Promiscuity may be frowned upon in most parts of Southeast Asia. But on Mount Kemukus in Java, Indonesia, you will be blessed with good luck for having extramarital sex with complete strangers. People flock here from all over the country to carry out this sacred pilgrimage, all in the name of good fortune.
The tradition started as a result of Javanese folklore. Legend has it that in the 16th century, Javanese prince Pangeran Samodra was caught having an affair with his step-mother, Nyai Ontrowulan. The two then ran away and lived at Mount Kemukus.
With his dying breath, Pangeran Samodra willed that whoever has extramarital sexual intercourse, the person’s wishes will be fulfilled. The ritual has to be carried out on Jumat Pon, the day of his death. It is the day when the Friday on the Gregorian calendar and one of the five days on the Javanese calendar both fall on the same day. For the ritual to be completed, one would need to rendezvous with the same stranger 7 times, once every 35 days, when Jumat Pon occurs. If this cycle is broken, then it has to be restarted. Only upon the completion of this cycle will they be able to fully reap their coveted rewards.
And so, it was believed that doing something shameful, like having sexual intercourse with a complete stranger, will bring about good luck.
There is a shrine on the mountain where the star-crossed lovers are buried. The pilgrims say a prayer and place offerings of flowers on the shrine. They then cleanse themselves with water from the nearby holy springs before finding a partner to complete the ritual with.
This practice was made famous worldwide in November 2014 when SBS Dateline did a documentary on this practice.
The BBC estimates that on the busiest of nights, up to 8,000 pilgrims make their way to Mount Kemukus. Generally, the men outnumber the women. As such, not all male pilgrims are able to find partners to complete the ritual with. This has brought about the onset of prostitution. It is estimated that up to half of the women at Mount Kemukus are sex workers.
Every week, a community clinic is set up at the entrance of Mount Kemukus to conduct health checks for sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs). Dr. Yusinarto, who runs the clinic, blames this tradition for the rise in STDs in the area. He goes on to say that many of his patients know the risks involved but carry on anyway.
There has been a lot of debate surrounding this controversial practice. Islam frowns upon sex out of wedlock. Thus, some believers feel that partaking in such practices is forbidden and sinful. The gatekeeper to Mount Kemukus insists that the sex is not necessary and that pilgrims do it simply because they want to.
The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the governing body of Islam in Indonesia, believes that this practice is immoral and that it will lead the people down a sinful path. This ritual is influenced by Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist and traditional Javanese culture. Because of Java’s unique culture, Islamic relativism is rampant, which is why such traditions are practised.
Within a week of the SBS documentary, the local Javanese government caught wind of this and proceeded to ban the practice on Mount Kemukus, bringing an end to this controversial tradition.