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Nyai Loro Kidul (also spelled Nyi Roro Kidul]) is a legendary Indonesian goddess in Javanese and Sundanese mythology.


Etymology

Litterally, the sick one. Other names include Ratu Laut Selatan ("Queen of the South Sea," meaning the Indian Ocean) and Gusti Kangjeng Ratu Kidul. In mermaid form she is referred to as Nyai Blorong.


Description

Nyai Loro Kidul is often illustrated as a mermaid with a tail as well the lower part of the body of a snake. The mythical creature is claimed to take the soul of any who she wished for. Sometimes Nyai Loro Kidul literally can be spoken of as a "naga", a mythical snake.


Legends

One Sundanese folktale is about Dewi Kadita of the Pajajaran Kingdom, in West Java, who desperately fled to the Southern Sea after black magic had hit her. She jumped into the violent waves of the Ocean where the spirits and demons crowned the girl as the legendary Spirit-Queen of the South Sea.

Another Sundanese folktale shows Banyoe Bening (meaning clear water) becomes Queen of the Djojo Koelon Kingdom and, suffering from leprosy, travels to the South where she is taken up by a huge wave to disappear into the Ocean. The skin disease mentioned in most of the myths about Nyai Loro Kidul might possibly refer to the shedding of a snake's skin.

Another West Java folktale is about the Ajar Cemara Tunggal (Adjar Tjemara Toenggal) on the mountain of Kombang in the Pajajaran Kingdom. He is a male seer who actually was the beautiful great aunt of Raden Joko Susuruh. She told him to go to the east of Java to found a kingdom on the place where a maja-tree just had one fruit; the fruit was bitter, pait in Javanese, and the kingdom got the name of Majapahit. The seer Cemara Tunggal would marry the founder of Majapahit and any descendant in first line, to help in all kind of matters. Though after he (the seer) would have transmigrated into the "spirit-queen of the south" who shall reign over the spirits, demons and all dark creatures.


Religions/Belief

Nyai Loro Kidul is the patron goddess of the bird's-nest gatherers of South Java, who pursue what must be one of the world's most hair-raising professions. The gatherers descend the sheer cliff-face on coconut-fibre ropes to an overhang some thirty feet above the water where a rickery bamboo platform has been built. From here they must await their wave, drop into it, and be swept beneath the overhang into the cave. Here they grope around in total darkness filling their bags with bird's nests. Going back needs very precise timing for not misjudging the tides, and fallen into the violent waves.

Legends recount her love for Senopati and the famous Sultan Agung of Mataram, which continues to be recounted in the ritualized Bedhaya dance by the royal line of Surakarta, and she is honored by the susuhunans of Solo/Surakarta and the sultans of Yogyakarta, Central-Java. When Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono IX died on October 3, 1988, the Tempo newsmagazine reported her sighting by palace servants, who were sure she was paying her final tribute to the dead ruler.

Pelabuhan Ratu, a small fishermen city in West Java, celebrates an annual holiday in her honor on April 6. A memorial day for the locals, offering a lot of ceremonial "presents". Nyai Loro Kidul is also associated with Parangtritis, Pangandaran, Karang Bolong, Ngliyep, Puger, Banyuwangi, and places all along the south coast of Java. There is a local belief that wearing a green garment in these areas will anger her and will bring misfortune on the wearer, as green is her sacred colour.


References

  • Becker, Judith. Gamelan Stories: Tantrism, Islam, and Aesthetics in Central Java. Arizona State University Program for Southeast Asian Studies, 1993. ISBN 1-881044-06-8 (The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 56, No. 1 (Feb., 1997), pp. 246–247)
  • Fischer, Joseph. assisted by James Danandjaja ... [et al.].The folk art of Java / Kuala Lumpur; New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. ISBN 967-65-3041-7. Section - 8. Images of Ratu Kidul, Queen of the South Sea
  • Olthof W.L. J.J. Meinsma, J.J. Ras Babad Tanah Jawi. Foris Publications Dordrecht-Holland/Providence-USA, 1987. ISBN 90 6765 218 0
  • Mudjanto, G. The concept of power in Javanese culture. Gadjah Mada University Press, 1986. ISBN 979-429-024-7
  • Mulder, Niels. Inside Indonesian Society Cultural Change in Java. The Pepin Press, Amsterdam - Kuala Lumpur 1996. ISBN 90 5496 026 4
  • Mulder, Niels. Mysticism & Everyday Life In Contemporary Java. Singapore University Press, Second edition 1980.
  • Schlehe, Judith. Die Meereskönigin des Südens, Ratu Kidul. Dietrich Reimer Verlag, Berlin 1998. ISBN 3-496-02657-X
  • Schlehe, Judith. Versionen enier Wasserwelt: Die Geisterkönigin im javanischen Südmeer. B. hauser-Schäublin (Hg.) Script Ethnologische Frauenforshung, Berlin 1991