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The beautiful highlands of the Dieng Plateau in Central Java will again come alive with festivity from 30th to 31st August 2014 when the Dieng Cultural Festival 2014 gets underway. Held annually as a community celebration, the festival presents an array of art and cultural performances, Dieng’s finest products exhibition, and to top it all its unique dreadlock kids’ ritual ceremonies (or Ruwatan anak gembel/gimbal).

The festival will be highlighted with the highly nutritious herbal Purwaceng ceremonial toast, the release of traditional lanterns, a leather puppet show, traditional art and cultural performances, and a fireworks fiesta. Adding sparkle to the festival will be a Dieng Film Festival and Jazz performances entitled Jazz Above the Clouds. As every year, the pinnacle of the festival will be the ritual of trimming off of kids’ dreadlocks.

Being the main feature of the festival, the ceremony of shaving off the hair of dreadlock kids is truly exceptional. While globally dreadlock hair is commonly known as Rastafarian style from Jamaica, here in the highlands of Dieng, dreadlock, or matted hair is not a chosen style but rather a mystifying feature that only occurs in children.

Dieng’s dreadlocks children are born with normal hair, but at one point in their young life, their hair amazingly turns dreadlock all by itself. Various studies to scientifically investigate the cause have not resulted in any logical explanation. According to local belief, however, these kids are somehow chosen by the ancestors to accept these gifts. The dreadlocks may not be trimmed unless the children themselves ask for it, or the hair will continue to grow back. The precious moments when the dreadlock kids hair are shaven off are celebrated in a series of ritual ceremonies known as the Ruwatan Anak Gimbal.

The ceremony commences with the procession of the dreadlock kids carried around the village. The kids will be paraded on a Javanese traditional horse drawn carriage or Dokar guarded by Manggala Yudha or royal troops and followed by various traditional art processions. The special kids will then be taken to the Arjuna Temple in the Dieng Temple complex where the ritual of the dreadlock hair cutting will take place. Subsequently, the hair will be taken to the lake and submerged as symbol of returning the hair to the ancestors.

This year, the festival will not only feature art and cultural performances from the Banjarnegara Regency, but there will also be participants from other neighboring regencies. 15,000 spectators are estimated to join the Dieng Cultural Festival 2014.

Located about three hours drive away from Yogyakarta or two hours from Semarang, the Dieng highland is truly a marvel all its own. Literally translated as “abode of the Gods”, the plateau not only presents a remarkable collection of temples set in fascinating mountainous background, but also the mystical culture of its people.

You can drive to Dieng directly from Semarang, or stay overnight in the town of Wonosobo.

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