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In Indonesia, Eid is called “Lebaran” and one of the most prominent symbols used to represent the holiday is “ketupat.” Ketupat is made by encasing rice in a pouch made of palm tree leaves and boiling; it’s enjoyed on Eid day along side dishes like curries, satays, vegetables and soups. It’s essentially a more special take on steamed rice making it appropriate for an occasion like Eid.

Ketupat was a part of Indonesian culture since before Islam came to Indonesia and is said to be used in Hindu religious rituals in Bali. When Indonesians started converting to Islam, they simply adjusted existing cultural practices to align it with Islam (except where explicitly forbidden like pork or alcohol for example.) Changing the intention was all that was needed to make a practice permissible regardless if it had origins in any other religions. 

Sufi mystics were brilliant at coming up with new meanings for cultural practices. Raden Mas Sahid, or Sunan Kalijaga, one of the 9 saints who is credited to bringing Islam to Java, is said to be responsible for coming up with the meaning Indonesians now associate with ketupat. The name ketupat is derived from the Javanese term “ngaku lepat”, meaning “admitting one’s mistakes.” Ketupat represents the experience our souls go through during Ramadan and Eid. The green intertwined casing represents the mistakes and sins we commit as human beings. After finishing Ramadan and being forgiven for our sins, on Eid day the inner white rice is finally reached, representing purity and deliverance from sins. Large baskets containing hundreds of ketupat are placed at public Eid prayers. After the prayer, worshippers help themselves to the favours. Children especially seem to be happy about it. 

Since ketupat is a symbol for Eid in Indonesia (and nearby Southeast Asian countries), you’ll find things like ketupat lights, ketupat cookies, cakes and cupcakes, ketupat greeting cards and ketupat ribbon decorations. Children make ketupat crafts in school and in some tourist places, large ketupat displays are even installed. For Indonesian Muslims, it’s an established symbol that says “Eid is here.”

Photo credits: Ketupat Lights via AphaRock | Ketupat Cookies via The Asian Parent | Ketupat Cake via Rumah Kue Ica | Ketupat cupcakes via Merry Go Round Cupcakes and Cakes | Ketupat Greeting Cards via Azlina Abdul | Ketupat Ribbon Decorations via KusuLife.


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