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Ruwatan is a traditional ritual ceremony to free people from all kinds of bad luck and bad fate in life. After misfortune driven out in the Ruwatan rite, it is expected that life will be safe and prosperous.



A popular ruwatan conducted by our elders since ancient time is Ruwatan Murwakala. In this rite, a wayang kulit/ leather puppet performance with the story Murwakala is played . The purpose of Ruwatan Murwakala is to cleanse the bodies and souls of “sukerto”people and protect them not to become victim of the cruel  Batara/ god Kala. Kala is a big frightening giant who likes to prey human beings in the list of “sukerto”.  

Preparation of Rite

Before the ritual, the following preparations should be arranged :



  1. The sukerto put on plain white robes. The color of white depicts holiness.
  2. The parents of the sukertos wear traditional attire.
  3. A senior leather puppet master ( dhalang in Javanese language) who will lead wayang performance and the whole process of ritual. The complete set of wayang puppets , gamelan music instruments with gamelan players and singers.
  4. An adequate place for wayang performance where there should be a place behind the wayang’s screen to accommodate the sukerto and their parents.
  5. The necessary offering / sesaji in Javanese.

The Implementation of Ruwatan

  1. The sukerto flanked by their parents meet the Dhalang/Puppet Master.
  2. One the parents, on behalf of all parents ,hands over the sukerto to the Dhalang. The hand over ceremony is touchy, the momentum is so sacred with a smoke smell of burning incense.
  3. The sukerto sit cross-legged behind the wayang screen and watch attentively the wayang performance and they listen carefully to the advices, songs and mantras spoken by the dhalang.
  4. The parents of the sukerto are seated nearby.
  5. The dhalang sits in front of the screen and begins the wayang performance.

The Story of Murwakala



The wayang performance started with an audience in Jonggring Salaka, the abode of gods. Betara Guru, the king of gods flanked by Betari Durga, his wife, received an audience from Betara Narada, his Patih/Prime Minister and other gods.

All gods give their respect and loyalty to Guru as in accordance to god’s protocol, afterwards Narada reported the situation of the world.

In an emotional voice Narada reported that the present situation in the earth is quite alarming. The people is suffering, many of them have become  victim of Kala, a big, frightening and cruel giant. Many people, men, women, children have been eaten by Kala. This condition must be stopped immediately.
Guru asked, who were Kala’s victim. Narada replied that right now, every one who met Kala became his prey. In that case, Kala has violated god’s regulation.

According to a stipulation issued by gods, Kala is allowed to prey human beings of sukerto category only. That is more than enough as they are so many people from sukerto category. To prevent a worse condition, Kala must be controlled.

After listening the recommendation from his subordinates, Guru issued an order to summon Kala soonest and this case, Guru himself will handle the bad manner and brutality of Kala.

Who is Betara Kala?

The gods do not know who Kala really is. They heard that Kala is a big, frightening giant who likes to consume human flesh.

Only Guru and Durga know who he is .Kala is a mistaken product, an bad child of Guru and Durga, thus he became an enormous giant with a worst manner.

The explanation is as follow :

In one beautiful afternoon, God Guru and his wife goddess Uma or Durga, ride his bull Andini, encircling the world. The universe and the earth were so picturesque, Guru saw how  very beautiful and sexy is his wife. All of a sudden, he wanted to make love with her. Despite her rejection as it was not a proper time and place to make love, Guru was in the peak of sexual desire, he then forced her. While he reached orgasm, Uma pushed him, freed herself from his strong embrace which was full of lust. Thus his sperm fell into the ocean and became a big bad giant. So, Kala was a mistaken product, a son of gods became a big cruel giant who wished to eat only human flesh.

Before Kala arrived in Jonggring Salaka, the venue of god’s audience, Guru asked the assistance of Uma to tame Kala. Guru said that even a worst child would listen to his parent. Guru finally told Narada in private that Kala is his son with Uma, only  Kala does not know this secret.

Kala met Guru



Kala was picked up from the earth and brought to the abode of gods by Guru’s messengers. He appeared directly before Guru, Durga, Narada  and other high ranking gods. He was very impolite, had no manner and  using rude unspokenly words.

In front of Guru, he shouted loudly : “ I am starving, I have not eaten human flesh for several days”. Pointing his fore finger to Guru, he said  brutally : “ I want to  eat him “.
Narada told him angrily : “ Behave yourself, be polite. He is God Guru, the king of gods and he is your own father”

Impolitely Kala replied : “ I don’t give a damn if he is my own father. I will eat him if I am hungry”.

Durga was shocked to see the unethical behavior of Kala, she came closer to Kala and in whispering tender voice said :” Kala, you should respect your father, you have to honor your parent”’ and Durga told Kala who he really is. Durga said further : “ Now Kala, you already know who you are. Although you are a giant, but you are the son of Guru, the king of gods and I’m your mother. So, my son, from now on you have to behave nicely”.

Kala was surprised to hear Durga’s explanation  and said : “ If Guru is really my father, he must be very intelligent . I want to have a dialog with him, if he is cleverer than me, I will then recognize him as my father”.

In a long dialog between Guru and Kala, Guru could reply all of Kala’s questions correctly.  Kala was not able to beat Guru’s knowledge and intelligent. Respectfully, he sat cross-legged in front of Guru, saying that he would obey all Guru’s order.

Guru told Kala with dignity:” Kala, I give you permission to return to the earth and  you are allowed to prey human beings in the list of sukerto. But , I forbid you to prey people whose on their chests are written Kalacakra mantra and/or on their heads are written mantra of Sastra Balik. This is the stipulation of gods which you must abide. If you violate it, you will be punished heavily”.

Kala could only nod, but in his heart he complained that he would suffer a lot because he always be hungry as his prey are very limited. In despair, he looked his mother, seeking for a help.





Durga understood the feeling of Kala and in a motherly voice she told him tenderly : “ Do not  worry my son, the people of sukerto category are a lot. You won’t be hungry. There will be abundant  food for you”.

Kala was relief and he asked permission to return to earth because he felt so hungry.

The List of Sukerto

There are 3 groups of sukerto, namely :

  1. Sukerto due to birth. There are : only child, a twin etc. Sukerto due to time of birth, for instance a child who is born in the middle of the day, during sunset etc.
  2. Sukerto due to accidents : someone who breaks a tool from stone to make herbal medicine ( Gandhik in Javanese language).People unintentionally who fall down the rice cooker while cooking.
  3. Sukerto due to bad fate. Someone who always has big problems in life ( problems in the job, business, relation etc);  endures long illness; threatened by danger etc.

There are several versions of sukerto. According to” Pakem Pangruwatan Murwakala”, there are 60 kinds of sukerto. According to the book “ Pustaka Raja Purwa”, there are 136 kinds of sukerto. According to “Sarasilah Wayang Purwa”, there are 22 kinds of sukerto, according to the book of “Murwakala”, there are 147 kinds of sukerto.

Sukerto due to birth :

  1. Ontang-anting - The only son.
  2. Unting-unting -   The only daughter.
  3. Gedhana-gedhini - The only boy and a girl in the family.
  4. Uger-uger lawang - 2 boys in the family.
  5. Kembar sepasang - 2 daughters in the family.
  6. Pendhawa - 5 boys in the family.
  7. Pendhawa pancala putri - 5 girls in the family.
  8. Kembar - A twin, 2 boys or 2 girls.
  9. Gotong mayit - 3 girls in the family.
  10. Cukil duit - 3 boys in the family.
  11. Serimpi - 4 girls in the family
  12. Sarambah - 4 sons in the family.
  13. Sendang kapit pancuran - 3 children in the family. The first and the third are boys ,  the middle is a girl.
  14. Pancuran kapit sendang - 3 children in the family. The first and the third are girls, the middle is a boy.
  15. Sumala - invalid since birth.
  16. Wungle - born  with white skin.
  17. Margana - born while the mother is travelling.
  18. Wahana - born while the mother is in the party.
  19. Wuyungan - born during the war or catastrophic time.
  20. Julung sungsang - born in the mid of the day.
  21. Julung sarab - born in the sunset.
  22. Julung cablok - born in the afternoon.
  23. Julung kembang - born during sunrise

Sukerto due to fault or improper deed

  1. A person who whistles in the mid of the day. It is considered as an improper deed.
  2. A person who breaks a Gandhik, a stone tool to make herbal medicine.
  3. A person who falls down a rice cooker while cooking rice.

Sukerto due to hindrances of life problems

A person who always has bad fate in this life, jobs,  makes a lot of mistakes; failure in doing business; easily absorbed in bad deals; suffers various kinds of illness. In short, people whose life is not happy and prosperous. Some say that time and condition are not in favor, to get rid of bad luck, one has to join rite/ruwatan.

According to ancient understanding, the sukerto people must join a traditional ritual ceremony such as Ruwatan Murwakala to be freed from any disturbance and disaster from Kala.

We know that Kala means time. As a normal human being, we hope that time is in our favor , so our live is safe, sound, prosperous  with worldly material wealth, our soul is peaceful. Our job is fine, our business is successful and also our life. It means that we are blessed by good and loving God.

Meeting in a village

The villagers organize a meeting in the village hall, led by Ki Ageng, the village head. All village elders, officials and adult villagers present in this important meeting. Lately, the village is not safe. Jagabaya, the head of the village security reported that theft and petty crime, if any, can be overcome easily. What is really alarming is the kidnapping of children. Some children are  missing, eye witness say that they were kidnapped by a big giant. The village security guards can not capture the giant kidnapper. All villagers must find the quickest solution.

To Invite The Dalang/ Puppet Master Kandhabuwono

Ki Ageng asks  Romo, an elderly people who is spiritually wise : “ Who is actually the wild giant and what is happening  now in our village?”

Romo frowning his forhead and replied : “ It is very serious situation, all villagers must be alert night and day. According to my sixth sense, the giant is Kala, he is very cruel and has strong magical power.”

Ki Ageng asks :” So, what do we have to do?” Romo the  explains everything clearly.

Ki Ageng, the head of the village announces the decision of the meeting ,whereas the village will stage a wayang performance. A senior and wise dalang/puppet master shall be invited to perform wayang with story of Murwakala.

The name of the dalang is Ki Dalang Kandhabuwono who has a powerful spiritual ability and it is believed that he could solve the problem of kidnapping. Everybody agrees and a delegation was chosen to meet Kandhabuwono.

Who is Ki Dalang Kandhabuwono?

After a thourough discussion with Narada, Guru is of the opinion that the food allocated for Kala is too much, that is why the people on the earth are restless. To overcome the problem, Guru decides to descend to the earth. He is accompanied by Durga, Narada and some gods bodyguards.

Soon after arrival on the earth, all gods disguise themselves as human beings. Guru changed his name to become Kandhabuwono, his profession is dalang/puppet master. The first thing they do is visiting Ki Semar, a wise servant who help the good knights fighting for truth, justice and prosperity. Semar himself is god living in the world, in fact he is the older brother of god Guru. Guru and all gods respect Semar very much.

The Stipulation of Dalang

Ki Ageng flanked by his trusted aides met Ki Dalang Kandhabuwono, his wife and Semar. Upon seeing the dalang, Ki Ageng feels his strong spiritual influence and he is sure that Kandhabuwono is the right person to overcome the menace of Kala.

Ki Dalang accepts politely and enthusiastically the invitation of Ki Ageng to perform wayang with the story of Murwakala. This is a rite to protect sukerto to be freed from Kala’s attack. Ki Dalang says that all sukerto who join Ruwatan Murwokolo will be cleansed their bodies and souls from all dirt, their bad luck and bad fate shall be erased, so they are free from the menace of Kala and the hindrance of bad time. This ritual is also dubbed as Ruwat Sengkolo ( to get off bad time).

Ki Dalang Kandhabuwono said that he will do as requested upon one stipulation.

“All sukerto who have joined the ritual  will be my children, so Kala won’t dare to bother them anymore, because they are the children of Ki Dalang Kandhabuwono”.  Further more he said :” All sukerto who have joined the rite are not sukerto anymore. Can you all agree with my stipulation?” Every body agreed.

Now the village elders must set up the venue for the rite and make the offering/ sesaji available.

The Offering

At present, many people especially the youngsters  do not understand the real purpose of offering. The essence of offering which consist of many things such as petals of flowers, vegetables rice, dishes etc, all have purposed meaning. In fact offering represents :

  • A prayer to Gusti, GOD. It is an expression to be grateful to GOD.
  • A request to Gusti, so that the virtuous ceremony run smoothly and safely.
  • To get blessing from the elders.
  • It represents wise advices to carry out a good and correct life.
  • During the process of ritual ceremony, there is no hindrance from the “visible” and “invisible” creatures.

All is the expected energy coming from the offering which is inherited from our elders since ancient time. It is a tradition, best wishes and request to Gusti, God.

Besides all the offering, holy water from seven different sources must be made availabl

The dalang must prepare himself physically and spiritually, all sukerto and their parents must understand well the purpose of the rite. They must wear traditional attire.

When one has to do the rite of Murwokolo, it has to be conducted in a proper and correct manner.

Before the rite begins, all sukerto have to ask blessing from their parents. Every one has to request blessing from God, so the rite will be smooth and safe.

Tools and accessories

The following tools and accessories must be available on the site :

  • Blencong lamp to be hung above the dalang to light the wayang screen. The lamp uses coconut oil to produce the light, it should not be an electrical bulb.
  • New Pengaron/ Big earthen bowl for water filled with holy water from seven springs and three kinds of flowers : rose, yasmin and cananga and 2 hen eggs. New water dipper made from coconut.The coconut meat is not removed from the dipper.
  • White textile dubbed as mori in Javanese language of 3 meters long. It is cut into 2 pieces equally. One piece is seated by the dalang, the other piece  is seated by sukerto. On the mori petal of flowers consist of rose, yasmin and cananga  are spread.
  • The clothes worn by the sukerto during the rite must be given to dalang.
  • Yellow rice with some coins are spread.

The Offering of Ruwatan Murwakala





  • 2 branches of dadap sreb tree with the leaves.
  • 2 sugarcane with the leaves.
  • A pair of young coconuts.
  • 2 bundles of paddy rice.
  • 2 stems of coconuts.
  • 2 stems of bananas.
  • Traditional kitchen utensils such frying pan, rice spoons etc.
  • Farming tools : hoe, sickle, bamboo hat etc.
  • A pair of doves, ducks, swans etc.
  • Chickens. A hen for every girl and a rooster for every boy. If the total of sukerto are 30, then there must be 30 chickens.
  • 7 pieces of batik cloth with designs of : Bangun tulak, sindur, gading melati, poleng semen, truntum, sulur ringin and tuwuh watu.
  • A new kendil/ traditional pot for rice cooking filled with rice, an egg, 2 bunches of pisang raja/ king banana, betel leaves with lime,powder of rice mixed with petal of flowers. Money with value of Rps. 25.- or Rps.250 or Rps. 2500.-
  • New mat and pillow,perfume, comb, powder, mirror and kendil/ earthenware flask filled with water.
  • Sekul among – cooked rice with dishes of vegetable and egg.
  • Sekul liwet – cooked rice with side dishes of crushed fried peanuts and beans with boiled egg.
  • A pair of golong lulut – 2 balls of glutinous rice with fried egg.
  • Several ketupat- rice cake boiled in rhombus shaped packet of plaited young coconut leaves, one of the ketupat is filled with fried fish.
  • Golong orean for each sukerto ( Ball shaped rice with one baked chicken).A sukerto who was born in Saturday Paing needs 18 balls of rice, a sukerto who was born in Sunday Legi needs 10 rice balls.
  • Tumpeng Robyong – Rice cone, on top of it, a red chili-pepper stuck straightly. Mixed vegetable and boiled eggs are set encircling the rice cone.
  • Sekul gebuli - Kebuli rice with dishes of fish.
  • Rasulan – rice with side dishes of mutton and vegetable.
  • Jajan pasar – various delicacies.
  • Various tubers such as sweet potatoes, cassava, peanuts etc.
  • 4 smaller rice cone with color of red, white, black and yellow.
  • 7 kinds of rujak( food for refreshment) and 7 kinds of porridge.
  • Alcoholic drink and a fresh drink from  palm sugar.
  • Klepat-klepet, leaves from gadingsari and dadapsreb wrapped with coconut leaves.
  • Klepon, sweet delicacies made from glutinous rice.
  • A pair of Kembar Mayang- bouquet made from various leaves, put under an opened umbrella.
  • A new whip.
  • A broom tied with white silver bracelet.

Wayang Performance With The Story of Murwakala





Accompanied by soft gamelan music, the dalang/puppet master sat crossed-leg in front of the screen. Slowly and carefully, he moved “the wayang gunungan”- a leather puppet in the form of mountain. It depicts the beginning of life in the world as in accordance with law of nature. The light coming from a blencong lamp( lighted with coconut oil) represents the light of life from Gusti,The Creator to light the whole universe.

The performance went on as scheduled, attended by Ki Ageng, Romo, Semar, village officials, the sukerto and their parents and almost all villagers.

The situation in the village became lonely, the village guards did physical surveillance while Romo silently uttered his mantra to guard the village spiritually.





The village is secured. Meanwhile in the neighboring village , Kala the giant was chasing his prey consist of a pair of kedhono – kedhini ( a brother and a sister) and an ontang-anting, the only boy. The 3 youngsters hiding in the crowd of wayang attendees to avoid Kala. The wild Kala, approaching the venue of rite, he became so weak and lose his courage. He could not pass the magic line encircling the ritual site. He decided to wait outside and only after the wayang show , he would catch his prey. 

While waiting the show, Kala fell asleep. He was continuously snoring strongly. His thunderous snore was nuisance for the wayang onlookers. Several people looked for the snorer. When they found him, they were surprised and also fearful, they screamed : “ There is a giant, there is a giant under the bushes”.

The wise Romo and Semar , they immediately knew that the giant was Kala. They woke Kala up. In front Romo and Semar, Kala lose his strength and courage. They brought Kala to meet the dalang/puppet master.

The Dialog between The Dalang and Kala

The Dalang asked Kala why he became a noise-maker and disturbed the wayang performance, Kala replied emotionally, showing no respect: “ I am chasing 3 sukerto who hide with the onlookers. They are my food, no one will stop me to eat them. I will also eat those people who prevent me”.

Kala was very hungry, he became angry, he thought no one could defeat him.

The Dalang remained composed, asked Kala to be calm and say clearly what did he want. Listening to the Dalang’s dignified voice and encountered Romo and Semar sharp eyes, Kala lose his courage.

The Dalang told Kala to listen to the elder people. Kala replied quickly that he is elder than any human beings. It meant every one including the Dalang have to listen to him. The Dalang said that he is elder than Kala.

They reached a compromise solution, if the Dalang could reply Kala’s questions, Kala would admit that the Dalang was elder than Kala and Kala would obey his order.

Witnessed by the elders and many people , Kala posed many questions to the Dalang. The subjects of conversation include many aspects , among other : art and culture, the birth of the universe and spirituality . All Kala’s questions could be replied correctly by the Dalang. Kala was astonished the Dalang had such a vast knowledge including spirituality. Kala had no option, he admitted that the Dalang had a better knowledge than him and he would listen to him.

Out of curiosity, Kala dare to ask the dalang politely : “ If I may know, who are you really?”

The Dalang replied firmly : “ I am Ki Dalang Kandhabuwono, the one who give you order which you have to obey, otherwise you will be punished”.

Kala replied:” I will obey and do your orders”.

( The Dalang changes his traditional hat, he takes off his blangkon hat, now he wears  an udheng hat. The word udheng means understand. A traditional Javanese man in the old days when meditates ,he wears a complete set of Javanese attire including the udheng hat, so that he can understand perfectly the wish and the order of God told to him).

The Powerful Mantras





Ki Dalang Kandhabuwono told Kala firmly: “ Kala, I will write a powerful mantra on your chest. Every one who can read and spell this mantra is not your prey. You are forbidden to disturb them. If you violate this stipulation, you’ll be severely punished by Lord”.

In a low voice , Kala said : Yes, I follow your order”.

The name of the mantra is : Rajah Kalacakra. It says :
Yamaraja- Jaramaya; Yamarani- Niramaya; Yasilapa- Palasiya; Yamidosa- Sadomiya; Yadayuda- Dayudaya; Yasiyaca – Cayasiya; Yasihama- Mahasiya.

It means :

Those who make chaos, will lose your power.
Those who make trouble, will lose your strength.
Those who make hungry, make abundant food.
Those who make poor, make a well-being.
Those who make sins, stop your lust.
Those who create war, their strength is vanished.
Those who betray and cruel to others, have a pity/ concern to others.
Those who become parasites, love other people.

The mantra Rajah Kalacakra has a very strong vibration and influence when it is spelled.Upon hearing this mantra, Kala was shivering and fearful. He solemnly said to Dalang Kandhabuwono :” I feel so frighten to hear the mantra. I may not bother every body who can read and spell the mantra”.

There is another powerful mantra , its name is Hanacaraka Kebalik, it says :

Ngathabagama, nyayajadhapa, lawasatada, karacanaha. When the puppet master spelled this mantra, Kala lose his entire energy, he became so weak. Kala is completely defeated .

The Purification of Sukerto





When the puppet master spelled the two powerful mantras, all the sukerto took part in the rite, consciously listen and absorb the spiritual power of the mantras.

The mantras work spiritually any time, any where and with the permit and blessing of Gusti, God, chase away any kind of bad things who wish to disturb the sukerto.

The dalang told Kala that every sukerto who has been purified ( Diruwat in Javanese language) has become the child of the dalang, they are not a Kala’s prey anymore and not allowed to be disturbed by Kala. Kala obeys.

Than the dalang said the name of the sukerto one by one, as follow :
The real life of  Utami ( her name), she is unting-unting, the only girl.
The real life of Basuki ( his name), he is ontang-anting, the only boy.

After he said all name of sukerto, he said to Kala : “ Those were the list of sukerto purified ( diruwat in Javanese language) by me. They are my children. You should not bother them. Kala nodded.

Kala Asked For Blessing

Ki Dalang Kandhabuwono ordered Kala to live in the jungle of Kredhawahono. Before leaving for the jungle, Kala asked to be blessed with “ Santi Puja Mantra” so he can live safely in the future. Kala was showered with water mixed with  petals of several kinds of flowers. Kala also asked to be given some offering of : agricultural crops and tools, kitchen’s utensils, some cattle such as cows, buffaloes, sheep, chicken, ducks etc, long cloth, food, mat, pillow and blanket.

Ki Dalang Kandhabuwono instructed Bima to chase away all Kala’s followers consist of various kinds of bad spirits to also to go the jungle with Kala. Bima chased away Kala’s troops using a broom bundled with silver rope and a whip.

The last step of Ruwatan Murwakala

After Kala and his followers left, Ki Dalang continue the ritual process by saying confidently : I am a  real dalang, I take care all of you, you are no more sukerto as the sukerto have been dissolved to be water. You live safely from now onward.

And the dalang said further :” Yes, I am Ki Dalang Kandhabuwono”, and then he said his real name : “I am the dalang Ki Timbul Hadiprayitno”. ( A senior dalang/ puppet master from Jogjakarta).

The dalang cut a bit the hair of every purified participant and then he blessed them.





The wayang puppets which have been used in the rite , were cleansed by washing their feet with water mixed with petals of flowers.

Ki Dalang Kandhabuwono  had done his duty to conduct Ruwatan/Rite thoroughly, he changed his form to be a god again, he became God Guru again, also Durga and the other gods.

Guru and his entourage said good bye to Semar, Ki Ageng, Romo and all villagers. They went home to their domain in Swargaloka( Heaven) .

The dalang took off his udheng hat and wore his blangkon hat. He showered one by one the purified participant with holy water from 7 springs mixed with petals of flowers.

The Ruwatan Murwakala ended safely. Those who have been ritually purified will have a good and bright way of life. With the blessing from the Loving God, they will be always safe, healthy, prosperous and success in worldly and spiritual life.


Suryo S.Negoro

(The photos in this article were taken in the Sukerto Ruwatan organized by Jogjakarta Pavilion of Taman Mini Indonesia Indah in the 1st Suro, 1942 Je. The dalang was Ki Timbul Hadiprayitno / KMT. Cermo Manggolo, a senior dalang from Jogjakarta).