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Through the ages, mythology has explained the unknown, the human condition and natural events. Naturally occurring events not explained by science or knowledge came to be explained by a myth. Mythology can explain the creation of the planets, catastrophic global events or anything in between. People use mythology to create an understanding of the world around them. Through an understanding of mythical stories, researchers begin to assemble an image of what spawned the original myth.
This is the story of Nyai Roro Kidul or the Queen of the South Sea. There are several origins to this myth. The foundations of this story are royalty, kingdoms, war and succession of the throne. The first myth begins around the 13th century. The Queen of the South Sea is the daughter of Ratu Ayu, the king of the Kingdom of Gulah. It was said she had special powers and claimed mastery over all supernatural creatures living in the land of Java. Magically, the spirit of her grandfather, an earlier king, appeared and announced his grandchild would not be wed unless she were to marry an Islamic king. She waited two long centuries before Panembahan Senapati, the ruling king of Mataram, traveled to the southern coast of Java for meditation. He required guidance to win a war in which he was engaged.
Through his continued meditation and prayer Panembahan Senapati, ruler of Mataram caused the South Sea to become turbulent. This turbulent sea caused ruined to the palace of Nyai Roro Kidul. In all the chaos, Nyai Roro Kidul emerged from her resting place to see the cause of the ruckus. Upon setting her gaze to Senapati, she was instantly smitten and fell madly in love with him. They stayed in a romantic embrace for three full days in her palace under the sea. At the end of the third day, a promise of success was made to Senapati. He claimed victory with the aid from the Queen of the South Sea.
Another version of the Nyai Roro Kidul myth gleans its source from the folklore of Yogyakarta. Long ago, there was a beautiful woman named Kadita. Her beauty was such that she carried the title of Dewi Srengenge or beautiful sun. Even though her father, Munding Wangi, had a beautiful daughter, he longed for a son to inherit the throne. Without a son, there was not a proper successor to the throne. Eventually, Munding married and had a son with his wife, Dewi Mutiara. The new queen had her sights set on the throne for her son. She viewed Kadita as a threat and attempted to remove her from the kingdom. Dewi Mutiara tried to oust Kadita but this only enraged Munding. Dewi Mutiara hired an evil witch to curse Kadita with an outbreak of scabies, leaving her body with a foul smell. This made Kadita sad and cry hysterically.
The king asked for the best healers and doctors of the kingdom to treat his daughter. Sadly, her illness would not be treated with traditional medicine. He eventually realized her disease was from a mystical source. He quickly banished her from the kingdom to avoid gossip. Kadita traveled to the southern ocean and swam towards the middle. After she reached the center, she noticed her scabies had vanished from her skin, the foul smell was gone and she had become more beautiful. Kadita now resided in a palace beneath the sea as the Queen of the Southern Coast. She had achieved eternal life.
One of the original myths is the story of Prophet Solomon, the son of Queen Bilqis. He married a genie and had an invisible child. This child brought him great embarrassment. To hide his shame, he disposed of his invisible daughter on the island of Al-Jawi. In time, Nyi Roro Kidal grew to control the southern sea.
According to Islamic tradition, humans were created from mud and Jinn from fire. They lived side by side, but humans had a greater value. The Jinn thought of themselves as better because they had supernatural powers. Being envious of the humans, the Jinn set out to corrupt humans in their belief of their creator. Nyi Roro Kidul tempted humans with her beauty and the lure of wealth and prestige. She was a high-level Jinn.
It is difficult to prove the existence of Nyi Roro Kidul. She may have existed at one time in the physical realm. She exists in the mythic realm. Her existence manifests the power of the sea lying south of the island of Java. A force so large and powerful, it has the capability of changing the land on which it splashes. It is theorized, Nyi Roro Kidul represents the power of a tsunami. The sea is both friend and foe. It provides life-giving food and takes life away.
It is fabled that none shall wear green clothing on the southern coast because it is the color of Nyi Roro Kidal. Raden Danang met Nyi Roro Kidal and promised to marry her. In doing so, he would have the strength to defeat the Pajang kingdom. Nyi Roro Kidal always wore green when she met her husband. Raden Danang forbade his people to wear green when along the southern coast. This request was out of respect for his wife.
I find this interesting. There is a movement on social media, inviting people to come to Parang Tritis and wear green clothing on September 22, 2019. A total of 3900 people are planning to attend, and 10,000 people are interested. I am a man of science, and I do not believe wearing green on the beach will cause a tsunami. However, I do believe in respecting tradition. I think slapping the face of tradition is not beneficial. With that being said, I’m not going.