered Tubann, Wirasari, Gagelang, Medangkung, Surabaya, Pasuruan and Penanggungan. (De Graaf & Pegeaud 1985).

Tengerese, they are sure if Tengger derives from Roro ANteng and Joko Seger, their ancestor. Rara Anteng is believed to be the daughter of Brawijaya V from Majapahit and Jaka Seger was the son of an ascetic lives on Tengger plateau. And they also believe that Tengger derives from TENGGERING BUDI LUHUR.

The first foreigner interested in Tenggerse who use Mt Bromo as a Mecca was Adriaan van Rijck, a Dutch commander in Pasuruan (1772-1790). In 1785 he wrote why Tenggerese gave offering to Gunung Bromo that was bit different than Roro Anteng and Joko Seger story. In his book, the ancestor of Tenggerese was Kyai Gede from Banten, a king who had not converted Islam yet.

In the early 19th century, Thomas Stamford Raffles went to districts in East Java included Tengger. He reported his trip through his speech in front of The Batavian Society of Arts and Sciences in 11 September 1815, and described about Tenggerese priest known as dukun with text that the dukun gave him. In his meeting with Tenggerese, Tenggerse said that they believed in gods, and one of gods they worship was Bumi Truka Sang Hyang Dewata Batur. Raffles also got a prayer book called as panglawu. In History of Java, he wrote that Tenggerese lived in peace, organized, honest, persistent, hard workers and always happy. They don’t recognize gambling and drug. And when Raffles asked about adultery, stealing, or other crime, Tenggerese said no cuch things there.

In 1832, HJ Domis who was the resident of Surabaya and member of Bataviaasch Gennotschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen wrote an article ‘Aanteekeningen over Het Gebergte Tinger’. In his book he mentioned Mulegmaring Tinger kasseri Kiaij Gede Dadap Poeti. According to story he listened, after the fell of Majapahit, people from Malang and Mataram moved to Tengger led by Kyai Dadap Putih. They were Hindu and worship Brahma Visnu and Siva and the highest god, Praboe Goeroe Ingloehoer or known as Betoro Guru.

Experts usually put an emphasize on the origin why Tenggerese put offering to GUnung Bromo on Kasada such as JD van Herwenden (Tengersch Gebergte en Bewoners), JHF Kohlbrugge (Waarom de Tenggereezen Offers Brengen aan den Bromo: De Legende van Kjahi Koesoemo) and an ethnology Die Tenggereezen. And the most conshise was written by JE Jasper, Resident and later the governor of Yogyakarta who wrote Tengger en de Tenggereezen in 1926. Later expert interested in Tengger was Von Faber.