This is an example of how nature was converted into a legend, such as Bandung lake and Mt Tangkuban Perahu with the story of Queen Dayang Sumbi and her son Sangkuriang cited from Neuman va Padang (1971). Once Sangkuriang, whilst growing up, he was so naughty and got hurt and the wound formed an ugly scar.
The King, who loved his son above everything was so furious that his son had hurt himself that he rejected his wife. Fifteen years later, being of age, Sangkuriang asked his father permission to take a trip to West Java. After arriving in the plain of Bandung, he met a beautiful lady, fell in love and ask her to marry him and she accepted. But one day when she caressed her lover’s head she saw the wound. The loving woman, turned out to be the disowned queen, discovered that she was in love with her son and marriage was impossible.
The marriage had to be prevented. Not willing to admit that she was his mother she thought of a way out. The day before the wedding was due to take place, she said to her husband to be, tomorrow is our wedding day, and if you are true to your love to me and love me as much you say do then I want to celebrate the wedding on board a ship, a proa. Tomorrow morning at day break, I want to sail with you on a great lake in a nice boat and there must be a banquet feast. Sangkuriang was embarrassed but he was not willing to refuse. He begged the help of the lake’s helpful spirits. By causing a landslide, the lake spirit dammed the river Citarum that flowed through the plain of Bandung. The force of the water felled big tree and a boat was constructed while other lake spirits prepared the wedding banquet.
Early in the morning the Queen saw that the impossible had been realised so she prayed to Brama, the mighty God, to help her to prevent the disgrace of a marriage between a mother and her son. Brama destroyed the dam in turbulence and Sangkuriang was drowned. The queen in her agony threw herself on the capsized boat, breaking through the hull of the ship and was also drowned.
Now, the vast plain of Bandung is flanked on its north side by the volcano Tangkuban Perahu, the capsized boat. The Queen’s jump on the hull of the ship is the Kawah Ratu, the crater of the Queen. The hot fumaroles and tremors in the crater represent the tears of the sad mother still sobbing. East of Mt Tangkuban Perahu rises the Bukit Tunggul, trunk mountain, the trunk of the tree from which the boat was made and to the west we find Mt Burangrang, the “crown of leaves”. At many places along the shore of the lake Neolithic obsidian tools of primitive inhabitants are found and described by von Koeningswald (1935). These Neolithic people noticed that the hold was cut deeper and deeper by erosion caused by the lowering water. Finally only a marshy plain remained.
Centuries later the inhabitants of Bandung plain still know about the legend of the existence of a former lake. Not knowing anything about geology, but living in the taboos of spirit ghosts and Gods, geological facts were put together in a tale that was understandable.
The Legend of King Bali
Another interesting Diwali legend is of King Bali. He was a generous ruler but also very ambitious. To propitiate the gods he performed a Yagna (fire sacrifice). His Yagna was so successful that even the gods were terrified to appear before him and grant him a boon in the fear that what he might ask something which is beyond their capacity. Some of the Gods pleaded Vishnu to check King Bali’s power. Vishnu came to earth in the form of a dwarf dressed as priest.
When the priest reached King Bali’s court, he asked him to ask for anything he wanted. The priest said “You are the ruler of the three worlds: the Earth, the world above the skies and the underworld. Would you give me the space that I could cover with three strides?” King Bali laughed. This request seemed strange to all the courtiers, but king Bali granted it. Surely a dwarf could not cover much ground, thought the King, who agreed to dwarf’s request.
Once the request was granted to him, the priest, who was none but Visnu in disguise, submerged the entire world (Mrityu-loka) with one step, with the second he submerged heaven (Swarga-loka) and for the third step; there was no respectable place to put his foot down and so he asked the bewildered Bali for some respectable place to this foot so that the boon could be fulfilled. Left with no alternative, the noble but exasperated King Bali offered his head for the purpose. To his surprise, the priest not only lost no time in placing his foot over King Bali’s head, but also thrust Bali into the nether worlds (Patala-loka) which as per Hindu cosmogony is hell and lies below the surface of the earth.
The second day of Diwali (Bali Prati-pada) is celebrated in memory of this. Prati-pada here translates as “below the opponent’s foot” (Prati=opponent, Pada=foot). During Diwali festival people celebrates the victory of good over evil.
Prior to the creation of Sewu Temple in Prambanan, legend has it, there lived a man called Bandung Bondowoso, who, with his supernatural powers, created 1,000 temples overnight.
If Bandung Bondowoso were alive today, the damage done to the hundreds of historical sites by the tectonic quake measuring 5.9 on the Richter scale on May 27 would not have saddened Laretna T. Adhisakti so much.
“I’m really sad,” said Laretna, of the Yogjakarta Heritage Society, of the damaged historical site.
The damage is not too hard to notice.
Take a look at the destroyed Brahmana Temple in the Prambanan compound. Slabs of stone are scattered everywhere. Next to it is the Siwa Temple, which appears to have sustained damage to its foundation. The Wisnu Temple was not spared either.
Sojiwan Temple, also located in the part of the Prambanan compound that belongs to Central Java province, is in an even worse condition. The body of the temple, which was actually undergoing reconstruction, has collapsed.
“In fact, the temple stones had been collected since 1950 and the renovation of the temple had been going on since 1992,” said Guritno of the Central Java Center for Archaeological Conservation and Heritage (BP3).
In Central Java, other temples that have been damaged are Sewu, Plaosan Lor, Plaosan Kidul and Lumbung. Golo Mosque and an old tomb in Bayat, Klaten, were also damaged in the quake.
There are more damaged buildings in Yogyakarta than in Central Java. The Yogyakarta Palace, which Sultan Hamengku Buwono I built in 1755, was damaged in several places.
The Trajumas Hall, a building with a traditional Javanese roof known as a Joglo, where the gamelan, a royal sedan chair and other property for the Tedak Siti rite are kept, completely collapsed. The other halls, such as Srimanganti, Pagelaran and Sitihinggil, have also cracks in a number of places.
Various historical buildings around the palace such as the Hamengku Buwono IX Museum, the Grand Mosque, the Golden Carriage Museum, the houses of high-ranking nobility such as Dalem Wironegaran, Pugeran, Yudonegaran, Pujokusuman, Condroningratan and Prabeyo have also been damaged.
Baluwerti fortress that surrounds Yogyakarta Palace has cracks in the wall in several parts.
The quake, that claimed thousands of lives in Yogyakarta and Klaten, has also damaged Taman Sari, a historical building that has been named as one of the world’s endangered sites. At least 10 areas in the compound were damaged.
One of these is the ornamental engraving on the upper part of Gapura Agung (Grand Gate), the main gateway to Taman Sari. Part of the wall of Cemeti Island on this site collapsed in the quake, killing two locals.
“They were a mother and her child,” said Siswohartono, who lives in the Taman Sari compound.
Outside the palace, historical buildings such as the royal tombs in Imogiri, Bantul, Panggung Krapyak, where the Javanese kings used to hunt deer, the Paku Alam Palace, Tarumartani cigar factory, the traditional joglo Javanese houses in Kota Gede, and houses built in the Dutch Indies architectural style in various parts of Yogyakarta have also been damaged.
It is really tragic because within just 57 seconds all these historical buildings were brought to the verge of collapse and may well vanish into the abyss of history if nothing is done to fix the damage.
Aside from damaging tourist sites, the quake has also discouraged tourists from visiting Yogyakarta.
Prambanan Temple, usually the main attraction for tourists visiting Yogyakarta, is now deserted. Although it sustained some damage, the temple is open to visitors.
“I believe the post-quake Prambanan Temple can be a special attraction for tourists,” said Wagiman Subiarso, director of PT Taman Wisata Candi Borobodur, Prambananan and Ratu Boko, a company managing the three temples, without elaborating.
There may be some truth in Wagiman’s words. However, restoring all these historical buildings must be given priority.
To this end, BP3 of Central Java has recorded all the damage and is now ready to renovate the site. A budget of some Rp 9.7 billion (around US$1.05 million) has been set aside for this purpose.
Meanwhile, the Center for the Conservation of Borobudur Heritage is now analyzing the damage sustained by Prambanan Temple.
“Using a laser scanning device, we are now examining in detail the extent of the inclination, collapse and parting of the stones that made up the temple structure,” said Iwan Kurnianto of the Center for Conservation of Borobudur Heritage.
With the assistance of various parties such as ICOMOS Indonesia, the Architectural and Planning Department of Gajah Mada University and many other institutions, Laretna is now doing everything possible to renovate the various historical buildings that the quake has damaged.
She has contacted various parties in the global community concerned with the renovation of historical buildings in Yogyakarta. Aside from reconstructing historical buildings, Laretna also reminds people of the need to rebuild the intangible historical legacy such as the community of traditional batik makers in Imogiri, Bantul, ceramic makers in Kasongan (Yogyakarta) and Bayat (Klaten).
“We are preparing a special place for the batik makers from Imogiri so that they can soon start making batik again,” Laretna said.
The legend of Bandung Bondowoso describes how he went into meditation to communicate with the spirits and ask them for help to build a thousand temples overnight to meet a condition set by his prospective wife, Roro Jonggrang.
Today, a modern Bandung Bondowoso is needed, not to mobilize supernatural spirits, but to mobilize thoughts, funds and technological capability to renovate Prambanan Temple, Sewu Temple and the many other significant historical sites.