Tag Archives: Sundanese

LEGEND OF RATU KIDUL – QUEEN OF THE SOUTHERN SEA OF JAVA

Ratu_Kidul

In the last days I finally found some time to study more about Ratu Kidul, the queen of the Southern Sea of Java. A legend from Indonesia that fascinates me already for over years. Because it’s such a known and ancient legend and there’s many different stories going around about her in Indonesia, I decided to stick to the stories and the place that’s the most familiar to me.

5 years ago I heard about this old mysterious story for the first time during my visit to Parang Tritis, an area on the southern coast of Java in the Bantul Regency, about 30 km south of Yogyakarta. When I arrived at the Hotel Queen of the South – Puri Ratu Kidul for some drinks, we decided to take the big climb down the cliff to walk on the beach.

Before I tried to climb down my friends directly stopped me and checked me if I was not accidentally wearing any green or blue clothing. Kinda surprised I asked them, if that would be a problem? They told me ‘Because otherwise the Queen of the South Sea will get angry and will drag you into the sea and make you serve like her slave!‘ Wow, that kinda shocked me and I instantly wanted to know more about this mysterious lady!

Ratu_Kidul_2

 

Kanjeng Ratu Kidul 

She is a legendary Indonesian female spirit or deity, known as the Queen of the Southern Sea of Java (Indian Ocean or Samudra Kidul south of Java island) in Javanese and Sundanese mythology. The origin of these stories is hard to find but could go back to around the year 1300, more then 700 years ago.

She goes under many names which reflect the diverse stories of her origin in a lot of sagas, legends, myths and traditional folklore. Other names include, Nyai Roro Kidul, Ratu Laut SelatanGusti Kanjeng Ratu Kidul, Kanjeng Ratu Ayu Kencono Sari etc. In this post I stick to the name that I know out of my own experience, Ratu Kidul. 

If she has to be seen as a goddess or more as a ghost depends a bit on religious beliefs. For example in the Islamic society of Indonesia, she’s more seen as a ghost who is immortal. And in Bali they more see her as an appearance of Durga, so in their eyes, she is seen as a goddess. And according to Javanese beliefs, she is also the mythical spiritual consort and protector of the Sultans of Mataram and Yogyakarta, beginning with Senopati and continuing to the present day.

She is often illustrated as a mermaid with a tail as well the lower part of the body of a snake or a fish. They say she claimed to take the soul of any who she wished for. And the local people believe that the Queen often claims lives of fishermen or visitors that bathe on the beach and that she usually prefers handsome young men. Anybody who respects her and brings her offerings she will protect.

 

Parangtritis Beach  & Hotel Queen of the South

Many Javanese people believe that Parang Tritis Beach is the gate of Ratu Kidul’s magical kingdom.

On top of the cliff at the beach, there’s a beautiful 5 star hotel which is named after the Ratu Kidul and which even holds a bungalow, reserved especially for her! You can find the bungalow 033 in the back of the garden, from the porch in the front you directly look at the sea. In the living / dining room there’s a bed with green sheets, under the bed are green sandals. In the corner of the bed, a pot with sand to burn incense sticks. And in front of the bed a dressings table with mirrors and a lot of make up. So Ratu Kidul and one of her lovers could spend the night here.

Room_Ratu_KidulPhoto by an unknown visitor.

 

Ratu_Kidul_1

 

 

Note; I never visited this bungalow myself and I’m not 100% sure if it’s still there due to a big earth quake around 2008 when the hotel was completely destroyed. Last time when I was there (October, 2014) the hotel was completely rebuild and looking beautiful again, but I’m not sure if the bungalow is still there. What I know is that the bungalow is not always open for public, you have to request it if you want to see it (just like the other rooms reserved for Ratu Kidul in Indonesia, like the one in Hotel Samudra at Pelabuhan Ratu) Probably the queen preferred to spend more time at Parang Kusomo at the beach of Parang Tritis. A walled space with 2 stone blocks as thrones. One for the Sultan & one for Ratu Kidul. In that holy place, offerings and prayers are made every day.

Parang_Tristis_1 Parang_Tristis_2

Photo’s made by our friend, Joel Kiel, during our trip to Parang Tritis in October, 2014. 

 

Parang Tritis is just a place that I keep coming back to, where I really love to be and make long walks on the beach. Still a very calm, non-touristic mystical place. I can’t wait to return!

– Lielo

 

 

Share

KRIS / KERIS ON LEG

Keris

The Kris or Keris is a Javanese asymmetrical dagger most strongly associated with the culture of Indonesia or Javanese culture. In Indonesia, people believe that the Krises have magical powers.

The earliest Krises known were made around 1360 AD and most probably spread from the island of throughout Southeast Asia. Krises have been produced in many different places in Indonesia for centuries, but the Kris is mostly used, worshiped and seen in ceremonies in Central Java (besides the regular use in ceremonies of Krises in Bali).  As the result, in Indonesia Krises are commonly associated with the Javanese culture, although other ethnicities such as Balinese, Sundanese, Madurese, Banjar and Malay people are also very familiar with the weapon as part of their culture. The Kris is most known for its distinctive wavy blade, although many have straight blades as well. A Kris can be divided into three parts: bilah (blade), hulu (hilt), and warangka (sheath). These parts of the Kris are often carved into extreme detail and made from various materials like metal, precious or rare types of wood, gold or ivory. They are art objects on their own. Some blades can be made in a relatively short time, while some weapons take years to complete.

The dhapur (the form and design of the blade, has around 150 variants), the pamor (the pattern of metal alloy decoration on the blade, has around 60 variants), and tangguh is referring to the age and origin of a Kris. Depending on the quality and historical value of the Kris, the value in money can go up to thousands of dollars or more. Both used a weapon and as a spiritual object, Krises are often considered to possess magical powers, with some blades seen as holders for good luck and others holding the bad. Krises are also often used for display, as talismans with magical powers, weapons, as extra equipment for court soldiers, an accessory for a ceremonial dress, an indicator of social status, and as a symbol of heroism, etc.

Krises are made by a Kris blacksmith called, empu. Before the empu starts making the Kris, he will first have a conversation with the client to make sure the Kris will be adapted to the exact wishes of the future owner. Empu are highly respected craftsmen with additional knowledge in literature, history, the occult, etc. By performing specific rituals before, during and after the process of forging the Kris, it will give the Kris his energetic load. Because a Kris is always made specifically for one person, it could be that a Kris of someone else is not ‘a good match’ for you. That doesn’t mean the Kris is ‘bad or wrong’, but it doesn’t fit the person. Krises need to be washed and ‘reloaded’ every once in a while, this comes with a very complex and sometimes even dangerous ritual of washing, drying and oil. Dangerous because some people try to use Arsenic, to make the pamor show up better. After washing the Kris, incense is being used to dry the blade and after that treated with oil. Krises are always highly cherished and taken care of to preserve their magical powers. 

Until the 1990s, Kris-making activities in Java had almost come to a standstill due to economic difficulties and changing socio-cultural values. Over the past three decades, Krises have lost their prominent social and spiritual meaning in society. Only a handful active and respected empus still produce high quality Krises in the traditional way but their number is dramatically decreasing and it’s getting more difficult to find them.

– Ade Itameda

Share