Mount Merapi, Indonesia — He was the keeper of Mount Merapi — an 83-year-old man entrusted to watch over the volcano’s spirits, believing it could be appeased by tossing offerings of rice, chickens and flowers into the gaping crater.
And when the eruption came, Maridjan was among those who died, along with dozens of villagers who believed him, not seismologists or government officials, about the danger.
As Merapi began spewing 1,800-degree gases and thousands of panicked people streamed down the mountain’s slopes, Maridjan refused to budge from his home deep in the evacuation zone, just four miles from the crater.
His rigid body was found Wednesday, prostrate in the Islamic prayer position and caked in heavy white soot. Nearby was an Indonesian Red Cross volunteer who had been trying to persuade him to leave.
“I never thought he was going to leave us in such a way,” said Prabukusumo, whose brother, the sultan in the nearby court city of Yogyakarta, is now tasked with choosing Maridjan’s successor.
“He’s lived through so many, much bigger eruptions. I’m still in shock.”
On Thursday, politicians, soap opera stars and singers were among hundreds of people who flocked to Maridjan’s funeral on the fertile slopes of the mountain entrusted to his care by a late king.