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The Legend of Sangkuriang

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The legend of Sangkuriang.

The Legend of Sangkuriang is a folktale of Sundanese people from West Java, Indonesia. It is a creation story about Ancient Lake Bandung, Mount Tangkuban Perahu, Mount Burangrang and Mount Bukit Tunggul. As strange as the story is with its depiction of marriage between human and animal and forbidden romance between mother and son, the legend has a very deep meaning about life and encapsulates Sundanese people's philosophy and symbolism.

The LegendEdit

Once upon a time, a Sundanese king, Sungging Perbangkara, went hunting. Deep inside the forest the king felt the urge to urinate and he did it on the leaves of a cariang plant (elephant ear plant). Wayungyang, a female wild boar, drank the urine on the leaves and later it became pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl. King Sungging found the baby and took it to his palace and named it Dayang Sumbi (or Rarasati).

The baby grew up to be a beautiful princess. Many kings and princes wanted to marry her but she rejected all of them and causes a war among the suitors. Feeling guilty for causing the trouble, she asked to be banished on a hill accompanied only by a male dog, Tumang.

One day, while she was weaving a piece of cloth, her shuttle fell downhill. Feeling lazy to pick it up, she made a promise without thinking that whoever helped her pick the shuttle, if a female, she would be her sister, if a male, he would be her husband. Tumang went and picked the shuttle for her. Despite being shocked that the one who helped her is the dog, she kept her promise and took the dog as her husband. Dayang Sumbi gave birth to a baby boy and named him Sangkuriang.

The baby grew up to be handsome boy and a good hunter. One day, Dayang Sumbi said that she wanted to eat the liver of a young deer. Eager to fulfill his mother's wish, Sangkuriang went hunting. Instead of a deer, he found a wild boar which turned out to be Wayungyang. He ordered Tumang to catch Wayungyang but the dog refused. In his anger on Tumang's refusal, he killed the dog and took its liver and gave it to his mother. Eventually, Dayang Sumbi found out that the liver she ate was Tumang's. In her rage, she hit his head with a watter dipper made from coconut shell and injured him, then drove him off of her hut on the hill.

After leaving his mother's hut, Sangkuriang went eastward. After years and years of journey, he arrived to a village. There he met a beautiful woman and fell in love with her and she also fell in love with him. What he did not realize was that he had travelled around the world and had arrived back to his own birthplace which had become a village and that the woman was his own mother, Dayang Sumbi, who had been blessed with eternal youth and beauty when she was born. Likewise, Dayang Sumbi also did not recognize her own son who had grown up to be a handsome man. Sangkuriang asked Dayang Sumbi to marry him and Dayang Sumbi accepted..

One day, Dayang Sumbi accidentally saw the scar on Sangkuriang's head and she was shocked to know that she was going to marry her own son. To prevent the marriage between mother and son from happening, she asked him to build her a large boat and a lake in one night, a task which was impossible to do for an average man. But Sangkuriang was no average man. In his years of journey, he had gained knowledge of supernatural powers. Sangkuriang accepted the challenge.

With help from forest spirits, Sangkuriang began to build the boat and the lake. He cut a large tree which grew on the east, the remains of which turned into Mount Bukit Tunggul. He stacked the tree branches on the west and they turned into Mount Burangrang. In order to make a lake, he built a dam which cut the flow of the river Citarum at a place called Sanghyang Tikoro and created Lake Bandung. He did all that only in one night.

Seeing that Sangkuriang almost finished his work, Dayang Sumbi prayed to the gods to prevent him from finishing his task. She then cut the Boeh Rarang (the white fabric she weaved) and spread the pieces, and magically, dawn came before its time.

Seeing that dawn had broken and he had not yet finished his work, Sangkuriang went so mad that he threw the dam to the east and it turned into Mount Manglayang. This made Lake Bandung became dry again. He then kicked the large boat to the north and it turned into Mount Tangkuban Perahu. After all these, Dayang Sumbi ran away but she was chased by Sangkuriang. She went into a forest and turned into Jaksi flower. Sangkuriang searched everywhere but could not find her. The mountain which forest was the place Dayang Sumbi dissapeared was named Mount Putri.

Meaning of Names in the StoryEdit

  • Tangkuban perahu means upside down boat.
  • Bukit tunggul means the hill of the remains of a cut down tree.
  • Bandung means dam.
  • Putri means princess or daughter or girl.
  • Jaksi flower is a kind of pandanus flower.

Sundanese Philosophy and SymbolismEdit

Although the story seems to allude sexual act with animals and incest, it has a deep meaning in Sundanese philosophy and symbolism.

The story is intended as an enlightening (Sungging Perbangkara or the Sun) tale for anyone (cariang plant) who is still doubtful of his/her own self and in search of self identity (Wayungyang). The searching of self identity will result in believe in conscience as the ultimate truth (Dayang Sumbi). But if the search is not accompanied by awareness and guidance (weaving shuttle) he/she will be haunted by continuing anxiety (having sexual intercourse with a dog or Tumang) which will result in egoistic behaviour of the unenligtened spirit (Sangkuriang). If consciensce is corrupted by anxiety (Dayang Sumbi ate the liver of Tumang) then he/she will lose his/her conscience. The deep remorse will result in corruption of intellectuality (the beating of the head of Sangkuriang), which has been filled with knowledge along the journey of life (the journey eastward). In the end the person will seek for his/her conscience (the journey back westward and the meeting of Sangkuriang and Dayang Sumbi). But the merging of unenlightened spirit and the ultimate truth will face many problems (the task of Sangkuriang). If the merging fails (dawn came before its time) the person will hate his own self and the person will deny his/her spirit and become a person who has lost meaning in life (the kicking of the boat, turning the boat upside down). The spirit will keep seeking for the ultimate truth (Sangkuriang chasing Dayang Sumbi into the forest) but the ultimate truth has changed into just a memory of what has happened (Jaksi flower).

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