Stay updated on Covid-19 in Southeast Asia. For more information, click here.

On Monday, 3 November, thousands of people flocked and crowded the City center of the town of Bengkulu in order to witness the grand Tabot Festival 2014. No one wanted to miss this grand parade of the giant Tabot towers on floats or carried on the shoulders of villagers. All were given the day off to watch the parade. The crowds faithfully  followed the procession of Tabots starting from the Merdeka Square to the Karbala Fields in the sub-district of Kebun Tebeng, Bengkulu.

The Tabot Festival,  in fact, had already started since 24 October and lasted until 3 November, that included ceremonies named: pengambilan tanah (taking lumps of earth), duduk penja, menjara, meradai, bersanding, and finally the tabot terbuang (casting away the tabot).

Meantime, for the full 10 days,  cultural performances, traditional games and exhibitions brightened  up the Festival.

Witnessing all these activities, Governor of Bengkulu, Junaidi Hamsyah, expessed the hope that the event will be recognized in the national Calendar of Events to boost arrivals to this province, which still  needs support for its promotion and packaging.

Meanwhile, Bujang HR, Head of the City of Bengkulu’s Tourist Office, conceded that so far the Tabot Fesrtival managed to increase arrivals by 4 percent only, while the majority of  those attending come from the city itself and surrounding districts. From overseas  are visitors from Iran since Tabot originates in the Middle East, including Iran, said Bujang.

In the Islamic Holy Book, Tabot is the name given to the chest that holds the Taurat Book. Here in Bengkulu  the Tabot becomes symbolized by the tabot towers that are constructed since one month before the event. They are  fully decorated with colorful tinsel, ornaments and holy inscriptions from the Al-Qur’an. While the 17 families, who are  descendents  from the Tabot are obliged to each create a Tabot, among which the most important is  called the Tabot Iman. There is also the Tabot Bangsal, created solely by the women folk.  Nonetheless, not to be outdone, the other inhabitants also create their own tabots to actively join in the celebrations.

By creating a tabot tower, people  believe that they will move closer to the Almighty God. Nonetheless, according to Ahmad Syafril, Chair of Descendent Families of the Tabot (KTT),  holding this religious rite has no connection whatsoever with averting catastrophies,  as is commonly believed. “There is no truth in the believe that if the people of Bengkulu donot hold this event, the province will be struck by a disaster. The Tabot is a tradition that has been held for hundreds of years in conjunction with Hijriah” confirmed Ahmad Syahri.

Among the many competitions organized by the provincial government of Bengkulu, most popular was the telong-telongcompetition, to choose the most creative lanterns. In response, many have made meters-high lanterns in the most attractive shapes and colors.