Hundreds of Babakan residents in Tangerang, Banten, flocked to the Cisadane River on Saturday to bathe in a tradition called keramas merang (washing one’s hair using rice straw shampoo) to welcome the holy fasting month, which is expected to start on Monday. 

“Babakan residents do this [keramas merang] to welcome Ramadan. This is a cultural tradition,” Tangerang Mayor Arief R. Wismansyah said during the event on Saturday.

“I am grateful to those who have introduced this tradition to their children so that it remains part of Tangerang culture. Keramas merang not only aims to cleanse our body and tighten silaturahmi [communal relationship], but it also symbolizes the cleansing of the heart,” he said, adding that it was also a reminder for residents to take care of the Cisadane River.

The 126-kilometer Cisadane River stretches from Mount Salak, West Java, through western Bogor regency and Tangerang regency in Banten.

The river is now in critical condition because of environmental degradation caused by humans.

The keramas merang tradition reportedly started in the 1990s.

“Our parents still use rice straw to clean their hair, but it is now very difficult to find, so sometimes we mix it with shampoo,” said Babakan resident Indah, 36, as quoted by .

Despite noticing an increasing amount of trash thrown into the river, Babakan residents including Indah, still participate in the activity.

“We do it because it is a tradition,” she said. (sau)