Cirebon in Four Days (Day Four)

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Many years ago, while I was still in college, a friend of mine told me that there was an old mosque in Cirebon who had seven muezzins to sound the call to prayer at the same time. Yes, exactly at the same time, just like a choir.


Ever since I heard about that seven muezzins, I had been determined to see them by myself. So on the last day of our traveling to Cirebon, which thankfully fell on Friday, we went to the old mosque located right beyond the complex of Kraton Kasepuhan.

Few hours before coming to this place, I made a small research, with google of course, tried to spot the best location to capture those seven muezzins with my camera. I learned that I had to be inside the main hall of the mosque and sit in front of those muezzins. And that meant I had to sit at the front rows, something I hardly ever do in Friday prayers.

That day, it was not Arief, our previous driver from the rental, who picked us up from the hotel. It was Pak Budi. He took us straight to the grand mosque known as Masjid Agung Sang Cipta Rasa. I really hoped I could get some space inside the main hall.

The mosque was huge, dominated with red brick walls, and there were many people coming from out of Cirebon. It was almost certain that this mosque, like many other all mosques in Java, is sacred.

The main hall was pretty small compared to the entire area of the mosque. To enter it, we had to walk through a small door, which to me, looked like a window. Most people would bow while passing through that door.



I was a bit nervous when I entered the main hall. Nearly everyone inside was dressed up in white with white caps or fez on their heads. I came with a colorful collar shirt and a camera bag in my hand. I was more nervous when I walked toward the front row and sat between those holy looking people. Well, I had no choice. I had to see those seven muezzins.

It was easy to know the exact position of those muezzins. Just find the hanging microphones below a big solid wooden beam.

Right after twelve o’clock, seven men dressed in white robes and white turbans stood under the hanging microphones and began to sound the adzan, the call to prayer. They did it at the same time, with different tones, generating the most musical adzan I had ever heard. Just like a choir.


Of course this was something we would never find in any other mosques. Nor in the teaching of Islam. What I found there in this mosque was just a centuries old tradition. I later learned that the tradition was known as Adzan Pitu, roughly translated as Adzan seven.

Tracing back how it started, it began in the 15th century when the mosque was built by Sunan Kalijaga, one of Wali Songo (nine Muslim saints spreading the teaching of Islam in Java).

Back then, there was an epidemic that caused many people lost their lives. People believed the diseases was mystically sent by someone who didn’t like the mosque. It was like a curse. The Sunan was so concerned about this he prayed the God to get an answer how to stop it.

He got some sort of revelation saying that there should be seven men to do the adzan as a way to break the curse. In the old days, we could find this rare phenomenon five times a day. Today, we can only see it once in a week during the Friday prayer.

Another ancient thing that remained in this mosque was the sacred water coming out from an old well. People would wash their faces, clean their bodies, and even drink it. I saw people come with plastic bottles to fill them with the water.


I was not interested to find what was so good about the water that people would line up to get it.

Back to the main hall of the mosque, I found some women sit inside a wooden cage. They were reciting the holy Quran. It was interesting that rather than using a curtain to separate women from men, this mosque used the cage.



We left the mosque for lunch. We planned to go straight to the train museum after the lunch, but I thought we still had enough time to visit another spot. What I had in mind was another palace (kraton) of Cirebon.

We had seen two palaces on our first day in Cirebon. There were still one more palace that we should see, and that was Kraton Kacirebonan. It’s the youngest and smallest palace. We decided to take a guided tour in there.


There were many sacred old artifacts inside the palace, which nearly all were wrapped with white fabric. There was also one room in where we were not allowed to take any pictures.


 

Since it was just a small palace, we didn't take long to look around it. We were there for less than an hour and the we rushed to the train station to catch the train back to Jakarta.

Cirebon might be small in size, but having been to some old historical sites in Asia, I guess this town is lucky as it has many well preserved heritages. And they all are significant considering that they mark the early coming of the teaching of Islam in Java.

Therefore, Cirebon needs to work much harder to promote the heritages to the world.

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