Sekaten Festival (Hanacaraka: ꧋ꦱꦼꦏꦠꦺꦤ꧀꧉, sekatèn) is a series of annual activities to commemorate the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad held by the Surakarta and Yogyakarta palaces. The series of celebrations officially takes place from the 5th and ends on the 12th of the Javanese calendar Mulud (can be compared with the Rabiul Awal of the Hijriah calendar). Some important events of this celebration are the play of heritage gamelan in the courtyard of the Great Mosque of each palace, the reading of the life of the Prophet Muhammad and a series of recitations in the foyer of the Great Mosque and, at the top, Garebeg Mulud as a form of gratitude by the people.
This celebration is also enlivened by the night market (commonly called “Sekatenan”) which lasts for around 40 days, starting at the beginning of the Sapar (Safar) month.
Most libraries agree that the name “sekaten” is an adaptation of the Arabic term, syahadatain, which means “witness (creed) which is two”. The expansion of the meaning of sekaten can be attributed to the term Sahutain (stopping or avoiding the second case, namely the nature of prostitution and perversion), Sakhatain (eliminating the two cases, namely the character of the animal and the nature of the devil), Sakhotain (instilling the two things, namely always keeping the mind noble and always devour themselves to God), Sekati (equilibrium, living people must be able to weigh or judge good and bad things, and Sekat (limits, living people must limit themselves not to do evil and know the limits of good and evil).
According to Puger (2002), the beginnings and intentions of the Sekaten celebration could be drawn from the start of Islamic kingdoms in Javanese land, namely the era of the Demak Sultanate. Sekaten was held as an effort to broadcast Islam. Because the Javanese at that time liked gamelan, on the Islamic holiday that is on the day of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad in the courtyard of the Great Mosque of Demak gamelan was played, so that citizens flocked to the mosque yard to listen to gamelan and at the same time Islamic sermons.
The procession of a procession of a kind of sekaten, according to one folktale unearthed by Saddhono, was carried out during the period of the Majapahit Kingdom. The kingdom of Demak, as a continuation of the “revelation” of the kingdom, tried to continue the tradition on the advice of Wali Sanga.
On the first day, the ceremony begins at night with a convoy of servants (courtiers) together with two sets of Javanese gamelan Kyai Nogowilogo and Kyai Gunturmadu. The convoy began from the Ponconiti pendapa towards the Great Mosque in North Square, escorted by Kraton soldiers. Kyai Nogowilogo will occupy the north side of the Great Mosque, while Kyai Gunturmadu will be in Pagongan south of the mosque. Both sets of gamelan will be played simultaneously until the 11th of the month of Mulud, for 7 consecutive days. On the last night, the two gamelan will be taken home to the Kraton.
The highlight of the Sekaten commemoration was marked by Grebeg Muludan which was held on the 12th (exactly on Prophet Muhammad’s birthday) starting at 08.00 to 10.00 WIB. Guided by 10 types of Bregada (Company) Kraton soldiers: Wirabraja, Dhaheng, Patangpuluh, Jagakarya, Prawiratama, Nyutra, Ketanggung, Mantrijero, Surakarsa, and Bugis. A gunungan made from sticky rice, food, and fruits and vegetables will be brought from the Kemandungan palace past Sitihinggil and Pagelaran to the Great Mosque. After being prayed for, the mountains that symbolize the welfare of the Mataram kingdom are shared with the people who think that this part of the mountains will bring blessings to them. The part of Gunungan which is considered sacred will be taken home and planted in the fields so that their fields become fertile and free from all kinds of disasters and calamities.
Two days before the Grebeg Muludan event, a Numplak Wajik ceremony was held at the Magangan palace courtyard at 4:00 p.m. This ceremony takes the form of kotekan or playing songs using kentongan, lumpang (a tool for pounding rice), and the like which marks the beginning of the making of the mountains which will be paraded during the Grebeg Muludan event later. The songs played in the Numplak Wajik program are popular Javanese songs such as: Lompong Keli, Tundhung Setan, Owal awil, or other folk songs.