From early dawn, hundreds of residents from Kepaon village in Denpasar had gathered around the Al-Muhajirin Mosque.
Clad in white and blue military-style uniforms, dozens of teens were ready to take up their duties. Two boys were dressed in red uniforms as the soldiers’ commanders.
They were participating in the most-awaited carnival, to celebrate the birth of Prophet Muhammad, locally known as Maulid Nabi, which fell on Tuesday, Jan. 14.
For the residents of Kepaon village, one of the oldest and largest Muslim enclaves in Bali, Maulid Nabi has always been the most joyous celebration after Idul Fitri and involves all members of the village.
The day was an official public holiday all over Indonesia. Everywhere in the country, Muslims (comprising more than 90 percent of the country’s 240 million population) observed Maulid Nabi as a merrymaking festival combining local and Islamic elements.
The people of Kepaon village are believed to be ethnically Bugis, originally from South Sulawesi, Java, Madura and Sumatera.
There are many versions describing how Kepaon village came into existence. One of these is that the land was granted by the Pemecutan royal family of Badung to its faithful supporters from the Sampalan palace in Madura in the early 18th century.
Since then, hundreds of people from outside Bali have moved into the village, living side by side with their Hindu neighbors in harmony.
During the Maulid Nabi celebration, women prepared lavish meals, cookies and sweets. They also created bale suji, made of banana trunk decorated with colored eggs, delicious cookies, or jaja, and colorful paper. Each bale suji could have 100 to 300 boiled eggs. For the Kepaon villagers, an egg symbolizes the birth of a baby, while colorful decorations express their happiness.
The carnival procession started at 7:30 a.m. with hundreds of participants. They marched to every corner of the village. Dozens of people performed the Rodat Islamic heroic dance to remember their courageous ancestors.
Many activities were held prior to the celebration of Maulid Nabi, such as a mass circumcision for young boys and rituals to celebrate the babies’ third month.
At the end of the celebration, the eggs taken from bale suji were distributed to the entire village, who held a communal dinner to close the event.
Thanks to the tolerant and open-minded Pemecutan royal family and Hindu community, the richness of this Islamic tradition has been alive and kicking for hundreds of years on the Hindu-dominated island of Bali.