Indonesia is a very diverse country, ranging from ethnicity, culture, language, customs and even religion. Some ethnic groups in Indonesia have indigenous religions that may not be widely known by the outside community, one example is the Dayak tribe, most of whose people adhere to the Kaharingan religion.

Dayak Tribe

Etymologically, the word "Dayak" does not refer to the name of a tribe, but means "Human". Some people also interpret the word "Dayak" as another word for "inland". Furthermore, in general, "Dayak people" in the language of Kalimantan means "People of the Inland" whose lives are far from modern and fast urban life. 

There are many kinds of Dayak tribes in Indonesia, including Dayak Kenyah, Dayak Hiban, Dayak Tunjung, Dayak Bahau, Dayak Benua, Dayak Punan, and many other Uma (tribal children) scattered in various forests in the Kalimantan region.

Kaharingan Religion

Kaharingan is the indigenous belief or religion of the Dayak tribe on the island of Kalimantan, when major religions had not yet entered Kalimantan. Kaharingan means to grow or live, as in the term danum kaharingan (the water of life).

Prior to the 20th century, the Dayak tribe, as a whole, did not know religion, be it Islam, Christianity, or others. In daily life, the Dayak people believe in various kinds of taboos according to the 'signs' given by nature. They believe in ancestors, stars, rocks, and natural signs that they interpret as similar to ancient Hinduism. 

One of the taboos that they believe in is the restriction not to mingle with the lives of people from other tribes, thus they always live with a feeling of unrest which makes them always move from one forest to another, from one cave to another, and so on.

So, how do the nomadic Dayak people get to know the Kaharingan religion?

Kaharingan was first introduced by Tjilik Riwut in 1944. At that time, Riwut served as a Resident of Sampit based in Banjarmasin. Kaharingan religion developed in 1957 in the Dayak village, Kalimantan, and the majority of Kaharingan people live in the Palangkaraya Regency area. 

Then, during the New Order era, Kaharingan adherents integrated with Hinduism because some of the rituals and beliefs in Kaharingan were interpreted similarly to Hinduism. As a result, the Kaharingan religion was categorized as a branch of Hinduism and became Hindu-Kaharingan.

Hinduism and Kaharingan

Kaharingan believes in God Almighty (Ranying Hatalla Langit) and this belief is hereditary and lived by the Dayak tribe in Kalimantan. However, instead of forming one religion in itself, why did the followers of the Kaharingan religion choose to be categorized as a branch of Hinduism, even though Hinduism and Kaharingan were two different religious existences?

Despite Hinduism and Kaharingan have some similarities, the differences between them are many and varied, ranging from what is adopted, scriptures, places of worship, and even funerals. Hindu religious leaders revealed that they could not carry out the Kaharingan ritual, and vice versa.

At its peak, in 2000, the Great Hindu-Kaharingan Religion Council or Majelis Besar Agama Hindu-Kaharingan (MBAHK) filed a demand to the government so that Kaharingan could be recognized as a separate religion and separate from Hinduism. This incident was enshrined in the 2000 Palangkaraya Charter which also served as a silent witness to the struggle of Kaharingan followers to gain recognition from the state.

Unfortunately, until now these legalization efforts have not yielded significant results. The Kaharingan religion is deemed inadequate as a proper religion because it believes in an invisible (mystical) power, and was previously only recognized as a belief. The amalgamation of Kaharingan religion with Balinese Hinduism is considered to be the right choice because Kaharingan does not meet the requirements as a religion and does not fulfill the provisions stipulated in the applicable regulations.

Duwel Rawing, a member of the board of the Dayak Customary Council of the province of Central Kalimantan, was quoted by UAJY NewsLab in 2018 as saying that some groups adhering to the Kaharingan religion accepted the decision to remain Hindu-Kaharingan, but others either rejected or disagreed with the decision. As a result, the Hindu-Kaharingan people split into two groups and this has been happening for years.

The fact that the Kaharingan religion has not been recognized has made it difficult for its adherents, especially when making E-KTPs, they are forced to leave their religion column blank. Until now, followers of the Kaharingan religion are still fighting for their rights as adherents of their ancestral beliefs so that they can be recognized as a legal religion in Indonesia.