My daily commute to work started to get quite interesting this week, as I began to notice hundreds of cows, sheep and goats lazily milling about on the side of major roads within the city. But being a newcomer to this often confusing place, I’ve learned to accept cultural puzzles such as these as part of my everyday experiences in navigating this new terrain. So random livestock popping up beside my cab while stuck in traffic on the way home from work yesterday seemed pretty par for the course. And I barely even batted an eye when motor scooters racing by me had animal passengers slung precariously over the sides like the photo above.
But it turns out that these animals crowding the roads this week are in town for a particular reason: a sacrifice, or rather, to be sacrificed.
Today is the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, or “Festival of Sacrifice”–a time in which Muslim families slaughter these animals in a ritual to commemorate the annual holiday. What’s New Jakarta has the details:
For those new to Jakarta, you may be befuddled by the increasing appearance of goats and cattle along the roadsides [...]. This is a yearly sight in the lead up to the Muslim celebration of Idul Adha, also known as the ‘day of sacrifice’. Practiced throughout the Muslim world, it commemorates Prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice everything for God, including the life of his son Ishmael. God apparently intervened though, and substituted Ishmael with a sheep instead. Muslims therefore commemorate this by sacrificing an animal and distributing its meat amongst family, friends and as an act of charity, to those underprivileged. This allows many poor Indonesians the opportunity, once a year, to eat meat, a commodity they can rarely afford. Many expatriates in Jakarta also participate by buying a goat or a cow and donating it to their local mosque to be sacrificed and distributed in the local community. Goats typically are sold for between Rp 800,000 to Rp 3 million and cows Rp 6-16 million. So Selamat Iduh Adha everyone!