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Myths of the Sundanese People

Myths Associated with the Sundanese:

Early Mythology - Dewi Sri

Early Mythology - Sang Kuriang

Tali Paranti - an Explanation

Early Mythology - Dewi Sri


If we are wondering about the beginning of padi and how the earth was first organized, the Sundanese myths have all the stories. One of the myths that is very well known by the Sundanese is Nyi Pohaci Sanghiang Sri. This story about Dewi Sri is written in Wawacan Sulanjana.

Once upon a time in the heavens, the Batara Guru commanded all the gods and goddesses to contribute their power in order to build a new palace. Anybody who disobeyed this commandment would lose his or her head.

Upon hearing the Batara Guru's commandment, one of the gods, Anta, was very anxious. He didn't have arms or legs, and he wasn't sure how he could possibly do the job. Anta was shaped as a snake and he couldn't work. He sought advice from one of his friends, but unfortunately his friend was also confused by Anta's bad luck. Anta became very upset and cried.

As he was crying, three teardrops fell to the ground. Amazingly, after touching the ground those teardrops became three eggs. His friend advised him to offer those eggs to the Batara Guru, hoping that he would give a fair judgement.

With the three eggs in his mouth, Anta went to the Batara Guru's palace. On the way there, he was approached by a black bird who asked him a question. He couldn't answer because of the eggs in his mouth, but the bird thought that Anta was being arrogant. It became furious and began to attack Anta, and as a result one egg was shattered. Anta quickly tried to hied in the bushes, but the bird was waiting for him.

The second attack left Anta with only one egg to offer to the Batara Guru.

Finally, he arrived at the palace and offered his teardrop (in the shape of an egg) to the Batara Guru. The offer was accepted and the Batara Guru asked him to nest the egg until it hatched. Miraculously, the egg hatched into a very beautiful girl. He gave the baby girl to the Batara Guru and his wife.

Nyi Pohi Sanghian Sri was her name, and she grew up into a beautiful princess, becoming more and more beautiful as the days passed by. As her beauty grew, every man who saw her became attracted to her. Even her stepfather, the Batara Guru, started to feel an attraction toward her.

Seeing the Batara Guru's new attitude toward Nyi Pohaci, all the gods became so worried about the situation that they conspired to separate Nyi Pohaci and the Batara Guru.

To keep the peace in the heavens, and to maintain Nyi Pohaci's good name, all the gods planned for her death. She was poisoned and her body buried on earth in a hidden place. But the graveyard was to hold a strange sign, for at the time of her burial, up grew a very useful plant that would forever benefit all human beings.

From her eyes grew the plant that is called padi (rice paddy).

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Early Mythology - Sang Kuriang

The mighty king of the Galuh Kingdom greatly enjoyed hunting. One day, his Majesty, Sungging Perbangkara, entered the bushes to urinate. His urine ran down a trough next to half of a coconut shell, which had been duped at that site.

Later that day, Celeng Wayung Yang, a female pig who might have been an incarnation of a goddess, passed by the area. She saw the water inside the coconut shell, and happily lapped it up. After several months passed by, Celeng Wayung realized that she was pregnant. Miraculously, the baby was born not as a pig, but as a human baby. Despite living in the forest, the baby was properly taken care of and even thrived.

One day the king came again to hunt. When he and his entourage passed near where the baby was, they heard her cries and discovered her there in the forest. The king then brought the beautiful baby to his palace, and she was cared for by the king's own family.

Dayang Sumbi was the name of the baby, and each day her appearance grew more and more beautiful. She became the most adorable woman in the land. But strangely, because she didn't know who her parents were, she refused every marriage proposal, including requests from other kings.

In desperation, she asked his majest, Sungging Perbangkara, to let her go back to the forest in order to meditate on her dilemma. The king reluctantly let her go. In the forest, Dayang Sumbi lived in a decent building that was well-maintained. There, she thought deeply about life and death, and the luck she had been designated to by Sang Rumuhan.

One day, while she was spinning cloth, the yarn fell to the ground. Because she was so tired, she didn't want to pick it up. Without thinking, she declared that, "If anybody will pick up the yarn, I promise, if he is a man, I will marry him, and if she is a woman, I will be her sister."

At that moment, a dog, named Si Tumang, passed by and heard what she had said. Immediately, he picked up the yarn and returned it to Dayang sumbi. Upon realizing that Si Tumang expected her to keep her promise, Dayang Sumbi became weak and passed into unconsciousness.

Not long after that, Dayang Sumbi became pregnant. When the time came, she gave birth to a baby boy. She was now able to see that Si Tumang was not an ordinary dog, but a messenger from Sang Rumuhan to make something extraordinary happen. Dayang Sumbi happily took care of the baby, and named him Kuriang.

The people called him Sang Kuriang.

After Sang Kuriang learned to use the bow and arrow to hunt small animals, his mother asked him to bring home some meat. One day, Dayang Sumbi asked for a deer's liver. Eager to please his mother, Sang Kuriang went hunting with Si Tumang, but all day long, they could not find a deer. Finally, Sang Kuriang began searching for anything that could be killed. And by accident he saw Celeng Wayung Yang.

He told Si Tumang to chase it, but the dog knew who Celeng Wayung Yang was. When Sang Kuriang was about to let go the arrow, Si Tumang hit his legs, causeing him to miss the pig. In his rage, Sang Kuriang killed Si Tumang.

Dayang Dumbi enjoyed the delicious liver. After finishing her meal, she asked after Si Tumang's whereabouts. Sang Kuriag could not keep himself from laughing out loud. Dayang Sumbi was shocked when she realized what had happened to Si Tumang. In anger, she hit her son over the head with a large spoon, seriously injuring him. San Kurian fell to the ground in a daze, his wound bleeding profusely. The hysterical Dayang Sumbi screamed at him, and demanded that a boy who would kill his own father must leave the house.

Sang Kuriang ran to the East.

Day after day, he never stopped walking, with his mother's screams echoing in his heart. After a long period of time of wndering about aimlessly, he started to come to his senses again, but he could not remember the sad experience of his past. The only thing he could recall was that his father was a dog.

In the forest, there were many demons who served him, and he became adept in the use of black magic. He moved from time to time, from one place to another, until one day, he arrived back to his original house.

It had been so long since Sang Kuriang had seen his mother that they did not recognize each other. Strangely, they both felt attracted to one another. Because of her meditations, Dayang Sumbi had managed to stay forever young and beautiful, and Sang Kuriang had transformed into a handsome man. They subsequently fell in love.

The more time Dayang Sumbi spent with Sang Kuriang, the more she felt that the man might be her own son. When she got the chance to examine his head, she found a scar on it that matched the one caused by the large spoon, but Sang Kuriang could not accept his mother's confession, and even thought that she was joking with him. Finally, feeling cornered by Sang Kuriang's marriage proposal, Dayang Sumbi made what she thought was an impossible requirement for marriage.

One lake was to be dammed up and one boat was to be built, all in one night.

Dayang Sumbi did not realize that Sang Kuriang had many friends back in the forest. He immediately went to them for help. They worked so fast on the lake and the boat that Dayang Sumbi became worried that her request might be fulfilled on time. She knew the disaster that awaited her if that happened, and she forged a plan. With much confidence, she took her cloth on her spinning wheel and began weaving the night away, and soon the dawn came and Sang Kuriang's works and hope had failed.

Sang Kuriang was shocked when he saw the dawn. He became angry because he knew that Dayang Sumbi had tricked him, but there was nothing he could do about it. In his fury, he kicked the boat over (which is now a mountain that looks like an upside-down boat), and ran to Dayang Sumbi to hug her, But Dayang Sumbi escaped his grasp and ran away from him. They both chased each other endlessly.

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Tali Paranti - an Explanation

Tali Paranti is not only the culture of the Sundanese, but also covers the meaning of a Sundanese person's life. Before a Sundanese is born, and until a thousand days after his/her death, there are some basic principles that must be applied. There are also some requests that have to be fulfilled. There are elements from the unnatural world (ghostly world) that affect every human being, and all of these factors are part of the Sundanese belief system.

These beliefs hold a very strong value. Since time immemorable, before even having a knowledge of literature, the Sundanese were maintained by Tali Paranti. Until today, those beliefs still exist. A few changes have colored the Sundanese religion, but the principles are still the same.

Tali Paranti explains the orientation of the two powerful rulers of the unnatural world, which has a huge impact on the natural world, the dwelling of human beings.

The first is called Nu Kawasa. The Sundanese belief about Nu Kawasa probably has been changed somewhat, due to the influence of foreign religions. Nowadays, the original characteristics of Nu Kawasa are not clearly defined. However, the concept of Nu Kawasa's well-being is still around.

Tali Paranti remains the power that governs human life. The goal of the Sundanese is Mulih ka jati, pulang ka asal (at death, you return to your original place). The Sundanese believe that they will have a place in the future world, and that Nu Kawasa will be the one who chooses this place for them.

Another power held in high esteem by the Sundanese is Dewi Sri. This is clearly shown by the important role that Dewi Sri holds in the Sundanese ceremonies. The function of Tali Paranti is to organize the life cycle of the Sundanese. The life cycle's ceremonies start before one is born and continue until the thousandth day after one's death. Out of all the life cycle ceremonies, the most important is circumcision for men and marriage for women. Circumcision is ranked first, followed by marriage.

In these ceremonies, Dewi Sri holds a vital position.

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