t’s one of the world’s most bizarre and best kept secrets of Indonesia.
In the world’s largest Muslim majority country, thousands of Indonesian pilgrims travel to the Gunung Kemukus, otherwise known as ‘Sex Mountain’ in Central Java, to have sex with strangers as part of a religious ritual
Dateline video journalist, Patrick Abboud, whose story is set to show on SBS, got to uncover the incredible life on top of the mountain, given unusual access to what goes on.
Mr Abboud says every 35 days you have to perform sex seven consecutive times for the ritual to work.
‘It’s a pretty bizarre story. A few years ago I read a piece about it and looked into it, it took a while to get there,’ he said.
And what he found he described as ‘incredibly surprising’.
‘More shock of the sheer size of the place and thousands of people, up to 8,000 on a busy night,’ said Mr Abboud.
‘It was hard to make sense of it, after being there it took a few weeks to digest.’
The ancient ritual dates back to the 16th century and is a regular meeting of ritual believers participating in sexual acts, with the view that it brings good luck and fortune.
From married men, housewives, government officials and prostitutes, there’s a variety of people who participate.
And for a country and religion where sex out of wedlock is taboo, Mr Abboud says the idea of a mountain top sex ritual for Muslims in Indonesia seems very strange.
‘Back in the 16th century, a young Indonesian prince had an affair with his step mother,’ he said.
‘They ran away to the mountain and had sex and mid coitus they were caught, killed and buried.
‘There is a shrine there now and because they didn’t get to finish the act, others believe that if you do, fortune will come to you, most people like poor farmers who want to get ahead in life.’
He says he saw no Westerners there but people come from all over Indonesia to see if their luck would change.
‘It’s a Javanese ritual which is very different to the Muslim world, very different to everywhere else in Indonesia, the beliefs are a blend of Islamic, Hindi and Buddhism,’ he said.
So popular the ritual has now turned into a tourist attraction for locals with the government charging people to go there, with stalls and even buskers.
‘It’s a bit of a carnival.’
‘It’s contradictory, the government knows adultery is happening yet they’re preaching something different and turning a blind eye,’ he said.
While Mr Abboud, who was fascinated by the ritual, said the only problem is that there is more men than women and in turn it has become prime territory for commercial sex workers.
He even got propositioned himself by a sex worker whilst filming but said he quickly declined the offer.
He said seeing inside doings of the religious ritual, it seems very controversial.
Mr Abboud followed a female pilgrim called Mardiyah who was a widow and for two years had struggled financially.
Living in a small Javanese town, she had just completed her mission of having sex seven times when he was there.
'She said business become better and made more money, it's maybe proof it does work,' he said.
'I met a male pilgrim called Gepeng, and his friends but he didn't want to kiss and tell.'
'One of his friends said they went for fun and karaoke, another said he does go for the sex ritual but didn't want to say too much because he didn't want his wife to find out, but felt his life would turn around.'
He also described another pilgrim he met that also didn't want to talk too much about it in fear of his wife finding out.
'It's Incredibly hard to get women talking, obviously cheating on their husband.'
While he found the incredibly bizarre sex ritual confronting and rather 'awkward' to film and talk about, he said there was nothing unsafe or dangerous about it.
'Quite beautiful prayers, they give beautiful offerings of flowers, at the grave of shrine people get teary and pray for hours on end.'
'Never felt in any threat, it was a nice environment.'
He did however feel what needed to be mentioned is that the religion was not specific of Islam.
'It's not something to demonise the religion,' he said, 'it's not strictly Islam as we know it.'
'You'll never find any ritual like this in any part of the Muslim world and Indonesia, Javanese interpretation is much more liberal.'