Podcaster: Avivah Yamani
Organization: Astrosphere New Media
Description: A folklore from Java, Indonesia. This is the story of Milky Way from Javanese culture.
Bio: Avivah Yamani is a Project Manager of 365 Days of Astronomy.
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This is 365 days of Astronomy folklore series. Today our story comes from Indonesia. It is a folklore of the Milky Way according to Javanese tradition. The story itself is a part of the Mahabaratha epic which is originally from India, but when Hinduism reached Indonesia – especially in Java, the adaptation of the Mahabaratha epic slightly changed according to Javanese culture.
This story has been compiled by Emanuel Sungging from langitselatan and is told by Wayang puppet-masters. Even though the Pandawa – Kurawa relationship is the major theme of the Mahabaratha epic, the story of the milky way has been told as a side story of the epic in Wayang (a javanese puppet show). The Milky Way itself was never actually mentioned in the epic but this story gives us a glimpse of how the people relate their beliefs with the celestial objects.
Bima Sakti or Bima, the Almighty.
A long time ago in the Astinapura Kingdom, lived two branches of a family, Pandawa and Kurawa, that someday will succeed to the throne. Although the Kurawa is the senior branch of the family, Duryodhana, the eldest Kurawa, is younger than Yudhisthira, the eldest Pandawa. Both Duryodhana and Yudhisthira claim to be first in line to inherit the throne. And the two families are always in dispute as Kurawa envy their cousins in every aspect.
Event though there are only five brothers of Pandawa, compared to one hundred brothers of Kurawa, Pandawa always won over Kurawa in every contest and competition. Aside from that the people always loved Pandawa because of their kindness and always doing good deeds.
The Pandawa and Kurawa families studied chivalry under a great teacher and mahaguru Durna. But Resi Durna was not a fair teacher, because he was fond of the Kurawas. One day, Resi Durna and the Kurawas devised a plan to harm the Pandawas: they planned to give an impossible task to Bima.
Bima, the second son of the Pandawa, is the strogest of them all, both Pandawa and Kurawa, and the protector of Pandawa. As for the Kurawa, if they could expel Bima from the country, then the Pandawas would have no protector. So it would be easy to deal with the other Pandawa later and they won’t succeed to the throne.
After the plan had been set, Resi Durna summoned Bima, he said. “My child, I have a duty for you, this might be difficult, but I believe that this task can only be accomplished by you. Now, find me something that I need, and prove yourself a worthy student!”
Bima is a typical character that always had confidence, so he did not think too much. “What is it my teacher, the task that you want me to do? I will do the task, because I always obey my teacher!”
“I need you to find the Tirta-prawita-adi (the elixir of knowledge), to open the true knowledge about everything. If you can find that, you will be a real hero, with knowledge of everything, you will be the mightiest, and you can make your mother, brothers and your kingdom happy. You will live happily ever after!”, said Resi Durna with his wisdom as a teacher.
“I will find it for you guru, and I will give it to you as proof of my allegiance! The purpose and value of the water is of no concern to me, it is you that understand the value of the elixir. I will do as you ask. But where can I find that Tirta-Prawita-adi?”, Bima asked anxiously, because he wanted to immediately start looking for the elixir. He was not reluctant to accomplish his duty. For him, the sooner the better.
“Tirta-Prawita-adi resides in Tibrasara forest, on the foot of Chandradimuka Mountain. Beware that the place is haunted and full of mystery, many have been there and none has ever returned. So I believe that you are the only person who can fulfill the task to obtain Tirta-Prawita-adi! Be safe my son!” so Resi Durna gave his blessings to Bima. But actually this is only his trick to harm him, he knows that there is nothing inside the forest but a dangerous trap which Bima will encounter.
Bima departed to Tibrasara forest without any suspicion at all. He followed his master’s command with sincerity, courage and determination, “Tibrasara forest, here I come!”.
Days and nights Bima took the journey to the forest, he did it all alone and did not tell his brothers and family about his departure. After days of walking, finally he arrived at the forest. It is so dense and thick he had to tear the trees to make his way into the forest. Bima was not concerned about the environment, as long as his duty was accomplished, he would continue. He made his way deep inside the forest, and did so only by destroying the forest, tearing apart the trees, turning the stones, he disturbed the forest and the animals panicked and ran. But he didn’t find what he was looking for. He was angry and he feared he would fail his teacher.
What Bima didn’t know is, there lived two giants in the forest, Rukmuka and Rukmakala. Knowing that their home forest was being destroyed by an uninvited visitor, they became angry. They looked for the source of the destruction, and finally came face to face with Bima.
“Who are you? Why are you here? What are you looking for? You destroy everything! No more food for us and all the animals have left! We are hungry! We will catch you and eat you”, the giants threatened Bima.
Instead of showing fear, Bima answered by challenging them, “My name is Bima, and you are hindering my way. Step aside or feel the consequences! I challenge you, you can eat me, but tell me first, where can I find Tirta-Prawita-adi, the elixir of knowledge? If you can defeat me you can eat me, otherwise I beat you, and I can continue my journey to find what I am looking for! So tell me where it is!”
“Hahahaha… do not ridicule us, you little man! There is no Tirta-Prawita-what in here, this is only a big forest. All you can find in this forest are trees, animals, and nothing else! Animals are our food, and now you ruin everything, so, go away! Go back to your home while you can and ask your teacher where’s that Tirta-Prawita- .. what is it? The thing that you look for is not in here! But you cannot go home because we want to eat you!”, the giants answered. (Because of the giants lack of intelligence, they can not articulate words like Tirta-Prawita-adi).
“Very well, I will return to my teacher, maybe he gave a wrong clue, however, now defeat me if you can, for I’ll take the responsibility for the forest destruction!”, Bima replied, and they engaged in a fierce brawl.
It was an unfair fight between two giants and Bima. But Bima conquered the giants who then transformed themselves onto Demigods. Rukmuka and Rukmakala were actually gods, Batara Indra and Batara Bayu who been cursed to haunt the forest. Now the forest was safe, and the gods returned to their true form.
“Thank you Bima, for releasing us, now we will give you the spell Jalasengara and the weapon Ekal Druwendra, to express our gratitude, you might need it one day. You have prove your obedience to your teacher, now go back and tell him that Tirta-Prawita-adi is not here, ask him, and you will learn about his honesty to you.”, the two gods tell Bima about his duty, and then they disappear.
Confused and upset, because he had been mislead, Bima returned home. He was not sure whether he had failed or succeeded in the mission. But he returned to his teacher and reported his journey. Resi Durna was surprised to see Bima come alive. His plan had failed.
“Teacher, I searched everywhere in Tibrasara forest, but instead of finding Tirta-Prawita-adi, I fought two giants, who actually were cursed gods, and I finally managed to set them free and lift their curse. But I failed to obtain the elixir of knowledge. Forgive me teacher”, Bima felt awkward because he felt that he had failed his task.
“No no no .. you did really well in your duty Bima! As you know, it was actually a test of your true skills. I must make sure that you are ready for your real mission. The searching of Tirta-Prawita-adi is more difficult, because it resides in a place that more dangerous than the forest. And I was right to send you there, you are now ready for your mission!” Resi Durna lied to Bima, because he hadn’t predicted that Bima would accomplish the impossible task, and now he had to set another plan, a task that should be more dangerous, more likely to result in Bima’s death.
“So, am I actually a worthy student to you, master? What is your command now? Where can I find this Tirta-Prawita-adi?” Bima cast aside all his doubt about his teacher, and was still eager to accomplish his next mission. What he knows is duty, responsibility and loyalty. He knows nothing about lies and treachery, so he just waited for the command from his teacher.
“Son, Tirta-Prawita-adi actually resides deep beneath the Southern-ocean, the Karang-Bolong ocean. Find the elixir in the ocean, and your mission will be accomplished.”, Resi Durna smiles, he has set another impossible mission for Bima. “Now go my child, the ocean is keeping it secret for you!”.
“Very well master, regardless of all the challenges that I will encounter, I will accomplish the task. I will go now!”, without hesitation, Bima asked permission from his teacher then departed.
But this task confused Bima, deep inside his mind he thought, “How can I go into the deep of the ocean? How long can I dive into the ocean without breathing?” So he asked for the opinion of his brothers and also from Prabu (King) Kresna, his cousin before he went to finish his mission. Prabu Kresna knows that the mission is actually a trick to harm Bima, so he asked him to cancel his mission. But Bima is determined and resilient, so he continued his mission. He knows that the task is more important than any other thing, so he left without hesitation. To make sure that everything would be fine, Prabu Kresna told the Punakawan to accompany Bima in his journey. He told Punakawan, “Give us signs in the sky if anything happens during the mission!” (The Punakawan are the humorous servants of the hero in a Javanese story. In this story there are three, named Semar, Petruk and Gareng. In other stories there is a fourth, named Bagong. They always appear in the second act of a theatrical play or a shadow puppet performance as servants to the hero of the story. They are very beloved by the audiences who attend the plays and their appearance is greeted with much hilarity and laughter.)
Days and nights Bima traveled to the ocean, and he finally arrived. He told the four Punakawan to stay at the coast, and he immediately plunged into the ocean. He walked slowly, until the water reached his neck, briefly he paused, not knowing what to do next. “Shall I dive into the depths of the ocean?” he wondered.
Then he recalled the spell Jalasengara, “Well, maybe it will help. I should try this.” He thinks. So he cast the spell, and all of a sudden he can travel deep beneath the ocean, searching for Tirta-Prawita-adi. Suddenly, a giant dragon attacked him! Its name is Nemburnawa, and it is a fierce fight between them. They fought for days, and the sea foam caused by the fight is reflected into the sky. Knowing that, it might be a sign of something danger, the Punakawan set themselves into the sky as a sign for Kresna.
Semar, the father of the other two Punakawan went first, he went into the sky and appeared as a red sign in the sky as he looked reddish, and was known as Lintang Kemukus or comet. Then Gareng joined his father going to the south easterly direction, and was known as Lintang Joko Belek or Mars, which appears during the dusk. Petruk joined them to the south west direction and become Lintang Panjerino or Venus. They watched the fight from high above.
The fight is really tough for Bima. And he started to wonder how he could defeat the dragon. He had almost lost all his strength, but he doesn’t want to fail his teacher. Suddenly he remembered Ekal Druwendra, the weapon given by Batara Indra and Batara Bayu the forest giants. He used the weapon and stabbed the dragon in the throat. Then the ocean heavily churned as the dragon thrashed and died, but instead of blood, the dragon released a light from its throat. The light is so bright and it left a mark in the sky. After the long battle, Semar moved into the southern part, staying near Gubug Penceng (leaning hut) or Southern Cross, and watched everything from the sky, from then on known as Banyak Angrem or the Coalsack dark nebula in the Milky Way.
Though Bima had won the fight, he still found nothing. Instead of the body of the dragon, he meet a dwarf that looked like himself. His name is Dewa Ruci. Dewa Ruci tells Bima, if he wants to find Tirta-Prawita-adi, he must enter Dewa Ruci’s left ear. “How do I do that? Is it possible?”
Dewa Ruci tells Bima what to do and he follows his instructions. Finally he learns the true knowledge. After Bima has all of the understanding, he went back to his teacher, and reported everything he encountered as well as his findings. Resi Durna was ashamed of himself, knowing that bad deeds never win against good deeds. But Bima never hated his teacher, and he always respected him.
As for the mark in the sky, it can be observed today. If we look into the night sky, we see a sea foam pattern in the sky. That is the reprint of the battle between Bima and the dragon, and the brightest part of the foam is the place where Bima stabbed the throat of the dragon,. Moving south, there will be Gubug Penceng (Southern Cross), and a place where Semar watched the battle from the sky. As the ocean foam represents Bima’s victory over the dragon, people in Java call it Bima Sakti or Bima the almighty. It is the pattern of Milky Way.
That’s the story from Java based on Mahabarath epic. A short episode that introduces us to Milky Way, Mars, Venus, comet and the Coalsack nebula in the “Southern Cross” or constellation Crux, according to the Javanese people.
Thank you for listening, this is 365 days of Astronomy
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365 Days of Astronomy
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