Ponari & His Magic Healing Stone

Feb 26th, 2009, in IM Posts, by

The magical faith healing stone of young boy Ponari is big business for a small village in East Java.

East Javanese village is earning big bucks with its boy wonder

Even Ponari must go to school. He hasn’t been there for three weeks and this Monday is the time. The school director takes him there personally on his “moped”, and a platoon of riot police officers run alongside the 9 year old prodigy to protect him. It is not easy to get the boy away from his village. Thousands of people crowd between the houses and when they see Ponari they even press harder. But people have to wait because Ponari must go to school.

A month ago Ponari was hit by lightning, according to his story. When he regained consciousness there was a stone on top of his head. He threw it away but the stone came back so he took it home. There he discovered the healing effects of the stone: a neighbour healed of fever after he had touched it, the village head got rid of a bad pain in his arm and the local police officer, a pious Muslim, swears he has seen with his own eyes how Ponari healed a boy who had not spoken a single word for five years.

The news about the miraculous healings spread quickly and people started to flood to the small village of Balongsari, a few hours drive from Surabaya. First dozens, then hundreds, and now there are thousands. They bring cups, bottles and buckets of water in which the boy wonder plunges his stone. This allegedly turns the water into a powerful panacea. Ponari is carried around by his father. He looks tired.

A party tent protects him against the sun. There are barriers of bamboo put down to control the crowd. This has already led to accidents: four people have been trampled to death and an unknown number got injured. And also the healing doesn’t work that well. A child of three died after his parents had given him wonder water instead of taking him to a doctor. The media are interviewing more and more people who have been drinking the miracle water but didn’t notice anything. Hamzah (53) says that his eyes are just as bad as before. Such information may not deter visitors. They keep on flooding to the village.

Yet there is growing criticism of the Balongsari circus. Especially Muslim organizations condemn what is happening there. It is superstition and therefore sinful but also dangerous. Child welfare agencies demand closure of this 'practice' of Ponari in order to protect the boy against exploitation. Even his father says now enough is enough. He has already tried a few times to get Ponari to school but was always stopped by the crowd and his own neighbours which keep the family more or less as hostages. They want Ponari to continue because they earn big money: they sell food, they rent out parking spaces, sleeping places and sell water in which Ponari has immersed his stone. This poor peasant village is making a daily turnover of one billion rupiah (70,000 euros).

As long as the faithful continue to throng there’s no way back. Ponari says nothing. After school he is back on his father’s shoulders and he immerses his stone in water until he cannot hold it anymore....

This post is a translation of an article which appeared in Dutch daily "Volkskrant" on 24 February 2009 (link: http://www.volkskrant.nl/buitenland/article1154300.ece/Indonesisch_dorp_teert_op_wonderkind).


249 Comments on “Ponari & His Magic Healing Stone”

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  1. avatar DumadiSatrio says:
    February 26th, 2009 at 1:57 am

    I was in Semarang once, and I was having tea with some guys during their work break.

    In the front yard there was a goat tied up, so I inquired about the goat.
    To which, I was informed that the goat had AIDS.
    I wondered out loud, how did the goat get AIDS?
    They said that there was a magic man who had taken the AIDS out of a sick man, and put it in the goat…..

    While I do hope the the gentleman does not go out and donate blood any time soon, sometimes I cant help but wonder.
    I’ve had my mind blown a few times, by things I cant explain.

  2. avatar schmerly says:
    February 26th, 2009 at 8:51 am

    DumadiSatrio.. Only in Indonesia! LoL!

    Yet there is growing criticism of the Balongsari circus. Especially Muslim organizations condemn what is happening there

    Well of course it’s gotta’ be un-Islamic! anything the religious bigots in the MUI don’t like is stamped as un-Islamic, they are probably pissed off because they didn’t think of this nice little earner.
    Never mind a committee from the local chapter of the MUI will visit “Yellow Stone Park” to collect their brown envelopes along with the local filth, AKA Mr Plod! RT, RW old Uncle Tom Cobbly and all the other parasites, Oh! Yes they won’t let money like this slip through their fingers, and after the ritual of the “brown envelope” all will be forgiven.

  3. avatar schmerly says:
    February 26th, 2009 at 9:00 am

    BTW.. Was this kid struck by lightening or is he just moonstruck? or he could be an ALIEN!!

  4. avatar Mike Oxblack says:
    February 26th, 2009 at 9:40 am

    He’s got the shinin’!!

  5. avatar schmerly says:
    February 26th, 2009 at 11:46 am

    Or he’s got the “shoo in”!!!

  6. avatar David says:
    February 26th, 2009 at 11:52 am

    He might be watching too much television, there are an awful lot of ‘anak ajaib’ sinetron, stories about kids with magical powers, current popular one is Ronaldowati and his magic football or magic kick or something, which the kids around my way are just nuts about, even two year olds try to kick a ball while saying the Ronaldowati ‘mantra’ or whatever it is…

  7. avatar Marlo says:
    February 26th, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    “Yet there is growing criticism of the Balongsari circus. Especially Muslim organizations condemn what is happening there. It is superstition and therefore sinful but also dangerous.”

    Isn’t it funny to hear the head of a religious council condemning superstitions…

  8. avatar schmerly says:
    February 26th, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Talking about weird goings on, it reminds me of the story of the impregnation of a cow by some old village idiot.

    Villagers from Julah in Tejakula, Buleleng, towed a pregnant cow behind a boat into open sea as part of a local traditional ritual.
    The cow, which is five months pregnant, was thrown out to the sea about 3 kilometres from land Monday. The villagers believe the animal was impregnated by a village elder.
    During the ritual the man, who was caught red-handed having sexual intercourse with the cow two months ago, joined the boat trip in order to throw his clothes into the sea to symbolize him discarding his sins.
    Julah customary village head Ketut Sidemen said the ritual, called gamya gamana, or freak weeding, and had been conducted there for generations. The decision to perform the ritual was made a local residents meeting.
    In line with customary regulations, the perpetrator, identified only as PS, 70, was sanctioned to fund the expensive ceremony, which aimed to cleanse him of any bad

  9. avatar David says:
    February 26th, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    Schmerly, yes, cow sex.

  10. avatar schmerly says:
    February 26th, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    @ Patung.. Sorry I hadn’t read that.

  11. avatar Mike Oxblack says:
    February 26th, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Isn’t it funny to hear the head of a religious council condemning superstitions…

    Yes, I don’t see why we should listen to him just because he’s got an imaginary friend. At least you get clowns driving small cars with the doors falling off down at the circus. What are the Muslims offering? Just a lot of dull praying as far as I can see.

  12. avatar schmerly says:
    February 26th, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    Marlo..

    Isn’t it funny to hear the head of a religious council condemning superstitions…

    Yea especially as they make a living off superstition.

  13. avatar Miss Daisy says:
    February 26th, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    tsk..kept reading the name of the boy wrong..it looks a lot like a poona…i’ll stop here.

    To be fair, this thing doesnt only happen here i think. Superstition is pretty universal, no?

  14. avatar Mike Oxblack says:
    February 26th, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    Indeed. Superstition runs rife over the planet in many guises (organized religion being the most dominant manifestation). Open any newspaper in the world and you’ll find an astrology column. But where’s the astronomy column?

  15. avatar Miss Daisy says:
    February 26th, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    Mike,
    too complicated, where’s the fun in that :)

  16. avatar TheWrathOfGrapes says:
    February 26th, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    But where’s the astronomy column?

    Ya, Mike – give me astronomy any time. I prefer to study heavenly bodies…

    ;)

  17. avatar schmerly says:
    February 26th, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    Patung

    even two year olds try to kick a ball while saying the Ronaldowati ‘mantra’ or whatever it is…

    I can just imagine the little tykes, what a laugh.

  18. avatar joao says:
    February 26th, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    They want Ponari to continue because they earn big money: they sell food, they rent out parking spaces, sleeping places and sell water in which Ponari has immersed his stone. This poor peasant village is making a daily turnover of one billion rupiah (70,000 euros).

    Another compelling proof that here in Indonesia you always can make tons of money out of anything, especially the totally absurd ones. Given enough time, it’s even possible for them to build a theme park (Ponariland ?) in Balongsari. Aggressive investors wanted.

  19. avatar David says:
    February 27th, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    Lairedion, you’ve got a pretty good ‘hit rate’ with these posts of yours, this one got linked from forteantimes.com, a weird news site, and there have been over 1,000 visits to this page from there alone. Plus I noticed in my RSS stats this post got an unusual number of click thru’s to the page. Damn you… :)

  20. avatar schmerly says:
    February 27th, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    Patung.. perhaps it gets a lot of hits because people want to pick up some tips on starting their own scams!

  21. avatar Lairedion says:
    February 28th, 2009 at 2:14 am

    Patung,

    The same story also appeared in other Dutch sites but this was the most complete. I’m glad my posts attract more visitors to your site…

    Patung.. perhaps it gets a lot of hits because people want to pick up some tips on starting their own scams!

    No way, dude. It’s solely because of the quality of my posts… :shock:

  22. avatar diego says:
    February 28th, 2009 at 2:25 am

    Which one has a better efficacy: “zam-zam water” (saudi arabia) or “ponari water” (java)? Maybe Mr. AAB can give us an analysis on that.

  23. avatar schmerly says:
    February 28th, 2009 at 8:25 am

    Lairedion

    No way, dude. It’s solely because of the quality of my posts… :shock:

    Was that said tongue in cheek??

  24. avatar Lairedion says:
    February 28th, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    schmerly,

    Take a wild guess… :-)

  25. avatar Burung Koel says:
    March 1st, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Interestingly, when the Jakarta Post ran an editorial about Ponari last Wednesday, commenting on mass gullibility regarding these sorts of magical healing techniques, their magazine section had a huge article on the benefits of so-called ‘flower therapy’.

  26. avatar Barry Prima says:
    March 3rd, 2009 at 3:53 am

    I’ve had my mind blown a few times, by things I can’t explain.

    Too right dude I know a Muslim intellectual doctor with aids who was completely cured by Islamic healing methods.. it took five years though, he was banned by his teacher from going to any dukuns during that time!!
    The case also reminds of an island I lived on where a boy of similar age got great healing powers and like ponari people flocked from everywhere to be healed. And you know what that funny thing is they were all healed.
    There’s a catch…
    My neighbour and one of my closest compatriots in Indo also had a son and daughters who went to this healer. ..after several years they all became seriously ill again, and were much worse off than before,the son became blind and the daughter died very mysteriously on the eve of her wedding… I can’t verify other stories but according to him lots of other people who went to the same healer also suffered similar disasters and a return of their illness.
    That’s the reason why Santri muslims and others are so against this kind of thing, as experience shows that this power comes with a catch…a Muslim should really rely only on Allah, but as in the case of my doctor friend that requires patience, a lot of patience that people don’t have.

    Indeed. Superstition runs rife over the planet in many guises (organized religion being the most dominant manifestation).

    To assume your criteria or definition of reality is better than other peoples, makes you as bigoted as the religious fundamentalist who thinks his view of the world is the only correct one,….he is however properly closer than you are as at least he accepts himself as a bigot without apology, whears you rationalist are deluded into some kind of idea that you are truly objective….the traditional javanese live in much different world of cause and effect that you do in your cosy suburban home..

    Anything the religious bigots in the MUI

    And what are you but a bigot too to make such a sweeping generalisation, Its easy to cast stones on others when you don’t have anything to believe in and no moral values to uphold. Anyone who has tried to live righteous will tell you it’s hard or impossible not become hypocritical at some time, it’s the trying that counts.

  27. avatar Burung Koel says:
    March 3rd, 2009 at 7:32 am

    To assume your criteria or definition of reality is better than other peoples, makes you as bigoted as the religious fundamentalist who thinks his view of the world is the only correct one,

    @ Barry Prima

    An interesting trend in recent years has been the use of postmodernist claptrap by religious groups. The argument ad reductio postmoderno goes something like “all views are equally valid, so therefore your view is no better than mine”.

    Unfortunately for the purveyors of this argument, there is this thing called the scientific method. Based on experimentation and evidence, it remains humanity’s best defence against superstition and unreason. Religious ‘miracles’, the ‘Power of Allah’, ‘healing stones’, ‘flower therapy’ or whatever are constantly subjected to scientific scrutiny and found not to measure up. You may attack a rationalist on a personal level, but if you want to attack rationality itself, then you will need not just name calling or better arguments, but actual proof. There are objective views, and there is truth. It’s called science, and it’s wonderfully self-correcting, especially if you have evidence.

    By the way, I seem to recall that sceptical or rationalist groups have considerable prizemoney at stake for anyone who can demonstrate that these ‘alternative’ things work, or that miracles occur, and that they aren’t just scams to separate the ignorant from their money. Don’t argue with me, Barry – if you think you’re right, take the examples you have mentioned and go and earn some cash.

  28. avatar PrimaryDrive says:
    March 3rd, 2009 at 9:11 am

    Nevertheless … walking through a cemetary still scares me. And I have no intention to proving or disaproving in person that scary pocongs don’t exist.

  29. avatar Burung Koel says:
    March 3rd, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    @Primary Drive

    It’s not the pocongs, it’s the kind of people hanging around a cemetery in the middle of the night that you should be afraid of! :-)

  30. avatar ET says:
    March 3rd, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    I know a Muslim intellectual doctor

    Which one?

    a Muslim should really rely only on Allah, but as in the case of my doctor friend that requires patience, a lot of patience that people don’t have.

    How much patience?

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