Nyai Roro Kidul
|Kanjeng Ratu Kidul |
ᮑᮤ ᮛᮛ ᮊᮤᮓᮥᮜ᮪
Goddess of the South Sea
Ratu Laut Selatan, Samudra Kidul
Kanjeng Ratu Kidul Sundanese: ᮑᮤ ᮛᮛ ᮊᮤᮓᮥᮜ᮪, Nyai Rara Kidul) (Javanese: ꦚꦻꦫꦫꦏꦶꦢꦸꦭ꧀, Nyi Rara Kidul) (Balinese: ᬜᬶᬭᭀᬭᭀᬓᬶᬤᬸᬮ᭄, Nyi Rara Kidul) is a supernatural being in Indonesian folklore. She is the Queen of the Southern Sea (Indian Ocean) in Sundanese and Javanese mythology.
Nyai Loro Kidul spirit has many different names, which reflect the diverse stories of her origin in different sagas, legends, myths and traditional folklore. The Sundanese folk tale tells of Dewi Kadita, the beautiful daughter of the Sunda Kingdom in Western Java. Other names include Ratu Laut Selatan ("Queen of the South Sea," meaning the Indian Ocean)
The royal house of Keraton Surakarta referred to her as Kanjeng Ratu Ayu Kencono Sari. Many Javanese believe it is important to use various honorifics when referring to her, such as Nyai, Kanjeng, and Gusti. People who invoke her also call her Eyang (grandmother). In her mermaid form, she is referred to as Nyai Blorong.
The Javanese word loro literally means two – 2 and merged into the name of the myth about the Spirit-Queen born as a beautiful girl or maiden, in Old Javanese rara, written as rårå, (also used as roro). Old-Javanese rara evolved into the New Javanese lara, written as lårå, (means ill, also grief like heartache, heart-break).
Dutch orthography changed lara into loro (used here in Nyai Loro Kidul) so the word play moved from beautiful girl to a sick one – Old Javanese Nyi Rara and the New Javanese Nyai Lara.
Nyai Roro Kidul is often illustrated as a mermaid with a tail as well as the lower body parts of a fish. The mythical creature is claimed to be able to take the soul of any who she wished for. According to local popular beliefs around coastal villages on Southern Java, the Queen often claims lives of fishermen or visitors that bathe on the beach, and she usually prefers handsome young men.
The role of Nyai Loro Kidul as a Javanese Spirit-Queen became a popular motif in traditional Javanese folklore and palace mythologies, as well as being tied in with the beauty of Sundanese and Javanese princesses. Another aspect of her mythology was her ability to change shape and her appearance several times a day. Sultan Hamengkubuwono IX of Yogyakarta described his experience on spiritual encounters with the spirit Queen in his memoire; the queen could change shapes and appearance, as a beautiful young woman usually during full moon, and appear as an old woman at other times.
Nyai Loro Kidul is in control of the violent waves of the Indian Ocean from her dwelling place in the heart of the ocean in a significant amount of the folklore that surrounds her. Sometimes she is referred as one of the spiritual queens or wives of the Susuhunan of Solo or Surakarta and the Sultan of Yogyakarta. Her literal positioning is considered as corresponding to the Merapi-Kraton-South Sea axis in the Solo Sultanate and Yogyakarta Sultanate.
Another pervasive part of folklore surrounding her is the color aqua green, gadhung m'lathi in Javanese, which is favored and referred to by her and is thus forbidden to wear along the southern coast of Java. She is often described as wearing clothes or selendang (silky sashes) in this color.
Origin and history
Although her legends are mostly linked to the 16th century Javanese Mataram Sultanate, the older manuscript traced her legendary origin to the era of the Sundanese kingdom of Pajajaran and the legend of the ill-fated princess Kadita. Traditions describe her origin as a princess from Sunda, which embodies the spiritual essence for both the Javanese ruler and his realm, since Nyai Roro Kidul is regarded as the ruler's female ancestral line.
However, Javanese and Sundanese anthropological and cultural studies suggest that the myth of the Queen of Java's Southern Seas probably originated from older prehistoric animistic beliefs in the pre-Hindu-Buddhist female deity of the southern ocean. The fierce waves of the Indian Ocean on southern Java's coasts, its storms and sometimes tsunamis, probably had raised in the locals awe and fear of natural power, and locals attributed it to the spiritual realm of deities and demons that inhabit the southern seas ruled by their queen, a female deity, later identified as "Queen Kidul".
The 16th century Javanese legends connects the Queen of Southern Seas as the protector and spiritual consort of the kings of Mataram Sultanate. Panembahan Senopati (1586–1601 AD), founder of the Mataram Sultanate, and his grandson Sultan Agung (1613–1645 AD) who named the Kanjeng Ratu Kidul as their bride, is claimed in the Babad Tanah Jawi.
According to Javanese legends dated from 16th century CE, the prince Panembahan Senopati aspired to establish a new kingdom Mataram Sultanate against Pajang overlordship. He performed ascetic acts through meditating on the beach of Parang Kusumo, south of his home in the town of Kota Gede. His meditation caused a disturbing, powerful supernatural phenomenon in the spiritual kingdom of Southern Sea. The Queen came to the beach to see who had caused this menace in her kingdom. Upon seeing the handsome prince, the queen immediately fell in love and asked the prince to stop his meditation. In return, the deity queen, who ruled spiritual realm of the southern seas, agreed to help Panembahan Senopati in his political effort to establish a new kingdom. In order to become the spiritual protector of the kingdom, the Queen asked to be held by the prince in hand of marriage, as the spiritual consort of Panembahan Senopati and all of his successors, the series of Mataram kings.
One Sundanese folktale is mentioned about Dewi Kadita, the beautiful princess of the Pajajaran Kingdom, in West Java, who desperately fled to the Southern Sea after being struck by black magic. The black magic was cast by a witch under the order of a jealous rival in the palace and it caused the beautiful princess to suffer a disgusting skin disease. She later jumps into the violent waves of the ocean where she was finally cured and regained her beauty, and the spirits and demons crowned the girl as the legendary Spirit-Queen of the South Sea.
A similar version of the story above mentions that the king (at the time), who had her as his only child, was planning to retire from the throne. At the time, having a queen lead a kingdom, instead of a king, was forbidden. Therefore, the king remarried and sought for a male heir to his throne from his new wife. The king's wife finally gets impregnated, but due to jealousy, forces the king to choose between her and his daughter. His wife then stated an ultimatum; If he chose his daughter, then his wife would leave the palace for good and the throne would be given to his daughter, who would later become the queen. If the wife was chosen instead, the daughter would be banned from the palace and the unborn child of his wife would later claim the throne as king. The king then made his decision to ban his daughter from the palace and ordered a witch to curse his daughter, leaving her to suffer a skin disease. The pitiful daughter, now banned from the palace, heard a voice that tells her that if she wants to be cured of her terrible disease, she should jump into the seawater as midnight strikes. She followed the instructions and then she vanished, never to be seen or heard from again.
Another Sundanese folktale shows Banyoe Bening (meaning clear water) becomes Queen of the Djojo Koelon Kingdom and, suffering from leprosy, travels to the South where she is taken up by a huge wave to disappear into the Ocean.
Another Western Javanese folktale is about the Ajar Cemara Tunggal (Adjar Tjemara Toenggal) on the mountain of Kombang in the Pajajaran Kingdom. He is a male seer who actually was the beautiful great aunt of Raden Jaka Susuruh. She disguised herself as a psychic and told Raden Jaka Susuruh to go to the eastern part of Java in order to find a kingdom on the place where a bael (maja) tree just had one fruit; the fruit was bitter (pait) and the kingdom got the name of Majapahit. The seer Cemara Tunggal would marry the founder of Majapahit and any descendant in first line, to help them in all kind of matters. Though the seer's spirit would have transmigrated into the "spirit-queen of the south" who shall reign over the spirits, demons and all dark creatures.
Sarang Burung are Javanese bird's nests, and are some of the finest in the world. The edible bird's nests, in the form of Bird's nest soup or sarang burung, find a ready market in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore are dedicated to Nyai Loro Kidul, mentioned by Sultan Agung in reports.
There are three harvests which are known as the Unduan-Kesongo, Unduan-Telor and Unduan-Kepat, and take place in April, the latter part of August (the largest), and December. The places Rongkob and Karang Bolong along the south coast of central Java are famous for the edible bird's nests, made by the little sea swallows (so called, but actually swiftlets), called Salanganen or Collocalia fuciphaga. The harvests are famous because of the wayang performances which are held, and the Javanese ritual dances which are performed with gamelan music as the traditional ceremony.
This happens in a cave (Karang Bolong) and when these are ended specially prepared offerings are made in a shed in what is known as the "Royal Bed of Nyai Loro Kidul". This relic is hung with beautiful silk batik kains, and a toilet mirror is placed against the green-colored pillows of the bed.
Nyai Loro Kidul is the patron goddess of the bird's-nest gatherers of South Java. The gatherers descend the sheer cliff-face on coconut fiber ropes to an overhang some thirty feet above the water where a rickety bamboo platform has been built. From there they must await their wave, drop into it, and be swept beneath the overhang into the cave. Here they grope around in total darkness filling their bags with bird's nests. Going back needs very precise timing, to avoid misjudging the tides, and falling into the violent waves.
The Dutch and their Java legacy
The term wali which is applied to all of the Islam teachers is Arabic (meaning "saint"), but the title "sunan" which they all carry, too, is Javanese. Sunan Kalijaga used to be one of the most "popular" Wali Sanga, and he got deeply involved with Nyai Loro Kidul because of the water aspect (at the beach of Pemancingan of northern Java, kali means river). Panembahan Senopati Ingalaga (1584–1601), founder of Mataram's imperial expansion, sought the support of the goddess of the Southern Ocean (Kangjeng Ratu Kidul or Nyai Loro Kidul) at Pemancinang of southern Java.
She was to become the special protectress of the House of Mataram. Senopati's reliance upon both Sunan Kalijaga and Nyai Loro Kidul in the chronicles accounts nicely reflects the Mataram Dynasty's ambivalence towards Islam and indigenous Javanese beliefs.
Pelabuhan Ratu, a small fishing town in Western Java, Indonesia, celebrates an annual holiday in her honor on April 6. A memorial day for the locals, offering a lot of ceremonial "presents" to appease the queen. The local fishermen annually send the sedekah laut ceremony, offering gifts and sacrifices; from rice, vegetables and agricultural produces, to chicken, batik fabrics and cosmetics, to be larung (sent afloat to the sea) and finally drawn in to the sea to appease the queen. The local fishermen believe that the ceremony will please the Queen of Southern Sea, in return this would provide plentiful catches in fisheries and bless the surrounding areas with better weather, fewer storms and waves.
Nyai Loro Kidul is also associated with Parangtritis, Parangkusumo, Pangandaran, Karang Bolong, Ngliyep, Puger, Banyuwangi, and places all along the south coast of Java. There is a local belief that wearing a green garment in these areas instead of blue, purple, lavender, magenta, pink, and violet will anger her in the process and will bring misfortune on the wearer, as green is her sacred color.
Samudra Beach Hotel
The Samudra Beach Hotel, Pelabuhan Ratu, West Java, keeps room 308 furnished with green colors and reserved for Nyai Loro Kidul. The first president of Indonesia, Sukarno, was involved with the exact location and the idea for the Samudra Beach Hotel. In front of room 308 is one Ketapang tree where Sukarno got his spiritual inspiration. The painting of Nyai Rara Kidul by Basuki Abdullah, a famous Indonesian painter, is displayed in this room.
Yogyakarta and Central Java
The legend of Queen Kidul is often associated with beaches in Yogyakarta, especially Parangkusumo and Parangtritis. Parangkusumo in particular is special since it was the place believed to be the location of the first spiritual encounter between the Queen with Panembahan Senopati. Legends recount her love for Senopati and the famous Sultan Agung of Mataram, which continues to be recounted in the ritualized Bedhaya dance by the royal line of Surakarta, and she is honored by the susuhunans of Solo/Surakarta and the sultans of Yogyakarta, Central-Java. When Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono IX died on October 3, 1988, the Tempo newsmagazine reported her sighting by palace servants, who were sure that she was paying her final tribute to the deceased King.
In popular culture
• The myth of Nyi Loro Kidul as the queen of southern ocean has become a popular source of inspiration in Indonesian culture, both traditional and modern.
• Some local traditional theater, particularly Sundanese Sandiwara and Javanese Kethoprak, may retell this legend in their performances. It has become the main theme of mystery, horror, and epic genres of Indonesian film and sinetron TV series.
• The tale of the Queen of the Southern Ocean has become the source of one of Mobile Legends: Bang Bang character, Kadita from Kingdom of Sunda. She is also the inspiration behind the song “Queen of the South” by the Bandung band The Panturas.
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