Indonesia Banget #37: Dieng Culture Festival – Kids with Dreadlocks

Last Month (yup, it was that long) on my Post called Dieng Culture Festival Part 1, I promised to share about the main attraction of Dieng Culture Festival a week after that post was published…things came up and ended up writing it now.

This post is part of my Indonesia Banget post

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Click the button to see more post on Indonesia Banget

The main reason I went to Dieng 2 months ago is to know more about this thing called Ruwatan or Purification procession or ritual on Kids with dreadlocks. I didn’t get a clear look on them but at least I know more now and have confident to write about it.

The procession was held on Candi Arjuna (Candi is old temple made of stone). When I got there, it was already so crowded and I couldn’t come closer because I didn’t have the VVIP or VIP card. The people with VIP card can sit right in front of the procession and took great pictures of that special moment.

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One of my friends could get closer because she joined a more reliable travel agent than me (read: unpleasant Trip to Dieng), I borrowed some of her photos 😉

Ruwatan is a Javanese word for purification procession. Ruwatan is a tradition in Java which goes back through many generation even before Islam came to Indonesia. Ruwatan for kids with dreadlocks hair (we called such hair as Gimbal and in Javanese it is called Gembel) also has the same meaning which is a ritual to get rid of bad lucks on the kids and Dieng society.

Based on an article in, I learned more about the ritual.

These kids with dreadlocks is a unique phenomena in Dieng. Some kids (well, more like few) from the age of 40 days to 6 years suddenly have natural dreadlocks. No matter how many times the parents wash the hair, it will still look like Rastafarian hair…but of course not as solid as their dreadlocks.


The people of Dieng Highland believes that these kids are entrusted by Kyai Kolo Date. Kyai Kolo Date was an important officials from Mataram (on fifteenth century) who was placed in Dieng. When he arrived in Dieng, his wife, Nini Roro Rence had a vision from Ratu Pantai Selatan (the queen of south sea, a deity known as Ny Roro Kidul). This couple were trusted to give happiness and wealth toward the people in Dieng. Since that time, kids with dreadlocks were born in Dieng.

For people who live in Dieng, the number of kids with dreadlocks correlates the people’s wealth. More kids with dreadlocks means that the wealth of people in Dieng will be much better and vice verse.

The dreadlocks appear after high fever for few days. One morning, the kid’s temperature becomes normal and the hair has changed into dreadlocks. The kids are as normal as other kids but they are usually more active than other kids. Sometimes, they become so emotional and uncontrollable for no clear reason. This tendency disappears after the hair is cut.

Before the cutting, praying rituals are held in several places such as Candi Dwarawati, Candi Arjuna complex, Sendang Maerokoco, Candi Gatotkaca, Balaikambang lake, Candi Bima, Sikidang lake, Cave in Warna lake, Pepek river and Dieng burial. The next day, the kids are paraded to the cutting procession area which is in Candi Arjuna. These kids are guarded by the elders, important people in society and the people of Dieng.

Here’s the parade taken by my friend, Chi Chin.

Photo belongs to Chi Chin
Photo belongs to Chi Chin
Photo belongs to Chi Chin
Photo belongs to Chi Chin
Photo belongs to Chi Chin

This year, there were 7 kids. Before their dreadlocks are cut, their parents must fulfill special wish from them but since they were just kids the wishes aren’t that much. I remembered how silly the wishes were. One of them made sense because he/she (I forgot) asked for a red bicycle, but the others had funny wishes or requests. One of them wanted one red apple, the other wanted es lilin (a kind of homemade ice cream) made by his/her neighbor, and another one wanted a bucket full of chocolate. They were still kids with pure heart. Those requests must be fulfilled or something bad will happen.

Once their hair is already cut, the dreadlocks will never appear again on their head. This might be hard to believe but that’s happen there for centuries.

Here are some pics before their hairs were cut

Photo belongs to Chi Chin
Photo belongs to Chi Chin
Photo belongs to Chi Chin
Photo belongs to Chi Chin
my camera could only get this close
my camera could only get this close

Here’s the Candi (old temple).

DSC02216The crowd.


Even though I couldn’t see it clearly but it was a fun festival, one of Indonesian rich culture moments 🙂

Looking forward to be in another festival sometime in the future. Hope you enjoy the post 🙂

Ps. I included this in thirteen Thursday because there are 13 pictures here 🙂


    1. I would asked for a trip around the world, if I am one of the children 😉 because if the parents can’t give what the children want, they can’t cut their hair

  1. That’s so interesting. I’d never heard of this phenomenon either. I wonder if it occurs anywhere else in the world?

    It’s a shame you didn’t get a better look from your position, it sounds like something you’d really want to watch up close. I guess given how badly your tour went you were lucky to make it to the ceremony at all.

    1. I have never heard of it yet, I mean in other part of the world…but the world is big enough things that can’t be explained.

      Yeah, at least I was there and had seen it myself 🙂 Would love to see more festivals in the future

  2. Long time no visit. The blog layout changed very much ya mbaak

    Need to know the purpose on visiting Dieng. Whether for its scenery from the top, or for its culture from the festival. Mine will always be the scenery 🙂

    1. Hisashiburi 🙂

      Yeah I like this magazine/newspaper look, easier for people to read whatever they like to read without scrolling down.

      My purpose was to see the festival so that I can write this post 🙂
      As for the scenery, I have seen better scenery…it was good but others are better.

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