The island of Java in the Indonesian archipelago is rich in ancient culture and tradition and full of wonderful stories that tell the lives of its inhabitant and their relationships with each other, the landscape, nature and the gods. Presented below is a retelling of an Indonesian folktale called The Holy Mountain, from Indonesian tales and Folk Tales by Adele de Leeuw, which provides a folkloric explanation of how certain volcanoes and the Sea of Sand was created in the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park
The Giant of the Holy Mountain
There was once a mighty giant who had ruled over the god Indra’s holy mountain of Semeru since the beginning of the world. His realm reached all around it above ground and extended below it under the ground. This giant had a daughter whom he loved more than anything else and he had named Dewi Jurangga. He watched over her day and night keeping her safe and keeping her hidden from the eyes of the world in his a part of his kingdom underneath the mountain. So well did he guard his daughter that she had never been outside the kingdom under the holy mountain. She did not know what daylight was and had never known fresh air, never known the green leaves and beautiful flowers and never heard birds sing.
Every single day the giant would walk around the bounds of his kingdom to make sure everything was in order. One day as her father went out to inspect his kingdom, she had a sudden yearning to know what the world of light above ground looked like. Making sure he had gone, she ran up the way which she knew would bring her to the world of light on the earth because she had seen her father take it.
Dewi Jurangga’s Adventure
Stepping out into the sunshine, at first she was blinded, but as her eyes slowly became accustomed to the light, she grew increasingly enchanted by all the beautiful things she saw that she had never seen before. First, she looked at the sky which was so deep and wide and blue and was awed. She saw fluffy white clouds floating across it and was intrigued. She saw beautiful green leaves and gorgeous flowers of so many different colors and was thrilled and she walked out into the world for the first time full of wonder and excitement and was happy.
Everything she was seeing, hearing, smelling and touching was beyond her wildest dreams and as she walked she seemed to be floating through a beautiful wonderland of new experience. She could hear the birds singing and the insects buzzing and smell the glorious scent of the flowers and she floated on enthralled by it all. She floated over the rice fields and over the meadows and saw goats and cattle grazing and then she saw a man standing before her and she stopped. She looked at him and smiled and he looked at her and smiled.
She thought he looked like her father, but was much younger and much more handsome than he. He stood before her amazed at seeing her and quietly and gently said, “May I ask who you are?”
She had never before heard the voice of anyone else other than the deep rumbling sound of her father’s and she was charmed to hear the soft, gentle speech of the young man and said,
“My name is Dewi Jurangga and I am new in the world above the ground. I am the daughter of the giant who is the King of the Holy Mountain of Indra. This is the first time I have ever been above ground and walked upon the earth instead of under it. This is the first time I have smelled the clean fresh air and the fragrance of flowers and seen the beautiful blue sky. It is the first time I have met and spoken to anyone other than my father.”
Then the two chatted together like old friends. She told him that she was so in love with the world above the surface of the earth that she wanted to give up the immortality bestowed upon her by the gods.
The Son of Bromo
Then asked him if he was one of the divine gods, or a giant and he told her with great joy in his eyes,
“I am the raksasa, the warden of the great temple of the gods appointed to this task by Brahma. I am the son of a giant almost as powerful as your father and his name is Bromo. I have set out to look for a wife because the gods have told me I would find one near the Holy Mountain and now I have found her, if you would give your consent!”
At first Dewi Jurangga, was pleased and flattered and then she remembered her father and as sadness darkened her eyes she said,
“I fear I can cannot be your wife. My father loves me more than anything else and he guards and protects me. To him I am the light of his eyes and he will never allow me to marry a raksasa, especially one who is the son of Bromo who he hates.”
“Why will he not let us marry and why does he hate my father so?” asked the puzzled raksasa in disappointment.
she said sadly.
“He hates your father because his mountain sends fire and fumes and streams of molten lava to flow down into the fertile fields on the borders of his land. One night your father sent so much fire it changed them all into an arid and infertile plain where nothing will grow nothing. That is why my father hates your father and will never let me marry his son,”
The son of Bromo shook his head and said defiantly, “That may be so, but I am going to go to you father and ask his permission to marry you, if you agree,”
Dewi Jurangga told him she wanted to be his wife more than anything else in the world. With her agreement that very evening before sunset, he went to the her father in his kingdom under the Holy Mountain and begged her hand in marriage.
The Sea of Sand
He father was furious and roared and thundered with rage. His daughter told him that if he did not allow the marriage she would go to Mount Bromo and throw herself in the lake of fire, at which he roared louder than ever. He roared and roared until he could roar no more and sat silently trembling with rage. Then, shaking his head sadly he said to the son of Bromo,
“Let me tell you this. Many, many, years ago I vowed to the gods that my daughter, who is the light of my life, would only marry a divine being and not a son of a giant. Her husband must be the son of a god and to prove his divinity and power he must create a sea of sand around the mountain of Bromo, my enemy. It must be a thousand feet deep and a thousand feet wide, so that the fires and lava from Bromo’s mountain will be extinguished. There will be no fuel to feed the flames and the lava will sink into the suffocating sand and die and will not burn my fields. The sea of sand must be created in one night between the time of sundown and the first crow of the cock. If you can create this sea of sand as I have described it in one night, you shall have my daughter for your wife. If the sea of sand is not fully complete by the first cock crow you shall both be turned to stone and remain stone for one thousand times one thousand years.”
On hearing this the raksasa stood deep in thought for a few moments then looked into the lovely eyes of Dewi Jurangga and said,
“I will try this challenge for it would be better to be turned to stone and have a heart of stone that feels nothing than to live one day without your daughter as my wife. Tomorrow at sundown I will attempt the challenge.”
Turning to Dewi Jurangga he asked her if she agreed and she readily told him she did and then he said, “Find the largest possible coconut and cut it in half. Take half the shell to the very place we first met and lay it on the ground. I will be there before sunset.”
So Dewi Jurangga did as he asked and just before sunset went to him at the spot where they had first met and gave him the half of coconut shell which is called a batok and whispered, “Do your best, my love! Unveil your true power and we will be happy forever!”
Taking the shell from her he whispered, “My kembang manis, my lovely flower, I will prove I am worthy of you!”
And as the sinking sun disappeared below the horizon he set to work. Using the batok he filled it with sand and created mounds which he kept adding to creating hills. He scooped up sand from the sides of Mount Bromo and ignoring his own father who threw burning rocks at him and yelled at him to stop. He worked nonstop all through the night with amazing vigor and energy. By the time it was almost ready for the sun to rise he had created a sea of sand nine hundred and ninety yards deep and nine hundred and ninety yards wide, but he knew he it was not complete so he forced himself to work quicker and harder.
Dewi Jurangga’s father watched with eyes that could piece the densest and blackest darkness. He was aghast to see that the son of Bromo would complete the sea of sand before sunrise and greatly feared he would have to fulfill his promise and give his daughter to him to be his bride. He was furious and became even angrier as the son of Bromo looked like he would finish with time to spare and perhaps because of his fury he thought, or hoped, he heard the sound of a cock crow.
He was even angrier when he realized he hadn’t and it was his imagination, but this gave him an idea. He said to himself,
“What if I imitated a crowing cock. Yes, it would be cheating, but it would save my beloved daughter from marriage to the son of Bromo, a mere giant! After all I am a powerful and mighty giant who is the King of the Holy Mountain. I am semi-divine and can do anything! ”
Turned to Stone
Therefore, he called out, imitating the crowing of a cock and immediately he was answered by one in a nearby village.
The son of Bromo was full of despair because he was unaware of the trick being played on him and thought the first cock had crowed before sunrise and knew his task was not quite finished. Angily, he threw the batok and it landed on a mound and became a mountain that became known as the Mount Batok.
Then, behind him he heard a terrifying scream and turning and watched in horror as Dewi Jurangga, his beloved turned to stone before his eyes changing into a mountain that people called Kembang.
“Kembang Manis – lovely flower! All of my work has been for nought!”
he cried as he looked into her dark eyes and saw them glaze to stone. She could not answer him as her mouth froze solid and with those last words he too turned to stone just as he had been warned becoming a mountain known as the Segarawedi.
However, the father of Dewi Jurangga was so frightened of the punishment of Brahma for the turning to stone of his warden and so sad that he had been the cause his own daughter becoming petrified, that he fled to the deepest regions of the earth below the Holy Mountain. There he sits to this day contemplating how his own foolish selfishness caused two young lives to be so cruelly and terribly ruined. As he thinks on this, every now and then he lets out a sigh which rises to the top of the mountain and escapes into the beautiful blue sky like a white plume.
One Thousand Times One Thousand Years
There he must sit and sigh for one thousand times one thousand years until Mount Bromo is sunk beneath the earth and the sea of sand no more. Then and only then, will the spell of the petrification placed on Dewi Jurangga and the son of Bromo be lifted and they return to their original form. Let us all pray that when that happens the gods smile upon them and they find eternal love and happiness together.
© 12/07/2016 zteve t evans
References, Attributions and Further Reading
Copyright zteve t evans
- INDONESIAN LEGENDS & FOLK TALES told by Adele de Leeuw – Internet Archive
- Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park – Wikipedia
- Image by ArtsyBee – Pixabay – CC0 Creative Commons
- File:Gunung Bromo 1 HDR (2564067897).jpg From Wikimedia Commons – By Michael Day [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons