GUNUNG DANGKA OR A PARADISE ON EARTH ; A TALE OF SUPERSTITION 119 - 122

GUNUNG DANGKA OR A PARADISE ON EARTH ; A TALE OF SUPERSTITION
By Jonathan Rigg, Esq.

The native of Sunda or Western Java, like their uninstructed brethren all over the world, are a superstition race ; their superstitions, however, are seldom, if ever, of a savage or gloomy nature, and would be deserving of ridicule, rather than of anger, were it not that we constantly observe the more knowing part of the community avail of this weakness to dupe their fellow-men. In the presence of a stranger and more particularly of an European, the native is especially careful to conceal his moral failings ; he must often feel and indeed I have frequently heard him express his opinions as to the craft of his priest or his augur, but such is the slavish imbecility of his mind, that he dares not manfully defy what habit and antiquity have authorized. No superstition is more prevalent than the respect shown to particular spots, which are supposed to be sacred, and in which wonderful supernatural powers are believed to exist. There is hardly a mountain-top* or remarkable eminence throughout the country that doe not contain its Patapaan or Pamujahan, two words of Hindu origin, the former meaning a place of penance, the latter a place of adoration. These are generally formed of a quantity of rough unhewn river-stones,
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*The polynesian tribes, in common with many other people of the world, appear to have all attributed a misterious sacredness to the tops of mountains, as may be seen from the following quotations :

The principal mountains in the three divisions of Ankova are Angavo to the East, Ankaratra to the South, Ambohimlangara to the West, and Andringitra to the North, chiefly distinguished as the scene of legendary tales, recounting the mighty achievement of giants and other monstrous beings, supposed to belong to a fabulous age. The Altars erected by former generations on the summits of these mountains, to the memory of such extraordinary personages, still exist, and are visited by the people as the appropriate places for frayer and sacrifice to the manes of the mighty dead. On the tops of some of these mountains are still existing the vestiges of ancient villages. Ellis History of Madagascar Vol.I . p. 84.

The Dayaks believe in a supreme being whome they call sometimes Dewa and sometimes Nyabatta. They believe that Nyabatta is to be found on the tops of mountains, and for this reason every tribe of Dayaks has some mountain top dedicated to their Godhead.-Tijdschrift voor Ned. Indie 4 jaargang 2 Deel. West-kust van Borneo in 1832 p.9.

They 9the inhabitants of the Society Islands) had a kind of heaven, which they called Miru. The heaven most familiar, especially in the Leeward Islands, is Rohutu noanoa, sweet scented Rohutu. This was situated near Tamahani unauna, glorious Tamahani, the resort of departed spirits, a celebrated mountain on the north-west side of Raiatea. The perfumed Rohutu, though invisible but to spirits, was somewhere between the former Settlement and the district of Tipaehapa on the north side of Raiatea. It was described as a beautiful place, quite an Elysium, where the air was remarkably salubrious, plants and shrubs abundant, highly odoriferous, and in perpetual bloom.-Ellis Polynesian Researches Vol. I p. 397.

The natives of Hawaii have numerous fabulous tales relative to Mounakes, which is capped with snow, being the abode of the Gods and none ever approach its summit. The missionaries who have visited the top, could not persuade the natives, whom they enganged as guides up the sides of the mountain, to go near te summit. Ellis Polynesian Research Vol. IV p.404.

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Which it must have cost some trouble and labour to carry up, or of the common trachyte blocks, when such have been afforded by the neigbouring slopes. These stone are generally disposed as if covering some grave and are called a Balai ; yet the general opinion seems to be that they have not been places of interment. The word Balai has so strong a resemblance to, if not identity with the Malai of the Tonga islands, and the Marae of Tahiti and of many other islands of the Pacific, where it implies a temple of the gods or place for religious observances, that we naturally come to the conclusion that they have a common origin, and that the name being preserved on Java, with almost the same import, shows that formerly there also the observance of the pacific islands once prevailed. However this may be the natives of the present day all assert that these Balais are traces of their former religion, which in times immediatelly preceding the introduction of Mahometanism, was derived from the continent of India, and to enquiries regarding their origin, invariably reply that they are Sasakala Alam Buda vestiges of Bhudist times, in which general term they no doubt confound all that preceded mahometanism, as the Sunda mountaineers were very likely no better converts to Bhudism or Siwaism, than many of them still are to the tenets of the prophet of Arabia. It is thought that the wonderful people of former days, by penance and fastings, so far ingratiated themselves with the gods, as to receive supranatural powers, (kasakten) so as to be able to roam the skies, dive into the earth, and walk upon the sea, as if on terrafirma. All those who at the general conversion to islamism in our 15th century, refused to conform to the new faith, and who to have died, but thought invisible, to be still inhabiting these places. The Balais are the spots where these people assumes their impalpable forms, (Ngahiang) and remain evident to the present day, as well to prove the superior might of the ancient people, the omnipotence of antiquity, as out of kindness towards the human race, to point out the spots where the divinity is most likely to lend a willing ear to the troubled devotee. Other of these Balais are consecrated as being the places of the transfiguration of certain great progenitors (Luluhur) of the different tribes of the country ; thus in different parts we hear of the people being descended from this or that Luluhur whose Tangtu or fixed and favorite abode is on some neighbouring summit, and where you are told some mysterious vestige are to be found, whice are known by the name of Kabuyutan.* About Buitenzorg, a number of the people say
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*The Bu of these word appears to be its root or crude form, and is again found in the Tabu of the South Sea Islands, of such well known import, and which is very closely represented by the Buyut of Sundanese, which implies a prohibition or ancient injunction upon some families and people to refrain from particular food or abstain from certain acts of ordinary life. These Laluhurs assumed various forms.


That they are descended from a cloven rock* on the Gunung Salak, known as Beulah Batu, others are descended from Rangga Gading famous in native song for his exploits in thieving; none was ever readier than he to walk off with a lot of buffalos or cheat at a fight of game-cocks. At Jasinga we have the descendants of Pangawinan or the Spear-bearers, the original inhabitants of the land, who were expelled by the ancestors of the present mass of the population, who immigrated from the river Chimandiri, that falls into Palabuan Ratu on the south coast. Others come of the Heulang Rawing, the jagged falcon or the Panggang Kalong, the roasted bat.

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Though, with the exception of the small tribe of Badui in south Bantam, all the inhabitants of Sunda have been long converted to Mahometanism, they are still pagans in their hearts, at least the mountaineers. Whenever the native gets into any extraordinary difficulty, it is not to no God but God and Mahomet the apostle of God that he addresses himself, but provided with a bit of gum benjamin, on the night preceding the 15th day of the moon, he repairs to some mountain Patapaan and there, after offering incense and praying for assistance, spends the night. He fancies that he is tempted by all sorts of horrible beasts and ghosts, all of which disregarding and withstanding, his sincerity of mind having been thus put to the test, at last the ages and hoary spirit of the place appears, asks the suppliant what may be he wish, pronounces an answer and instantly vanishes; the devotee must instantly descend from the mountain and act upon the oracle he has received. The fancy of the native always outstrips his cooler reason, and hence his narration must always be received with scepticism, though it may be clear that he can have no intention of exactly telling a lie ; how easily they are deceived or rather deceive themselves may be learnt from the following anecdote which is likely enough to be true : - A petty chief of Dramaga near Buitenzorg, of the rank of Ngabihi, having gone to the top of the Gunung Salak to consult the Gods, found that he was about to be intrudes upon by some other devotee, and by way of securing a monopoly of the devinities, fell upon the following device to get rid of his brother suppliant. Retiring behind some trees, he watched the devotee burning his incense and whilst in the midst of his prayer, availing of a propitious dimness of the moon, walked up to him and in a measured voice said  my grand child, what troubles have brought thee here! The poor fellow explained that he was sadly in debt, that he had no means of extricating himself and had therefor approached the awful presence of the God of advice. Return
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*The tradition most generally received in the Windward Islands, ascribed the origin of the world and all that adorn or inhabit it, to the procreative power of Taaroa, who is said to have embraced a rock, the imagined foundation of all things, which afterwards brought forth the earth and sea. --- Ellis Polynesian Researches Vol. I p. 324.

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Immediately  said the Ngabihi –  to the low lands, cultivate there with care a large garden, for it is mother earth that is destined to help thee, and thy debts will be paid ; leave this and dare not to cast a glance behind. Grateful for the speedy answer, the devotee muttered a few words of thanks and sneaked away from the spot, leaving the Ngabihi, the oracle to him self. The poor man, how ever, followed out the injunction he had received, set about his garden in earnest and soon cleared his debts. Thus out of deceit and evil, good occasionally flows, though under aperverted impression.

The mountain top appears, in all ages and in all countries to have commanded the reverence of mankind ; here the first ray of the morning sun is arrested, and here the lingering  glam of departing day is enshrined ; it is here that, elevated in majestic silence above the turmoils of a struggling world, an uninstructed mind would first be struck with the immensity of nature, and question itself for a cause.

But it is time to come to the more immediate object of this paper, to which the foregoing has been inserted as a necessary explanatory preface. In the course of the month of January last, whilst in familiar chat with some of the remotest inhabitants of Jasinga of the villages of Chisusu and Gunung Kembang, i was astonished to hear that at a place called Gunung Dangka, on the confines of our south-western boundary, and on the banks of the Chiberang, was a sacred place, considered by the people of the adjoining Bantam district of Sajira, as the paradise they were destined occupy after death. That i should have lived ten long years at Jasinga without ever hearing a syllable about so strange an idea of a people with whom i was well acquainted, and who live so hard by, appeared as improbable as the story itself was agregious. The village of Buluhen is the last on the Chiberang towards its source, and i knew tha the people almost venerated certain parts of the stream, but that the rust of former superstition was wearing away in consequence of more frequent communication with other peaople, and their becoming thus shamed out of their infidel persuasions. Above Buluhen is a part of the river named Panglahsaan where yearly offerings of laksa or rice vermicelli are made, and where till within a few years past no horse had been allowed to enter ; great woes to the country having been predicted in case this spell should be broken. The Demang Jaga Sura, then chief of the district at Sajira, little addicted to bitants, and rode his horse up to the spot. Above the Panglaksaan no fish might be taken, many words in daily use might not be pronounced, and at one part, neither boat nor raft was allowed to pass along the river, but with great trouble being hauled up on the high bank was then dragged past the consecrated pool, to be again launched further down.

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To be continue ...