Kaharingan is an animistic folk religion professed by many Dayaks in Kalimantan, Indonesia; particularly Central Kalimantan, although many have converted to Christianity or Islam or follow a syncretic religion. It is estimated that most Dayaks follow their ancient animistic religious traditions (Kaharingan), but often state to belong to one of the recognized religions in Indonesia to prevent discrimination.[1]

The word means something like "Way of the life", and this belief system includes a concept of a many deities and often one supreme deity—although this may be the result of the need to conform to the idea of "One Supreme God" (Ketuhanan yang Maha Esa), which is the first principle of the Indonesian state ideology Pancasila. Hindu-Javanese influence can also be seen in this religion, and the Indonesian government views it as a form of Folk Hinduism because the Indonesian government recognizes only six official religions, and Kaharingan is not one of them.[2][3]

The main festival of Kaharingan is the Tiwah festival, which lasts for thirty days, and involves the sacrifice of many animals like buffaloes, cows, pigs and chickens, as offerings to the spirits and deities.[4]

The religion has ritual offerings called Yadnya, places of worship called Balai Basarah or Balai Kaharingan and a holy book called Panaturan, Talatah Basarah (group of prayers) and Tawar (a guide to seek God's help by giving rice). Ancestor worship and the belief in many supernatural beings is common.[5][6]

Balai Basarah Induk Intan Kaharingan Muara Teweh
A Kaharinga shrine


Sandung 101013-7585 mp
Sandung of Dayak Pesaguan people in Ketapang Regency, West Kalimantan. Note a sculpture of a dragon above it
Sandung 101101-8268 lap
Sandung of Dayak Pebihingan people, side by side with two tombs. Ketapang Regency

The term Kaharingan comes from the Old Dayak word "Haring" meaning "Life" or "Alive". This concept is expressed in the symbol of the faith depicting a kind of "Tree of Life". This Tree of Life somewhat resembles a spear that has three branches on eitherside, some facing up and some down. At the bottom of the symbol are two receptacles, while at the very top are a hornbill and the sun.

The spear and its branches denote the upper world and the afterlife(spiritworld), while the lower part where are the receptacles convey the idea of man's earthly life. Although both the spiritual world and the earthly world are different, but they are closely connected to one another and are inseparable since they are both interdependent.

The branches where some face up while others face down mean that there is an eternal balance between the earthly and the afterlife. That life on earth is temporary, and that human life is designed for the hereafter.

Altogether the Tree of Life expresses the core of the Kaharingan faith, which is that Human Life must be a balance and kept in harmony between man and spirits and between man and his natural environment. This is also the basic concept of the Balinese Hindu religion, where in Bali it is known as the Tri Hita Karana.[7]

In practice the Ngaju Dayaks focus on the supernatural world of spirits, including ancestral spirit. For them, the secondary funeral is most important, usually held after several months or even years after burial. During the second funeral rites (known as tiwah) the bones are exhumed and cleansed then placed in a special mausoleum, called sandung. The spirit of the deceased is then believed to watch over the village. The mausoleums are often beautifully decorated showing scenes of the upper world. An ornate ship of the dead made of rubber is usually placed next to the remains depicting his entourage that accompany the soul to paradise.[8]

One of the most outstanding features of the Dayak faith is their Local Wisdom and innate concern to preserve the forest and the natural environment. There are strict rules and directives on how to treat the rainforests, what may be done or taken from the forests and what are taboo. The Dayaks’ local wisdom directs that trespassing these rules will destroy the balance of the forest and animals living in the forest, and so directly or indirectly will adversely damage communities living from the forest bounty.[9]

Recognition by the Indonesian government

Among the many tribes of Dayaks in Borneo, those living in the upper reaches of the rivers in the province of Central Kalimantan are the Dayak Ngaju, the Lawangan, the Ma'anyan and the Ot Danum, known as the Barito Dayaks, named after the large Barito river. The Ngaju, who inhabit the Kahayan river basin by the present city of Palangkaraya, are involved in agricultural commerce, planting rice, cloves, coffee, palm oil, pepper and cocoa, whilst, the other tribes still mostly practice subsistence farming through the slash and burn lifestyle. The Dayak Ngaju were more open to technological and cultural influences from outside than most other Dayak, even during precolonial times. With the arrival of the Dutch and - in 1835 - the missionary Rheinische Mission (later followed up by the Basler Mission), many converted to Christianity. The missionaries founded schools and increased the literacy rate. Education stimulated a 'national awakening' among the Ngaju and Ma'anyan Dayak.[10]

Already long before the Second World War, the Dayak founded nationalistic political parties. During the Indonesian battle for independence against the Dutch, the Dayak from the Kalimantan region fought under Major Tjilik Riwut, a parachutist from the Ngaju Dayak who practiced the traditional religion. After the proclamation of independence, Jakarta decided that the Islamic Banjarmasin and mostly Dayak area west of it, should be one province. The plan got resistance from the Dayak - the Ngaju in front - which demanded a sole province. Under Riwut, which had become big during the revolution, the Dayak began a small guerrilla. The Indonesian army limited escalation of the conflict, probably because Riwut had been a loyal soldier. In 1957, the province of Kalimantan Tengah ("Central Kalimantan") or 'KalTeng' was officially formed by Presidential Law. The government was led by the Ngaju, and Rawit became governor. The 'battle' was about a sole province, together with a revaluation of the traditional Dayak culture, especially the religious part - a reaction on the worsening missionaries. The traditional religions of the Ngaju, Ot Danum, Ma'anyan and other Dayak was named Kaharingan ("power of life" or "way of life").[11]

After the Communist Party of Indonesia was declared illegal in the 1960s, the subject 'religion' became very sensitive. The state ideology saw religion as the belief in one God and the membership ow a 'acknowledged' world religion with a holy book. The Dayak were seen as 'atheists', which were highly associated with the communist ideology, and had to pick between two options: conversion to a world religion or being pressured by local authorities to do so. With this in mind; it is fairly clear why the missions with their schools, hospitals and minimal pressure, had much more success after the 1960s. Compared to the environments in the 17th and 18th century, Christianity offered more possibilities for social progress than Islam. Over time the ban on local religions was abandoned. In 1980, Kaharingan was officially recognised as religion, but only as a part of the Hindu Dharma, so in fact it was placed under Hinduism.

Today, most Dayaks follow their ancient animistic traditions, but often state to belong to one of the recognized religions of Indonesia. There is a rising pride and resistance among the Dayak people and a small but noteworthy rise among the believers of Kaharingan and other animistic traditions.[12]

The carnival in the Jungle

COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM Model van een knekelhuis TMnr A-1544
The traditional Sandungs bear similarities to various "shrine-like" buildings of Southeast- and East-Asia

In the religion of the Ngaju, the supernatural world is important, in which also the souls of ancestors have their place. Just like among other Dayak, the Ngaju known ritual re-burial, which usually takes place several months (sometimes several years) after the initial burial. This re-burial is very important for the soul of the deceased, so it can reach the highest point in heaven. With practicing the rytes, they protect themselves against bad supernatural powers. The first funeral takes place just after someone has died. During this ceremony, masked dancers protect the deceased against the bad spirits. Guided by drums, the kaharingan-priests start singing, which will send the soul to heaven. On its journey in the traditional ship of souls it is accompanied by spirits. Once in heaven, which consists of several 'layers', the soul has to wait in the lowest layer until the re-burial takes place.

During this second ritual (tiwah), the remainders of the deceased are excavated, cleaned and put in a special grave. These woodcarved and decorated graves often have the shape of a bird or watersnake and are decorated with images of the hereafter. Too bad sandung from the factory replace the traditional tombes. The tiwah is a big, complex and long lasting event. The cost vary between US$6,000 and US$12,000. It's common that several families hold a tiwah together, so they can spread the cost of sacrificed animals like a big number of waterbuffalo's and pigs. Once there were more than 200 souls brought to a higher level in one ceremony. But a tiwah also is a happy event. In the open air, foodstalls and shops are put up, and at some distance, there is also some gambling. The tiwah is the carnival of the jungle.


Sandung made of concrete are not the only changes in the Kaharingan religion. To make the religion acceptable for the government a council was set up, which had to control the theological and ritual activities of the about 330,000 supporters. None of the about 78 basir upu (top specialists about rites) are part of the council and also the about three hundred kaharingan priests are not in there as well. The council reflects aspects of the religion which are also known in other big religions. It also organises weekly meetings in specially built kaharingan-communal rooms, complete with speeches, prayers and psalms. Furthermore, the council registers and coordinates all tiwah (there are two to ten every year), before asking the police for a permit.

From early times the Iban believed that fighting cocks used by the supernatural, turned into human warriors and the cock fight is then closely tied with "intangible qualities of human nature, spiritual fulfillment and religious refinement"[13]

COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM Model van een geestenhuisje of zielenschip TMnr A-1548
A Kaharingan mininatur shrine, similar to the Japanese Kamidana

Shamanic curing or balian is one of the core features of Kaharingan ritual practices. Because this healing practice often occurs as a result of the loss of a soul resulting in some kind of illness, the focus of this practice is thus on the body. Sickness comes by offending one of the many spirits inhabiting the earth and fields, usually from a failure to sacrifice to them. The goal of the balian is to call back the wayward soul and restore the health of the community through trance, dance, and possession.

See also


  1. ^ Belford, Aubrey (2011-09-25). "Borneo Tribe Practices Its Own Kind of "Hinduism"". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-04-18.
  2. ^ Belford, Audrey (September 25, 2011). "Borneo Tribe Practices Its Own Kind of Hinduism". New York Times. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
  3. ^ Anthropos, Volume 102, Issue 2, Österreichische Leo-Gesellschaft, Görres-Gesellschaft, Anthropos Institute; Zaunrith'sche Buch-, Kunst- und Steindruckerei, 2007, ... It is remarkable to see how positive and self-conscious Kaharingans currently are in their interior villages. "We are Hindus," they proclaim. Likewise, people in Palangla Raya are proud of being part of a Hindu world community ...
  4. ^ Greer, Charles Douglas (2008). Religions of Man: Facts, Fibs, Fears and Fables. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse. p. 135. ISBN 978-1-4389-0831-1.
  5. ^ Belford, Aubrey (2011-09-25). "Borneo Tribe Practices Its Own Kind of Hinduism". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-04-18.
  6. ^ Baier, Martin (2007). "The Development of the Hindu Kaharingan Religion: A New Dayak Religion in Central Kalimantan". Anthropos. 102 (2): 566–570. ISSN 0257-9774. JSTOR 40389742.
  7. ^ Baier, Martin (2007). "The Development of the Hindu Kaharingan Religion: A New Dayak Religion in Central Kalimantan". Anthropos. 102 (2): 566–570. ISSN 0257-9774. JSTOR 40389742.
  8. ^ Baier, Martin (2007). "The Development of the Hindu Kaharingan Religion: A New Dayak Religion in Central Kalimantan". Anthropos. 102 (2): 566–570. ISSN 0257-9774. JSTOR 40389742.
  9. ^ Baier, Martin (2007). "The Development of the Hindu Kaharingan Religion: A New Dayak Religion in Central Kalimantan". Anthropos. 102 (2): 566–570. ISSN 0257-9774. JSTOR 40389742.
  10. ^ Belford, Aubrey (2011-09-25). "Borneo Tribe Practices Its Own Kind of Hinduism". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-04-18.
  11. ^ Belford, Aubrey (2011-09-25). "Borneo Tribe Practices Its Own Kind of Hinduism". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-04-18.
  12. ^ Belford, Aubrey (2011-09-25). "Borneo Tribe Practices Its Own Kind of Hinduism". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-04-18.
  13. ^ Iban Cultural Heritage — The Early Iban Way of Life — by Gregory Nyanggau 26th descendant of Sengalang Burong, the Iban God of War [1]

External links

Bahau people

The Bahau are an ethnic group in West Kutai Regency (9.3%), East Kalimantan, Indonesia.

They are found in regional districts of :-

Long Iram district, West Kutai Regency

Long Bagun district, West Kutai Regency

Long Pahangai, Mahakam Ulu Regency

Bakumpai people

Bakumpai or Baraki are indigenous people of Borneo and are considered as a sub-ethnic group of the Dayak Ngaju people group with Islamic background. The Bakumpai people first occupy along the Barito riverbanks in South Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan, from Marabahan to Puruk Cahu, Murung Raya Regency. The Bakumpai people first appeared as a newly recognized people group in census 2000 and were made up of 7.51% of Central Kalimantan population, which before this the Bakumpai people were considered as part of the Dayak people in a 1930 census.Bakumpai people originate from the upstream region of the former Bakumpai district, while the settlement of the Barangas people (Baraki) are in the downstream region. On the northern side of the upstream region from the former Bakumpai district is the Mangkatib (Mengkatib) district, which makes the settlement of the Dayak Bara Dia people or Dayak Mengkatib people. The Bakumpai people as well as the Mengkatib people are descendants of the Ngaju people from Tanahdayak.

Culture of Indonesia

The culture of Indonesia has been shaped by long interaction between original indigenous customs and multiple foreign influences. Indonesia is centrally-located along ancient trading routes between the Far East, South Asia and the Middle East, resulting in many cultural practices being strongly influenced by a multitude of religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Islam and Christianity, all strong in the major trading cities. The result is a complex cultural mixture very different from the original indigenous cultures.

Examples of the fusion of Islam with Hindu include Javanese Abangan belief, the fusion of Hinduism, Buddhism and animism in Bodha, and the fusion of Hinduism and animism in Kaharingan; others could be cited. Balinese dances have stories about ancient Buddhist and Hindu kingdoms, while Islamic art forms and architecture are present in Sumatra, especially in the Minangkabau and Aceh regions. Traditional art, music and sport are combined in a martial art form called Pencak Silat.

The Western world has influenced Indonesia in science, technology and modern entertainment such as television shows, film and music, as well as political system and issues. India has notably influenced Indonesian songs and movies. A popular type of song is the Indian-rhythmical dangdut, which is often mixed with Arab and Malay folk music.

Despite the influences of foreign culture, some remote Indonesian regions still preserve uniquely indigenous culture. Indigenous ethnic groups Mentawai, Asmat, Dani, Dayak, Toraja and many others are still practising their ethnic rituals, customs and wearing traditional clothes.

Dayak people

The Dayak or Dyak or Dayuh are the native people of Borneo. It is a loose term for over 200 riverine and hill-dwelling ethnic subgroups, located principally in the central and southern interior of Borneo, each with its own dialect, customs, laws, territory and culture, although common distinguishing traits are readily identifiable. Dayak languages are categorised as part of the Austronesian languages in Asia. The Dayak were animist in belief; however, many converted to Islam and since the 19th century there has been mass conversion to Christianity. Today most Dayak still follow their ancient animistic traditions, but often state to belong to one of the 6 recognized religions in Indonesia.

Kahayan River

The Kahayan river, or Great Dyak, is the largest river in Central Kalimantan, a province of Indonesia in Kalimantan - the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo. The provincial capital Palangkaraya lies on the river. The main inhabitants are Dyaks, who practice slash-and-burn rice cultivation and pan for gold on the upper reaches. The lower Kayahan flows through a rich and unusual environment of peat swamp forests, which has been severely degraded by an unsuccessful program to convert a large part of the area into rice paddies, compounded by legal and illegal forestry.

Kendayan people

The Kendayan (also known as Dayak Kenyan or Kanayatn) are an Indonesian ethnic group native to Kalimantan, Indonesia in Borneo. The population of the group is around 366,000.

Krio Dayak people

The Krio people (also referred to as Dayak Krio, Dayak Uheng Kereho, Punan Keriau, Dayak Seputan, Oloh Ot Nyawong or Penyahbong) are a Dayak ethnic group in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. They live on the upper course of the Krio River and speak the Krio Dayak language.

Lawangan people

Lawangan or Luangan people are a sub-ethnic of the Dayak Dusun people (East Barito) group, sometimes also referred to as Dusun Lawangan or Dayak Lawangan. The Lawangan people inhabit the eastern side of Central Kalimantan and West Kutai Regency, East Kalimantan, Indonesia. In Tabalong Regency, South Kalimantan, the Lawangan people can be found only in Binjai village. They speak Lawangan language.

The organization of this people is Dusmala which is made up of three sub-ethnic Dayak people namely, Dusun people, Ma'anyan people and Lawangan people.

Lebbo' people

The Lebbo' people (also known as the Lebu') are part of the indigenous Dayak people of East Kalimantan province (east central Borneo), Indonesia. They generally regard themselves as a subgroup of the Kenyah people.Before the modern era, the Lebbo' people were often hunter-gatherers or horticulturalists.

Most members of the Lebbo' live in the Sangkulirang-Mangkalihat Karst range and speak the Lebu’ Kulit (or Lepu' Kulit) language, also known as Wahau Kenyah (or Waha Kenya).

List of Hindu temples in Indonesia

This is a list of Hindu temples and their remains in Indonesia. Indonesia has been part of Indosphere of Greater India where sanskritization and Hinduism spread across Indonesia. Hindus in Indonesia are a multi-ethnic society consisting of different Indonesian ethnicities, such as Balinese, Javanese, Indian and other ethnic groups. Majority of Indonesian Hindus are Balinese that inhabit the volcanic island of Bali and out of them some have migrated to other parts of Indonesia. There is also a significant Indonesian Indian Hindu minority settled in large cities. Numbers of Indonesian natives that adhere to a form of native Austronesian ancestral and natural worship might also be categorized as Hindus, such as Dayaks, Kaharingan, Karo, Parmalim and Sundanese, Sunda Wiwitan. Hindu Dayak and Kaharingan groups are concentrated in Central Kalimantan.

Ma'anyan people

Ma'anyan (colonial spelling Maanjan or Meanjan), Dayak Maanyan or Eastern Barito Dayak people are a sub-ethnic group of the Dayak people indigenous to Borneo. They are also considered as part of the east Barito Dusun group with the name Dusun Ma'anyan. According to J. Mallinckrodt (1927), the Dusun people group is part of the Ot Danum people cluster, although later that theory was disproved by A. B. Hudson (1967), who argues that the Ma'anyan people are a branch of the Barito family. The Ma'anyan people who are often referred to as Dayak people are also referred to as Dayak Ma'anyan. The Dayak Ma'anyan people inhabit the east side of Central Kalimantan, especially in the East Barito Regency and parts of South Barito Regency which are grouped as Ma'anyan I. The Dayak Ma'anyan people also inhabit the northern parts of South Kalimantan, especially in Tabalong Regency which refers to the Dayak Warukin people. The Dayak Balangan people or Dusun Balangan people which are found in the Balangan Regency and the Dayak Samihim people that are found in the Kotabaru Regency are grouped together with the Dayak Ma'anyan people group. The Dayak Ma'anyan people in South Kalimantan are grouped as Ma'anyan II.

Administratively, the Ma'anyan people have just recently appeared in the 2000 census and made up 2.8% of the Central Kalimantan population; previously the Ma'anyan people were grouped together with the Dayak people in the 1930 census.The uniqueness of the Dusun Ma'anyan people among others are agriculture, elaborate funeral ceremonies, and having shaman to treat their disease.


The Marapu religion (also known as Marafu in Sumba) is a form of ancestral religion that is practiced mainly in the island of Sumba in Indonesia. Marapu is also practiced in many more remote areas of Sumba and Flores. Both the Christians and Muslims on these islands tend to combine their faiths with Marapu. Since Marapu, like Kaharingan of the Dayaks, is not an official religion of Indonesia, and all Indonesian citizens are required to identify as a member of one of the religions sanctioned by law, members have chosen either Christianity or Islam to self identify.

Mythology of Indonesia

The mythology of Indonesia is very diverse, the Indonesian people consisting of hundreds of ethnic groups, each with their own myths and legends that explain the origin of their people, the tales of their ancestors and the demons or deities in their belief systems. The tendency to syncretize by overlying older traditions with newer foreign ideas has occurred. For example, the older ancestral mythology might be merged with foreign mythology, such as Hindu, Islam, or Christian biblical mythology.

Organized religion

Organized religion (or organised religion—see spelling differences), also known as institutional religion, is religion in which belief systems and rituals are systematically arranged and formally established. Organized religion is typically characterized by an official doctrine (or dogma), a hierarchical or bureaucratic leadership structure, and a codification of rules and practices.

Ot Danum people

Ot Danum (also known as Dohoi, Malahoi, Uud Danum or Uut Danum) people are the sub-ethnic of the Dayak people (hence also referred as Dayak Ot Danum) from the upper reaches of south Kapuas River, and along the Schwaner range, bordering West Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. They are the most important group of the upper Melawi River and culturally and linguistically the most distinct from the Malay people. Besides, the Malay people, the Ot Danum people are also linguistically distinct from the Ngaju people who live along the middle reaches of Central Kalimantan's great rivers and who are numerically and linguistically the dominant Dayak people group in the area. Just like most Dayak people group, majority of the Ot Danum people also practice Kaharingan religion.The word Ot means people or upstream, while the word Danum means water. Therefore, the name Ot Danum means "water people" or "upriver people" or "people who live at the upstream river". The Ot Danum people are closely tied to living with nature and would revere the traditions of their ancestors by taking care of the balance between mankind and the surrounding nature.


Sandung or sandong is the ossuary of the Dayak people of South and Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. The sandung is an integral part of the Tiwah ceremony of the Ngaju people, which is basically a secondary burial ritual where the bones of the deceased are taken from the cemeteries, purified and finally placed in a sandung.

Selako people

Selako, also known as Salako, Silakau, Selakau, Selako Dayaks, Bidayuh Selako, Kata Diri' or Damea is an indigenous Dayak ethnic group that lives in the westernmost part of Borneo island. In Indonesia, they are found in districts such as Tujuhbelas, Samalantan, Paloh, Tebas, Telukkeramat and Sejangkung of Sambas Regency, and Bengkayang Regency, West Kalimantan. While in Malaysia, most Selakos are settled in areas such as Sematan settlement in Lundu, Sarawak. They are classified as part of the Bidayuh tribe linguistically and geographically. They speak Selako language (also known as Kendayan, not to be confused with Kedayan), which is a branch of Malayic (especially Malayic Dayak) languages instead of Bornean or Land Dayak like most Dayaks, besides Selako they also speak Malaysian and Sarawak Malay in Malaysia and Indonesian in Indonesia. Many Selakos are Christians, they are mostly Anglicans, Bornean Evangelicals and Roman Catholics following missionary work in the 19th century.


Tiwah is the Festival of the Dead of the Ngaju people of Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. It is basically a secondary mortuary rituals, where the bones of the deceased are taken from the cemeteries, purified and finally placed in an ossuary. The feast celebrates the final entry of the deceased into paradise where they would meet the ancestors.

Uma Baka' people

The Uma Baka' tribe were originally from the rural center of Borneo Island. Originally from Bahau River, the Uma Baka' people began moved out from that river system along with the Uma' Kulit people in the 18th century. Although the tribe still remains in East Kalimantan, Indonesia, some of them have moved to Sarawak, Malaysia. The tribe was known as the best hunters in jungle. The Uma Baka' people are considered as a sub-ethnic of the Kenyah people and their language is Uma Baka' language, which is a form of Kenyah language dialect.Today, their lives have totally changed. They are no longer head hunters. Some of their people have become very successful in education, business, religion and politics.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.