Indonesian (Sundanese): Nyai Pohaci Sanghyang Asri

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Dewi Sri, or Shridevi (Dewi literally means goddess) (Javanese: ꦢꦺꦮꦶꦱꦿꦶ), Nyai Pohaci Sanghyang Asri (Sundanese) is the Javanese, Sundanese, and Balinese pre-Hindu and pre-Islam era goddess of rice and fertility, still widely worshipped on the islands of Bali and Java. Despite her mythology being native to the island of Java, after the adoption of Hinduism in Java as early as first century, the goddess is associated with the Hindu goddess Lakshmi as both are attributed to wealth and family prosperity.

Attributes and legends
Dewi Sri is believed to have dominion over the underworld and the Moon. Thus, Dewi Sri encompasses the whole spectrum of the Mother Goddess- having dominion over birth and Life: she controls rice: the staple food of Indonesians; hence life and wealth or prosperity; most especially rice surpluses for the wealth of kingdoms in Java such as Mataram, Majapahit and Pajajaran; and their inverse: poverty, famine, hunger, disease (to a certain extent) and Death. She is often associated with the rice paddy snake (ular sawah).

Depiction

Balinese Dewi Sri

Cili, a Balinese Dewi Sri effigy from lontar palm leaf.
Dewi Sri is always depicted as a youthful, beautiful, slim yet curvaceous woman, with stylised facial features idiosyncratic to the respective locale, essentially a woman at the height of her femininity and fertility. In Javanese iconography, usually Dewi Sri is depicted wearing green, white or golden yellow clothes with regal jewelry attire, similar to those of Hindu goddesses, and holding rice plant with full rice grains in one of her hands as her attribute (lakçana). High Javanese culture reflecting the wayang aesthetic dictates she be depicted with a white face, thin-downward cast eyes and a serene expression. There is much cross-pollination between the qualities, aesthetics and so forth between the deity Dewi Sri and the wayang character Sinta in the Javanese version of the Ramayana and the same for Rama with Sedhana. The loro blonyo (two “pedestals” or foundations) statue also have some overlap with Dewi Sri and Sedhana. Balinese people have certain rituals to rever Dewi Sri by making an effigy as her representation from janur (young coconut leaf), lontar leaf, or from cakes made of rice flour.


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Indonesian (Sundanese): Sunan Ambu

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Sunan Ambu adalah sosok perempuan gaib penguasa khayangan dalam kepercayaan Sunda buhun. Namun peranannya lebih dari itu, karena sosoknya juga dianggap sebagai “ibu” dari kebudayaan Sunda. Arti Sunan Ambu sendiri berasal dari Bahasa Sunda Susuhunan Ambu, Susuhunan adalah “seseorang yang dimuliakan”, sementara ambu bermakna “ibu”. Maka dapat diartikan sebagai “Ibu yang dimuliakan”, “Ratu Ibu” atau “Dewi Ibu”, yang di dalam mitologi masyarakat Sunda yang bermakna sebagai “ibu” yang merawat tanah air serta lingkungan hidup yang harus dimuliakan.

Nama Sunan Ambu dapat ditemukan di cerita-cerita rakyat seperti “Lutung Kasarung” dan “Mundinglaya Dikusumah”, yang menjelaskan bahwa penguasa kahyangan adalah sosok perempuan yang memiliki nama Sunan Ambu. Hakikat bahwa yang menjadi penguasa kahyangan adalah perempuan mungkin merupakan manifestasi dari kepercayaan asli Sunda Buhun sebelum masuknya agama-agama patriarki seperti Hindu.

Hingga zaman Hindu di tanah Sunda pun, Sunan Ambu masih memiliki tempat di hati masyarakat Sunda. Ia memiliki wilayahnya sendiri yang berbeda dari tempat tinggal manusia maupun dewa-dewi, yaitu Padang Tengah (kahyangan) dimana ia berkuasa atas para pohaci (bidadari) dan bujangga (bidadara).

Nama Sunan Ambu ini dipakai oleh STSI Bandung sebagai nama gedung pertunjukkan milik mereka yang digunakan untuk pertunjukan seni seperti pentas wayang kulit.


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Indonesian (Toraja): Puang Matua

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The Torajans are an ethnic group indigenous to a mountainous region of South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Their population is approximately 1,100,000, of whom 450,000 live in the regency of Tana Toraja (“Land of Toraja”). Most of the population is Christian, and others are Muslim or have local animist beliefs known as aluk (“the way”). The Indonesian government has recognised this animistic belief as Aluk To Dolo (“Way of the Ancestors”).

The word Toraja comes from the Buginese language term to riaja, meaning “people of the uplands”. The Dutch colonial government named the people Toraja in 1909. Torajans are renowned for their elaborate funeral rites, burial sites carved into rocky cliffs, massive peaked-roof traditional houses known as tongkonan, and colourful wood carvings. Toraja funeral rites are important social events, usually attended by hundreds of people and lasting for several days.

Before the 20th century, Torajans lived in autonomous villages, where they practised animism and were relatively untouched by the outside world. In the early 1900s, Dutch missionaries first worked to convert Torajan highlanders to Christianity. When the Tana Toraja regency was further opened to the outside world in the 1970s, it became an icon of tourism in Indonesia: it was exploited by tourism development and studied by anthropologists. By the 1990s, when tourism peaked, Toraja society had changed significantly, from an agrarian model—in which social life and customs were outgrowths of the Aluk To Dolo—to a largely Christian society. Today, tourism and remittances from migrant Torajans have made for major changes in the Toraja highland, giving the Toraja a celebrity status within Indonesia and enhancing Toraja ethnic group pride.

From the 17th century, the Dutch established trade and political control on Sulawesi through the Dutch East Indies Company. Over two centuries, they ignored the mountainous area in the central Sulawesi, where Torajans lived, because access was difficult and it had little productive agricultural land. In the late 19th century, the Dutch became increasingly concerned about the spread of Islam in the south of Sulawesi, especially among the Makassarese and Bugis peoples. The Dutch saw the animist highlanders as potential Christians. In the 1920s, the Reformed Missionary Alliance of the Dutch Reformed Church began missionary work aided by the Dutch colonial government. In addition to introducing Christianity, the Dutch abolished slavery and imposed local taxes. A line was drawn around the Sa’dan area and called Tana Toraja (“the land of Toraja”). Tana Toraja was first a subdivision of the Luwu kingdom that had claimed the area. In 1946, the Dutch granted Tana Toraja a regentschap, and it was recognised in 1957 as one of the regencies of Indonesia.

Early Dutch missionaries faced strong opposition among Torajans, especially among the elite, because the abolition of their profitable slave trade had angered them. Some Torajans were forcibly relocated to the lowlands by the Dutch, where they could be more easily controlled. Taxes were kept high, undermining the wealth of the elites. Ultimately, the Dutch influence did not subdue Torajan culture, and only a few Torajans were converted. In 1950, only 10% of the population had converted to Christianity.

In the 1930s, Muslim lowlanders attacked the Torajans, resulting in widespread Christian conversion among those who sought to align themselves with the Dutch for political protection and to form a movement against the Bugis and Makassarese Muslims. Between 1951 and 1965 (following Indonesian independence), southern Sulawesi faced a turbulent period as the Darul Islam separatist movement fought for an Islamic state in Sulawesi. The 15 years of guerrilla warfare led to massive conversions to Christianity.

Alignment with the Indonesian government, however, did not guarantee safety for the Torajans. In 1965, a presidential decree required every Indonesian citizen to belong to one of five officially recognised religions: Islam, Christianity (Protestantism and Catholicism), Hinduism, or Buddhism. The Torajan religious belief (aluk) was not legally recognised, and the Torajans raised their voices against the law. To make aluk accord with the law, it had to be accepted as part of one of the official religions. In 1969, Aluk To Dolo (“the way of ancestors”) was legalised as a sect of Agama Hindu Dharma, the official name of Hinduism in Indonesia.


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Indonesian (Balinese): Dewi Sri

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Dewi Sri, or Shridevi (Dewi literally means goddess) (Javanese: ꦢꦺꦮꦶꦱꦿꦶ), Nyai Pohaci Sanghyang Asri (Sundanese) is the Javanese, Sundanese, and Balinese pre-Hindu and pre-Islam era goddess of rice and fertility, still widely worshipped on the islands of Bali and Java. Despite her mythology being native to the island of Java, after the adoption of Hinduism in Java as early as first century, the goddess is associated with the Hindu goddess Lakshmi as both are attributed to wealth and family prosperity.

Attributes and legends
Dewi Sri is believed to have dominion over the underworld and the Moon. Thus, Dewi Sri encompasses the whole spectrum of the Mother Goddess- having dominion over birth and Life: she controls rice: the staple food of Indonesians; hence life and wealth or prosperity; most especially rice surpluses for the wealth of kingdoms in Java such as Mataram, Majapahit and Pajajaran; and their inverse: poverty, famine, hunger, disease (to a certain extent) and Death. She is often associated with the rice paddy snake (ular sawah).

Mythology
Most of the story of Dewi Sri is associated with the mythical origin of the rice plant, the staple food of the region. One part in Sundanese mythology tells this story of Dewi Sri and the origin of rice as written in “Wawacan Sulanjana”:

Once upon a time in heaven, Batara Guru (in ancient Hindu Javanese is associated with Shiva), the highest god commanded all the gods and goddesses to contribute their power in order to build a new palace. Anybody who disobeyed this commandment are considered lazy and would lose their arms and legs. Upon hearing the Batara Guru’s commandment, one of the gods, Antaboga (Ananta Boga), a Nāga god, 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 serpent and he could not work. He sought advice from Batara Narada, the younger brother of Batara Guru. But unfortunately Narada was also confused by Anta’s bad luck. Anta became very upset and cried.

As he was crying three teardrops fell on the ground. Miraculously, after touching the ground those teardrops became three beautiful shining eggs that looked like jewels or pearls. Batara Narada advised him to offer those “jewels” to the Batara Guru hoping that the gift would appease him and he would give a fair judgement for Anta’s disability.

With the three eggs in his mouth Anta went to the Batara Guru’s palace. On the way there he was approached by an eagle whom asked him a question. Anta keep silent and could not answer the question because he is holding the eggs is in his mouth. However the bird thought that Anta was being arrogant and it became furious thus began to attack Anta. As the result one egg was fell to earth and shattered. Anta quickly tried to hide 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. The two broken eggs fell to the earth and become twin boar Kalabuat and Budug Basu. Later Kalabuat and Budug Basu was adopted by Sapi Gumarang cow.

Ancient statue of Dewi Sri
Finally he arrived at the palace and offered his teardrop in the shape of a shiny egg to the Batara Guru. The offer was graciously accepted and the Batara Guru asked him to nest the egg until it hatched. Miraculously the egg hatched into a very beautiful baby girl. He gave the baby girl to the Batara Guru and his wife.

Nyai Pohaci (sometimes spelled “Pwah Aci”) Sanghyang Asri was her name and she grew up into a beautiful princess. Every gods who saw her became attracted to her, even her foster father, Batara Guru started to feel attracted to her. Seeing the Batara Guru’s desire toward his foster daughter, all the gods became so worried. Feared that this scandal could destroy the harmony in the heaven, finally they conspired to separate Nyi Pohaci and the Batara Guru.

To keep the peace in the heavens and to protect Nyi Pohaci chastity, all the gods planned for her death. She was poisoned to death and her body buried somewhere on earth in a far and hidden place. However, because of Sri Pohaci’s innocence and divinity, her grave showed a miraculous sign; for at the time of her burial, up grew some useful plants that would forever benefit human kinds. From her head grew coconut; from her nose, lips, and ears grew various spices and vegetables, from her hair grew grass and various flowering plants, from her breasts grew various fruit plants, from her arms and hands grew teak and various wood trees, from her genital grew Kawung (Aren or Enau: sugar palm), from her thighs grew various types of bamboo, from her legs grew various tuber plants, and finally from her belly button grew a very useful plant that is called padi (rice). In some version, white rice grew from her right eye, while red rice grew from her left eye. All of the useful plants, essential for human needs and well being, are considered to come from the remnant of Dewi Sri’s body. From that time, the people of Java island venerated and revered her as the benevolent “Goddess of Rice” and fertility. In ancient Sunda Kingdom, she is considered as the highest goddess and the most important deity for agricultural society.

Most Dewi Sri myths involve Dewi Sri (also known as Dewi Asri, Nyi Pohaci, among others) and her brother Sedana (also known as Sedhana, Sadhana, Sadono, and others), set either in the kingdom of Medang Kamulan (corresponding to historical Medang Kingdom) or in Heaven (involving gods such as Batara Guru) or both. In all versions where Sedana appears with Dewi Sri, they end up separated from one another: through either death, wandering, or a refusal to be married. Some versions make a correlation between Sri and the large Rice Paddy Snake (ular sawah) and Sadhana with the paddy swallow (sriti). The nāga or snake, particularly the king cobra is a common fertility symbol throughout Asia, in contrast to being considered representative of temptation, sin or wickedness as in Judeo-Christian belief.


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Indonesian (Local Chinese): Chen Fu Zhen Ren

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Chen Fu Zhen Ren (Chinese: 陈府真人; Hokkien= Tan Hu Cin Jin) is an ancestral god of the Indonesian Chinese people living throughout Banyuwangi Regency, Java, Bali, and Lombok. He is also worshiped by the indigenous population of Bali and Java (Kejawen).

The temples that worship Chen Fu Zhen Ren as their main deity are spread over East Java, Bali, and Lombok; but he is also known by the people of the West Java and other countries (i.e. Singapore, China, and Netherlands) because of trade and academic research.

Name
Chen Fu Zhen Ren is a title which means Chen the Truly Man. The title Zhen Ren (or Cin Jin in Hokkien dialect) is translated as Truly Man, while Chen (Hokkien: Tan) is his family name.

Written history
There are only two old scriptures which record the life of Chen Fu Zhen Ren, while the other sources have been handed down orally. The first source is a short biography written on a stele of Liong Coan Bio Temple in Probolinggo, East Java. The second is from the Malayan document that is kept at Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV), Leiden, Netherlands. The document had been copied by the grandson of the keeper of Ho Tong Bio Temple in Banyuwangi on June 2, 1880, at Buleleng, Bali. The name of the author cannot be identified.

The stele inscription of Liong Coan Bio Temple, Probolinggo, reads:

“ The family of Tan Hu Cinjin had come from Chaozhou, Guangdong Province. When he was still a child, he was diligent, had filial piety to his mother and his two brothers; he was obedient to the rules, polite, and was a gifted craftsman. He built a palace at Bali and lives for eternity in the port of Blambangan. ”
The Malayan script tells the life story of Chen Fu Zhen Ren when he was still a human and the legend after he left the world. A summary of the story follows.


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