Image: Indonesia volcano and villagers
Dita Alangkara  /  AP
Villagers use their sarongs to catch offerings thrown by Hindu worshippers during Kasada festival at Mount Bromo, East Java, Indonesia, on Sept. 15, 2008.
updated 11/2/2008 5:59:42 PM ET 2008-11-02T22:59:42

Indonesian legend has it that six centuries ago, a princess hurled her youngest child into a fiery volcano to appease mountain gods who had granted her fertility.

Today thousands of pilgrims flock to Mount Bromo on East Java each year to offer the spirits food, live animals and money and ask for prosperity and health. Bromo, a 7,641-foot volcano, is one of Java's most popular tourist attractions.

The poor arrive days ahead of the ceremony, carrying fishing nets to catch money and anything edible. They camp under tarps in the crater atop the mountain's chilly slopes.

Yadnya Kasada, as the ritual is known, started in the 15th century in the final days of the Majapahit Hindu empire. As the story goes, Princess Roro Anteng and her husband, Joko Seger, settled in the foothills of the volcano.

Unable to have children, the ruling couple went in despair to pray to the mountain gods who, according to the tale, agreed to help in exchange for the ultimate sacrifice of their last child.

The couple consented and had 25 children. But when the time came to give up their son, they refused and the gods became furious. They threatened disaster and the destruction of the village unless the couple made good on the deal.

Kesuma, as the boy was named, was flung into the depths of Mount Bromo. The dying child is believed to have called out to villagers to visit the mountain each year and bring gifts to express their gratitude.

Indonesia straddles the "Pacific Ring of Fire," a system of faultlines stretching across the tropical archipelago, that give it more active volcanoes than any other country. Bromo usually roars to life once a year, often blasting pumice, smoke and ash into the sky. The last major eruption in 2004 killed two hikers.

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