Located about 35 km to the south of Yogyakarta, Parangtritis Beach has long been famous, not only as a beach resort where sand-dunes, sandy beaches and rocky cliffs meet, but also as a historical place closely linked to the mysterious legend of the Queen of the South Sea, "Kanjeng Ratu Kidul". Together with her confidant, the feared Nyai or Nyi Roro Kidul, the ever youthful and beautiful queen, Kanjeng Ratu Kidul reigns over sea-nymphs and spirits.
On certain days known as Suro in the Javanese calender, locals have a ceremonial procession, with many seen presenting offerings on the beach in honour of the Nyai Roro Kidul and Queen of the South Sea. During the day, many visit the beach and hold what is known locally as tirakatan (one-day fasting) as they pray for their wishes to be fulfilled. People in black are frequently seen sitting on the beach in a meditating pose the whole night. Locals who have meditated on the beach have said that through meditating they could see a green dragon and Nyi Roro Kidul, who remains young and beautiful. "The dragon danced before my eyes," one local said in a convincing voice. Another admitted that he meditated there so that he could meet the ever-youthful and beautiful Nyi Roro Kidul. "I can even communicate with spirits here," he added.
Dewi Mutiara's dream came true when one day she bore the son that the king had long been yearning for. Through the assistance of a witch, Dewi Mutiara made the king's wives Dewi Rembulan and Dewi Kandita suffer from 'strange' disease, with their bodies covered with scabies that created the odour of fish. The disease led them to be sent into exile in the forest where later Dewi Rembulan died. After a long, hard and helpless journey, the scabies-covered Dewi Kandita eventually arrived at a beach where she met a young, handsome man who promised to cure her illness. At the request of the young man, Dewi Kandita chased after him as he ran along the beach. When she reached the water, the man disappeared and, to her surprise, all the scabies had disappeared but, strangely, she could not move her legs. Half her body, from the waist down, had turned into the body of a fish.
Since then she became a sea-nymph, and the locals believe that Nyi Roro Kidul is the manifestation of Dewi Kandita. Want to see Nyi Roro Ridul? Then try meditating the whole night there as locals have suggested.
The Legend of Nyai Roro Kidul
Nyai Loro Kidul (also spelled Nyi Roro Kidul; she also has many other names) is thought to be a legendary Javanese goddess. Her identity is of a complex goddess named goddess or queen of the Southern Sea of Java (Indian Ocean or Samudra Kidul) in Javanese and Sundanese mythology.
The legend of Nyi Roro Kidul herself is very popular. Before turning into a nymph, Nyai Roro Kidul was a young princess named Dewi Kandita, the daughter of King Mundangwangi and his first wife. The popularity of Dewi Kandita and her mother Dewi Rembulan was beyond doubt. They were known for their beauty, kindness and friendliness, and people loved them. However, the misery of their lives began when Dewi Mutiara, another wife of King Mundangwangi, known locally as selir, became green with envy and grew ambitions to become the first wife, thereby deserving full affection and attention from the king.
Nyai Loro Kidul has many different names, which reflect the diverse stories of her origin in a lot of sagas, legends, myths and traditional folklore. Other names include Ratu Laut Selatan ("Queen of the South Sea," meaning the Indian Ocean) and Gusti Kangjeng Ratu Kidul. Many Javanese believe it is important to use various honorifics when referring to her, such as Nyai, Kangjeng, and Gusti. People who invoke her also call her Eyang (grandmother). In mermaid form she is referred to as Nyai Blorong. The Javanese word loro literally means two - 2 and merged into the name of the myth about the Spirit-Queen born as a beautiful girl/maiden, in Old Javanese rara, written as rårå, (also used as roro). Old-Javanese rara evolved into the New Javanese lara, written as lårå, (means ill, also grief like heartache, heart-break). Dutch orthography changed lara into loro (used here in Nyai Loro Kidul) so the word play moved the beautiful girl to a sick one - Old Javanese Nyi Rara and the New Javanese Nyai Lara.
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 creatures are claimed to take the soul of any who are wished for. Sometimes Nyai Loro Kidul literally can be spoken of as a "naga", a mythical snake. This idea may have been derived from some myths concerning a princess of Pajajaran who suffered from leprosy. The skin disease mentioned in most of the myths about Nyai Loro Kidul might possibly refer to the shedding of a snake's skin. The role of Nyai Loro Kidul as a Javanese Spirit-Queen became a popular motif in traditional Javanese folklore and palace mythologies, as well as being tied in with the beauty of Sundanese and Javanese princesses. Another aspect of her mythology was her ability to change shape several times a day. Nyai Loro Kidul in a significant amount of the folklore that surrounds her - is in control of the violent waves of the Indian Ocean from her dwelling place in the heart of the ocean. Sometimes she is referred as one of the spiritual queens or wives of the Susuhunan of Solo/Surakarta and the Sultan of Yogyakarta. Her literal positioning is considered as corresponding to the Merapi-Kraton-South Sea axis in Solo Sultanate and Yogyakarta Sultanate. Another pervasive part of folklore surrounding her is the colour of green, gadhung m'lathi in Javanese, is referred to her, which is forbidden to wear along the south-coast of Java.
Origin and history
The legends say that Kanjeng Ratu Kidul was married to one of the Mataram Monarchs, Panembahan Senopati, whom she visited and communed with on certain occasions.
Panembahan Senopati (1586-1601 AD), founder of the Mataram Sultanate, and his grandson Sultan Agung (1613-1645 AD) who named the Kanjeng Ratu Kidul as their bride, is claimed in the Babad Tanah Jawi. One Sundanese folktale is about Dewi Kadita of the Pajajaran Kingdom, in West Java, who desperately sought 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 to 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. 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.
Sarang Burung are Javanese bird's nests, and some of the finest in the world. The edible bird's nests Bird's nest soup or sarang burung, which find a ready market in China, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore are dedicated to Nyai Loro Kidul, mentioned by Sultan Agung in reports.
There are three harvests which are known as the Unduan-Kesongo, Unduan-Telor and Unduan-Kepat, taken place in April, the latter part of August (the largest), and December. The places of Rongkob and Karang Bolong along the South-coast of Central Java are famous for the edible bird's nests, made by the little seaswallows named Salanganen or Collocalia fuciphaga; famous because of the wayang performances which are held, and the Javanese ritual dances which are performed during gamelan music at the traditional ceremony. This happens in a cave (Karang Bolong) and when these are ended specially prepared offers are made in a shed in what is known as the "State Bed of Nyai Loro Kidul". This relic is hung with beautiful silk batik kains, and a toilet mirror is placed against the green-coloured pillows of the bed ... 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.
The Dutch and their Javanese legacy
The term wali which is applied to all of the Islam teachers is Arabic (meaning "saint"), but the title "sunan" which they all carry, too, is Javanese. Sunan Kalijaga used to be one of the most "popular" Wali Sanga, and he got deeply involved with Nyai Loro Kidul because of the water aspect (at the beach of Pemancingan of northern Java, kali means river). Panembahan Senopati Ingalaga (1584-1601), founder of Mataram's imperial expansion, sought the support of the goddess of the Southern Ocean (Kangjeng Ratu Kidul or Nyai Loro Kidul) at Pemancinang of southern Java.
She was to become the special protectress of the House of Mataram. Senopati's reliance upon both Sunan Kalijaga and Nyai Loro Kidul in the chronicles accounts nicely reflects the Mataram Dynasty's ambivalence towards Islam and indigenous Javanese beliefs.