Be Grateful with Tumpeng

Tumpeng by detikfood

Tumpeng by detikfood

Be Grateful with Tumpeng

The mountain not only looks green or blue from a distance, but there is also a yellow color on the tampah (round bamboo tray). That is tumpeng, presented completely with side-dishes and vegetables. Ready to be enjoyed with your family and friends.

Tumpeng is usually yellow and cone-shaped rice. Tumpeng rice served with tofu and tempeh bacem, fish, and urapan (boiled vegetables or salad and mixed with spiced grated coconut). While in the outside presented the whole chicken, tubers, porridge and snacks from market.

If people in the Americas and Europe celebrate Thanks Giving by eating turkey, Vietnamese enliven Lunar with the chung cake (bahn chung), then the Indonesian with tumpeng. This special cuisine is served to express gratitude for achievement.

Be grateful for promoting, achievement in education, winning the race or competition, opening a new business, launching a product or work, birth of a child, our birthday and Indonesian independence on August 17th. Whatever the religion all the important events in life, we often commemorate and grateful through the dish of tumpeng.


Why Tumpeng?

Let’s look back. The tradition of tumpeng came from the people of Java, then it was done in Madura and Bali. Now the celebration with tumpeng has spread to the Indonesian archipelagos and abroad, such as Malaysia, Singapore and even the Netherlands far away there. In the country of windmills tumpeng called rijsttafel.

Behind the tradition of tumpeng commonly used in the event of ‘selametan’ (according to the Javanese), there are deep philosophical values. Since ancient times, this tumpeng is often used as a symbol of offerings. The cone shape on the rice cone symbolizes the mountain that was once believed to be the resting place of ancestral spirits.

Tumpeng dish can be said also as a form of representation of the relationship between man and God, man with nature, and fellow human beings. In Tantu Panggelaran written in the days of Majapahit, it is told that when Java shook, Batara Guru in Hindu concept ordered bringing the peak of Mahameru India to stabilize Java Island and become Mount Semeru in East Java.

Hindu influence in the land of Java is then making tumpeng connected with Mount Semeru. It is said that this mountain is where the gods reside. In addtition to cone-shaped rice and towering like a high mountain, complementary of tumpeng is also meaningful. The horizontal arrangement represents the relationship between people. Neither does the diversity of its side dishes mean a complex world life.

Slightly different from the meaning of rice cone formation and the variety of side dishes before, there is a literature that explains the life of the Javanese very closely with nature. They are aware that their lives depend on nature. Many of the lessons that guide their daily lives take from nature (Ch and Sudarsono, 2008). Laying and determining side dishes in tumpeng is also based on their knowledge and relationship with nature.

The majority of Javanese income comes from the agricultural sector. This situation is caused by the many mountains on the island of Java and the type of volcanic soil is fertile so suitable for farming. Many Javanese living around the mountain plant rice, vegetables, fruits and raise livestock such as chickens, ducks, goats, sheep, cattle or buffalo. So almost all the necessities of life they get from the land around the mountain.

The geographical and social conditions of the Javanese are expressed through the dish of tumpeng. Conical rice is placed in the middle and various side dishes are arranged around the cone. Laying rice and side dishes like this represent the mountains and fertile soil around it. The soil around the mountain is filled with a variety of side dishes that indicate all the side dishes come from nature, the produce of the soil. The land becomes an essential symbol of prosperity.

In addition to its laying, the determination of side dishes is also based on wisdom as a result of learning from nature. Tumpeng is a symbol of the ecosystem of life. The towering cone of rice symbolizes the majesty of God the Creator of nature and its contents, while the variety of side dishes and vegetables is a symbol of the contents of this nature. Therefore, the determination of side dishes in tumpeng usually represents all that exists in nature (Shahab, 2006).

In Hindu-Javanese beliefs nature consists of the growing realms, animals and humans. Here, the realms of plants are manifested through ingredients, such as kacang panjang (long beans) and kangkung (water spinach). Natural fauna can be derived from two elements namely land and water, and manifested through animal flesh such as chicken, goat, cow and type of fish species. The human realm is manifested in the overall form of the tumpeng dish itself, which is a creature that depends on God and nature.

There is one source that mentions tumpeng side-dishes generally represents the element of food origin. Consisting of seven side dishes include tofu and tempeh bacem, fish, urap (vegetables), whole chicken, tubers, porridge and snacks from market. Seven in Javanese is called pitu. The word pitu refers to the meaning of pitulungan or pertolongan (help). Conversely the other source says there are no standard dishes to accompany tumpeng as long as it meets the natural elements as described above. Although contrary to the criteria for determining the side dish, but the symbolic meaning behind the dish of tumpeng remains the same.


1. White rice

In ancient times, tumpeng rice is always served from white rice in the shape of a mountain or cone. This form represents the hands docked to worship God. White rice also symbolizes that everything we eat becomes blood and flesh must be chosen from a clean or halal source. The form of a mountain can also be interpreted as a hope for the welfare of our lives increasingly “up” and “high”.

As time goes by tumpeng rice has two dominant colors, white and yellow. When we return to the influence of Hindu teachings that are still very strong in Java, white is associated with Indra, the God of the Sun. The sun is the source of life whose light is white. In addition, white in many religions symbolizes holiness. The yellow color symbolizes sustenance, abundance, prosperity.

Seeing the connection between the meaning behind the form and color of the tumpeng rice, the whole meaning of this cone is the recognition of a greater power of man, God, who controls the nature and aspects of human life, which determines the beginning and the end. The real form of this recognition is the attitude of worship of the Almighty where gratitude, hope and prayer are directed to Him so that life is better, uphill and tall like the shape of the summit of tumpeng itself. Therefore the cone contains a deep religious meaning so that its presence becomes sacred in the ceremonies of thanksgiving or salvation.


2. Chicken

The whole parts of a rooster (ingkung) is cooked with turmeric and a thick broth of coconut milk. It is a symbol of worship God with solemn (manekung) and a calm heart (wening). Peace is achieved by self-control and patience (ngereh rasa/concentrate). The slaughter of a rooster also has the meaning of avoiding bad traits symbolized by the rooster, which are arrogant, cocky, when talking he always interrupts and feels to know / win / true himself (crowing), unfaithful, and unappreciative with his wife and kids.


3. Seafood

Natural fauna is represented by side dishes. It seems the side dish representing the water element contains many meaning that can be applied in life. The fish certainly represent the aquatic animals. In a modern tumpeng, the fish menu is often replaced with prawn. There are three types of fish that can be used to complement the types of side dishes contained in tumpeng:

  • Lele (catfish) survive in water that does not flow and located at the bottom of the river. Bringing catfish as a side dish in a tumpeng is a symbol of fortitude, resilience in life, and able to survive in the lowest economic situation though. Catfish life habits are also expected to be applied in the life of a human career, to not hesitate to pursue a career from the lower level.
  • Bandeng (milk fish) famous for its smooth thorns that number like unlimited. Almost every bite has thorns in it. Through this dish people hope every moment can get sustenance and the amount is always a lot or increase like thorns in milk fish.
  • Teri (anchovy) / Gereh Pethek can be fried with flour or without flour. Anchovy is a very small fish and easy to eat by a bigger fish when he swims alone. Therefore the anchovies always live in clusters. It reminds people that they can not live alone. They are weak creatures and need the help of others to live. Thus, the anchovies symbolize the harmony and cooperation that must be fostered among human beings.


3. Eggs

The eggs are boiled in pindang process, not fried like the cow eyes or an omelet, but must be served the whole eggs with their shells (not cut). We must peeled the egg first to eat It. The process of cooking and eating eggs symbolizes all the actions that we do must be planned (peeled), worked according to plan and evaluated the results for the achievement of perfection.


5. Vegetables in urapan

Vegetables in urapan is a commonly selected menu type that can represent terrestrial plants. Type of vegetables is not chosen simply because each vegetable also contains a certain symbol. Vegetables to be provided are:

  • Kangkung (water spinach) can grow in water and on land, so it is expected in humans who must be able to live anywhere and in any condition. Kangkung also means ‘jinangkung’ which means to protect.
  • Bayam (spinach) has a soothing light green color and simple leaf shape, not many indentations. This vegetable represents a peaceful life (safe and peaceful), not many conflicts such as simple leaf shape and cool green on spinach.
  • Taoge (a sprout) pops out of green beans. Inside this little vegetable contained high creativity. Someone who always comes up with new ideas. The one who has high creativity and can be successful in his life. Bean sprouts are also a kind of vegetables that are very easy to produce. It contains hope that humans can continue to grow and develop, to have children and grandchildren.
  • Kacang panjang (long beans) must be present intact, without cutting. The point is that people should always think long before acting. In addition, long beans also symbolize longevity. Whole beans are not generally made entirely, but are present as a decoration that surrounds the cone rice or attached to the body of the cone rice.
  • Bawang merah or brambang in Javanese (red onion) symbolizes considering everything from the good or bad side carefully.
  • Cabe merah (red chili) is usually placed on the tip of the rice cone. It is a symbol of fire that provides illumination or a good example, and will benefit both yourself and others.
  • Kluwih (seeded breadfruit, breadnut) means linuwih in Javanese or has advantages over others. 
  • Bumbu urap (urap Seasoning) which means urip in Javanese / live or able to support and feed the family.

Tumpeng is an important part in celebration of traditional festivity. Celebration or feast is a form of gratitude and gratitude to the Almighty over the abundance of crops and other blessings. Because it has a value of gratitude and celebration, until now tumpeng often serves as a birthday cake in celebration of a birthday party.

In festivity, thanksgiving, or slametan, the elder who leads the prayer will usually start the event by describing the meaning contained in dish of cone. The goal is that the audience understand the meaning of tumpeng and get a discourse of life teachings and advice.

After the recitation of prayer, unwritten tradition suggests tumpeng tops are cut and given to the most important, the most honorable, the most glorified, or the most elderly among the people present. It means to show respect for that person. Then everyone present was invited to enjoy the tumpeng together. With a tumpeng community showing gratitude and gratitude to God as well as celebrating togetherness and harmony.

The event involving rice cone is commonly called ‘tumpengan’. In Yogyakarta for example, the tradition of ‘tumpengan’ flourished on the night before August 17, Proclamation of Indonesian Independence Day, to pray for the salvation of the state.

Over time, the cone has begun to abandon its original spiritual values. Now overlapping is made more aesthetic and note the nutritional value. Therefore add vegetables such as celery, carrots, and tomatoes have been done. We may also find other side dishes such as perkedel, shredded to serundeng even ikan asin (salted fish) that accompany rice cone.

For presentation, small cone can be served for 10 people. Medium size 20 people and large size 30 people. Special celebration of RI anniversary, usually tumpeng not just be a treat. Decorating rice cone also often used as a race for the creation of mothers to produce a tumpeng complete with beautiful appearance.

The tumpeng creations by mothers may be different. Tribe, race and religion in Indonesia are not the same. But as long as it does not come out of ‘grip’ (pakem), the cultural heritage of Java and Hindu – tumpengan tradition will remain alive when we do not stop gratitude. Let’s be grateful with tumpeng. Nom, nom, nom: -D


Thanks to the sources of Dewantara Magazine and Detik Food.

This article is dedicated by

See the Indonesian version here.

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