Two offering “gunungans” arrive at the Grand Kauman Mosque. They are made of long beans, chillies and rice cookies and shaped in forms believed to be symbolic - a pyramid for the male “gunungan” and a basket for the female “gunungan.” RNS photo by Alexandra Radu

On Java, a sultan blesses his people with alms

YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia (RNS) Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim country, and Eid al-Fitr customs, celebrating the end of the Ramadan month of fasting, vary across the archipelago.

In Yogyakarta, a city on the island of Java,  a sultan, or monarch, Hamengkubuwono X, plays an important role to this day.

The sultan is regarded as the representative of God and acts as the leader and protector of Islam in the region.

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On the second day of Eid al-Fitr, the Grebeg Syawal ceremony takes place, in which alms from the sultan are given to his people.

The alms called, "gunungans," are piles of food that resemble mountains made of vegetables (long beans, chilies) and rice cookies, which are thought to bring luck. After an elaborate procession through various venues, the gunungans are dismantled by the local people, who frenetically compete to get some of the sultan's gifts.

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