Skip to content

INDONESIA – The Chosen Ones: Dieng’s Dreadlock-Haired Children


Zara I’anatul Maulida, 8, a dreadlock-haired child poses for the Jakarta Globe at Dieng Plateau, Banjarnegara, on Nov. 15, 2020. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

Dieng. Children with rambut gimbal or dreadlocks are considered special in Dieng Plateau, Central Java.

Dieng people believe those with dreadlocks are the chosen ones. Nobody knows why they are chosen and by whom. A child can be born with dreadlocks even though it does not run in the family. 

According to the oral history at the tallest region in Java, the dreadlocks originated from Kyai Kolodete, a tumenggung or a clan leader of Medang Kamulan, a semi-mythological kingdom in Dieng.

Kyai Kolodete was believed to have dreadlock and very fond of children. He said children with dreadlocks are his descendants and the Dieng Plateau residents must love them too. Not only they were privileged, his descendants would also be gifted.

And in present time, eight-year-old Zara I’anatul Maulida’s hair began to tangle when she was only 8.5 months.

“At first, Zara had a very high fever. People believe the start of children having dreadlocks is marked with a high fever. We often took Zara to the hospital. Her hair remains tangled even though it is regularly washed and combed,” Zara’s mother, Sri Mardiah, said at her home in Dieng Plateau, Banjarnegara, last week.

Zara is very fond of the supernatural phenomenons around her. She once asked her parents to prepare two bottles of milk. But the child just put the bottle right in front of the door for something unseen, Sri said. 

The Dieng Platau locals believed only a haircut ritual led by an indigenous elder of the community would make the children’s hair grow straight. In this purification ritual named ruwatan, the elder would shave off the child’s head.

During this sacred ritual, parents must fulfill their child’s requests however odd and absured they are. Some children ask for simple things such as bicycles, dolls or jewelry. Others ask for livestock and crop.

“Zara requested two chickens and a goat. She said it as soon as she could talk,” Sri said.

“Praise be to God. People have understood. She is a very active child, sometimes annoying and stubborn. When she acts naughty, people knew she is a gimbal-haired child so they immediately understood,” she said.

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the annual purification ritual was held with limited attendees, instead of each child had to have purification on his birthday. Afterwards, they would float the cut-off hair down the Telagang Warna lake or the Sikidang crater.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: