Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park in East Java, Indonesia, is named for its venerated, active volcanoes: Mount Semeru, which at 12,060ft is Java’s highest mountain, and Mount Bromo, distinctive for its large crater that regularly emits white, sulphurous smoke. This isolated, barren terrain is also home to roughly 90,000 Tengger people, a Hindu ethnic minority in the predominantly Muslim Indonesian archipelago.
Every year, hundreds of Tenggerese travel from nearby villages to climb Mount Bromo and throw money, rice, fruit, vegetables, goats, chickens, and even cows – all live – into the volcano’s crater. These offerings are part of the community’s most significant yearly event, the Yadnya Kasada festival, which is held on the 14th day of the 12th month (Kasada) in the traditional Hindu Lunar calendar. The festival and its ceremony honor Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa (roughly, “Big Almighty Lord” – a deity the Tengger share with Balinese Hindus) and Mahadeva, the God of the Mountain.
The Yadnya Kasada festival is organized by Pura Luhur Poten, a Hindu temple which sits on the vast sand plain (the “Sea of Sand”) at the foot of Mount Bromo. Tengger people of all ages gather in colorful attire, to the beat of slow Javanese drums and traditional hymns, while 27 priests – one from each Tenggerese village – perform a mass and call on the gods to bless the offerings that will be hurled into the abyss. The crowd then ambles en masse up Mount Bromo to the crater’s edge to make their sacrifices. Despite the danger, some try to climb down into the crater afterwards to reclaim sacrificed items. Some villagers wait below with nets to catch the offerings thrown by worshippers.