Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Legend of Sangkuriang

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.

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