Read CHAPTER XIV - WORKS OF THE MOHAMMEDAN PERIOD of A Visit to Java With an Account of the Founding of Singapore , free online book, by W. Basil Worsfold, on ReadCentral.com.

Uncertainty about the history of the Hindu kingdoms given by the chronicles Character of the babad, or chronicle Its historical value Brumund’s treatment of the babads Account of the babad “Mangku Nagara” Prose works The Niti Praja The Surya Ngalam Romances The Johar Manikam Dramatic works The Panjis Wayang plays Arabic works and influence The theatre The wayang.

The works of the Mohammedan Javanese period include, in addition to translations and versions of all kinds both from the Kavi literature and the Arabic, romances, dramatic works, and plays, intended both for the theatre and the wayang, ethical and legal compilations, and, lastly, the babads, or chronicles. It will be convenient to consider these latter first; but before doing so it is necessary to revert for a moment to the historical account which I gave in my opening chapter. It will be remembered that in that account the two Hindu kingdoms of Pajajaran and Majapahit, respectively founded in the west and east of the island, were mentioned as being especially celebrated in the native chronicles. These chronicles, it is true, give us the names and dates of various earlier kingdoms, and a variety of information about their respective dynasties; but for all practical purposes the history of the Hindu period, as at present revealed, may be summed up in a sentence of Crawfurd. From the latter part of the twelfth century to the overthrow of Majapahit (1478), “a number of independent states existed in Java, and the religion of the people was a modified Hinduism.” Antiquarian research further tells us that this series of Hindu states commenced in the centre of the island, and that it was closed by the western kingdom of Pajajaran, which existed as early as the first half of the eleventh century, and the eastern kingdom of Majapahit, which was itself succeeded by the first Mohammedan empire of Demak. Remains of the capital cities of both these Hindu kingdoms are in existence. Those of Pajajaran, which are to be found forty miles from Batavia, are exceedingly meagre, and appear to be the work of a primitive epoch. Those of Majapahit, close by Soerabaia, are numerous and magnificent.

But the chronicles which make these kingdoms the subject of their narratives were not composed until the Mohammedan period was well advanced; or, at least, if they had a previous existence, they were then remodelled under the direction of the susunans, or emperors. They have, therefore, to be regarded with considerable suspicion. In the case of the chronicles which relate contemporary events, we are on surer ground. But such is the nature of the Javanese, and such the literary character of the babad, that even here we are by no means certain to meet with actual facts.

The babad is a poem composed in a common Javanese measure, which purports to give an account of historical persons and events. Sometimes it relates the fortunes of empires; sometimes it degenerates into a mere genealogical tree. Every Javan “prince” has his “babad,” in which the names of his ancestors and their deeds are recounted. Remembering the fertility of the Eastern imagination, and the despotic character of Eastern rulers, it is easy to understand that such babads were more often than not reduced in point of veracity to the standard of an average fairy tale. M. Brumund, whose remarks on this subject are embodied in Leemans’ work on the Boro-Boedoer temple, deals very severely with the babads. He cannot away with them, and goes near to denying their claims for credence altogether. But surely a distinction should be made between the family babad, which is altered to suit the whims of a single prince, and those babads which relate events affecting the interests of several competing princes, or in which no single prince is especially interested. The Homeric poems, we are told, were kept reasonably free from interpolations by the jealousy of the various Hellenic communities. May not an influence of the same kind have operated in Java, and have preserved some of these chronicles from corruption?

That the babad is capable of being approached from two different points of view is apparent from the following extracts, in which I have compared M. Brumund’s treatment of a babad of only fifty years ago with Mr. Nieman’s account of an earlier babad in the possession of the Royal Asiatic Society.

M. Brumund says

“Let us take, for example, Dhipa Negoro, the chief of the revolt in Java, which lasted until 1830; well, the babad represents him to us as enveloped in the clouds of the supernatural. There he is, surrounded by hundreds of enemies; he is about to be captured, but he calls to his aid the miraculous power which is at his disposal, and this power causes him to pass freely, safe and sound, through the threatening host, who suffer him to pass in their amazement, and who dare not even lift a finger against him. Another day he gives orders to have some cocoa-nut trees felled, and to have them covered with a white flag; he sets himself to pray, the flag is removed, and behold, the cocoa-nut trees are changed into pieces of artillery of the finest casting. He needs counsel; forthwith he is carried through the air to the southern shore and to the great spirit of the south, only to return forthwith after the conference. He wishes to pray at Mecca; scarcely has he formed the wish before his person is found upon the borders of the city, and, as a proof that he has really been there, he carries off a cake from the sacred city, all smoking hot.”

Mangku Nagara, who is the subject of the babad discussed by Mr. Nieman, was a Javan prince who played a leading part, first in the Chinese war of 1745, and afterwards in the revolt of the Javan princes against the Dutch and the reigning susunan, known as “the Java war,” which lasted from the close of the Chinese war to the year 1758. In the latter he fought for some time in alliance with Mangku Bumi, a younger brother of the susunan. After a time, however, this personage made terms with the Dutch on his own account, and Mangku Nagara, thus deserted, was compelled to submit to the susunan, and accept a modified territory for his administration. It was in this war that the Dutch obtained the deed of abdication mentioned in Chapter I. from the Susunan Pakubuona II., in the year 1849. The conduct of the war cost the company more than four million florins, but at its termination they had secured the virtual control of the island.

Mr. Nieman first gives some particulars about the manuscript. It is entitled, he says, the “Babad Mangku Nagara.” Its date is 1802; it is written in metre; its language is modern Javanese, but it contains some Kavi words, and one whole passage is written in the literary dialect. He then continues

“Mangku Nagara is always depicted, not only as a brave and valiant, but also as a very religious man. His soldiers, and those of Mangku Bumi, who was at one time his ally, were steady adherents of the rites of Islam, so far as they were enabled to observe them, such as ablutions, prayer, the fast of Ramadan, and other practices of the Moslem. His confidence in the power of Allah, and his submission to his will when in distress, are praised, and his character is contrasted with that of the cruel Mangku Bumi, who put two of his wives to death for the most trifling offences, such as neglecting to offer him his coffee. Mangku Nagara, on the contrary, is described as greatly attached to his wives and children, carefully providing for their safety, and visiting them at their places of concealment, whenever he could snatch a temporary interval from his duties as a warrior. Attachment to his family, and attention to religious observances, seem to have been thought quite compatible with a strong attachment to the sex generally; we find him at the village of Zamenang, engaged for two months in copying the Koran and other religious works, and yet frequently amusing himself with the Bedaya, or dancing girls, from whom he was unable to separate himself in his retirement. Mangku Bumi had the impudence to deprive him of two of these women, whom he had previously presented to him as a mark of kindness; and, although he subsequently restored one of them to Mangku Nagara, the prince could not pardon the offence. The one that Mangku Bumi did not restore appears to have been especially a favourite of Mangku Nagara, whose grief and resentment were aggravated by some other offences; and the Dutch Governor of Samarang took advantage of this disposition to urge him to forsake the cause of Mangku Bumi. His efforts were at first successful, and Mangku Nagara made peace with the Dutch, and declared war against Mangku Bumi; but this state of things did not continue long. War soon recommenced between the Dutch and Mangku Nagara, from some cause which does not fully appear. It is believed that the latter was unable to prevent his adherents from quarrelling with and attacking the Dutch; but the fact is, the Mangku Bumi, finding himself unable to resist the united forces of Mangku Nagara and of the Dutch, found means to effect a reconciliation with the latter, and by their mediation received from the Susunan Zaku Buwana nearly a half of the Empire of Mataram, assumed the title of Sultan, and fixed his residence at Jotjokarta, the susunan residing at Solo, or Surakarta. This division of the empire took place in A.D. 1755. From this epoch the power of the unfortunate Mangku Nagara declined. Mangku Bumi made common cause with the Dutch and the susunan against him, and the desertion of several of his adherents, who now joined his relentless enemies, left him no rest. He was hunted from place to place like a wild beast, until he resolved, in his despair, to fall upon his numerous foes, in the persuasion that he should perish in the strife. Forty of his bravest friends joined in this resolution; their example encouraged the few troops who remained with him; they attacked their enemies with desperate courage, and unexpectedly gained a great victory. The Dutch were wholly defeated; nearly a hundred of them were left dead on the field of battle; and, better than all, his brave and indefatigable enemy, Van der Zoll, the Dutch commander, perished in the fight. Mangku Nagara’s success, however, was not permanent; he was defeated in the next battle, and, although the war continued with varying success, sometimes to the advantage of one side, and sometimes of the other, his cause gradually declined. It was a guerilla war; Mangku Nagara was now flying to the mountains of Kerdenz, and now issuing forth to fall upon and harass his enemies; but upon the whole his losses were predominant, and the manuscript ends with an account of the peace he was compelled to submit to, and the conditions on which it was concluded. All this may be read in Raffles’ “History.”

The existence of such babads as this of Mangku Nagara would seem to point to the conclusion that a consecutive and reliable account of the Hindu period could be produced by careful sifting and comparison of the various babads dealing with this epoch. For this purpose they require to be examined by the methods of scientific history, and the results thus obtained must be checked by the faithful records of the antiquarian remains.

Among the prose works in modern Javanese, two, the “Niti Praja” and the “Surya Ngalam,” are especially interesting as throwing light upon Javanese customs and thought. The former is one of a number of similar works, containing rules of conduct and instructions on points of Eastern etiquette especially intended for the information of the princes and nobility.

It is said to have been “compiled” by the Sultan Agung of Mataram. According to Vreede, the language of the “Niti Praja” is not Kavi, but it is written in the “stiff and artificial language common to the ethical treatises.” The following passages are taken from translations which appear in Raffles’ account of the work:

“A good prince must protect his subjects against all unjust persécutions and oppressions, and should be the light of his subjects, even as the sun is the light of the world. His goodness must flow clear and full like the mountain stream, which, in its course towards the sea, enriches and fertilizes the land as it descends.

“When a prince gives audience to the public, his conduct must be dignified. He must sit upright, and not in a bending posture, and say little, neither looking on one side or the other, because, in this case, the people would not have a sight of him.”

The following paragraph, which deals with the duty of a prime minister, is conceived in a spirit more suitable for the court of a constitutional monarch than for that of an Eastern potentate.

“It is a disgrace to a prime minister for any hostile attack to be made in the country entrusted to his charge without his knowledge, or that he should be careless or inattentive to the same, rather thinking how to obtain the favour of his prince than to secure the safety of the country.”

An ambassador is directed to use all means within his power for obtaining information concerning the country to which he is sent. Then follow some directions which are specially characteristic of Eastern life.

“The letter must be carried on the shoulder, and in his gait and speech he must conduct himself with propriety. In delivering the letter he must present himself with dignity, approach first, and then retire from the person to whom the letter is directed, speak with him at a distance, and not too familiarly.”

The “Surya Ngalam” is the most important of a group of legal treatises. Its author, or rather compiler, from whom it takes its title, was a Sultan of Demak, the first of the Mohammedan states founded in Java. It is a compendium of Mohammedan law.

The modern version of the “Surya Ngalam” commences, “There was a certain raja of the West, named Sang Probu Suria Alem, who, being duly qualified, did, in the establishment of divine justice, frame a code of judicial regulations, consisting of one thousand five hundred and seven articles, which being afterwards digested and reduced to the number of one hundred and forty-four, were by him made known and explained to all the people of the countries under his authority, thereby diffusing knowledge and righteousness where ignorance and wickedness before prevailed.”

I have already mentioned the jaksa, as receiving information of offences, and sitting in the courts as assessor to the European judge-president. There are some very drastic punishments provided for this official in the section of the “Surya Ngalam” which treats of his duties.

“In the first place, he must possess a sufficient knowledge of the law, to know how to act in regard to cases which may come before him.... If the jaksa be found ignorant of these matters, he shall have his tongue cut out.... In the third place, any incorrect statement in writing shall be punished by the loss of both hands.”

Among the modern Javanese works there appear a number of romances, of which the “Johar Manikam,” which is taken from the Arabic, is an example. She was a sort of Javan Una, and the poem tells of her various deliverances from dangers, moral and physical. It commences with a sentence which is subtle enough for the nineteenth-century era. I quote this and the two following lines:

“That is true love which makes the heart uneasy.
There was a woman who shone like a gem in the world, for
she was distinguished by her conduct, and her name
was Jowar Manikam.
Pure was her conduct like that of a saint, and she never
forgot her devotions to the deity: all evil desires were
strangers to her heart.”

The dramatic works fall naturally into two divisions. The circle of poems, partly historical, which recount the adventures of Panjí, the “knight” or national hero of Java, and which are called, after his name, “the Panjis;” and the wayang plays. The Panjis are important as alone supplying the Javan theatre with subjects for its representations. Among the titles of the various works included in the group are such as these: “The marriage of Panjí and Angreni,” “The History of the Lady Kurana, Princess of Bali,” and “Panjí and his Amours.” There appears to be great uncertainty as to the origin and date of these poems. Vreede, after giving Raffles’ account of the “Angrene” the title under which the Panjis appear to have been then (1819) known says that he has quoted the account of Raffles verbatim “because, notwithstanding the palpable inaccuracies of his conclusions, seeing our faulty information about the origin, the date, the authors, and the compilation of the Panjí narratives, his indications may have, for all we know, great value.”

As to the works directly due to the introduction of the Arabic language and literature simultaneously with the establishment of the Mohammedan power in the island, it is certainly remarkable, considering the completeness of the Mohammedan conquest and its long duration, that the Javanese language should show such few signs of Arabic influences as it does at the present time. The Koran was rendered into Javan verse a century and a half ago. Beside the various adaptations from the Arabic, there are a large number of Arabic treatises current in Java. Long ago Arabic schools were established in the island, and of these schools that in the district of Pranaraga at one time boasted of having as many as fifteen hundred scholars.

I shall conclude this account of the Javanese literature with a short description of the native theatre, and of the wayang.

As I have already mentioned, the subjects of the topeng, or Javan drama, are invariably taken from the group of Panjí poems. The actors are dressed in the costumes of ancient times, and are gaudily decked with cheap jewellery, velvet, leather, and gold-embroidered cloths. A special characteristic of the native theatre is the fact that the actors wear masks and do not themselves speak, but the words of the play are recited by the dalang, or manager. The only occasion on which they depart from this practice is when the performance is given before one of the native princes, and in this case they also appear without their masks. In the performance of their somewhat limited functions they display considerable skill and histrionic capacity, but the piece resembles a ballet rather than a drama. The recitations of the dalang are accompanied by the music of the gamelan, which, as in the case of the wayang, forms the orchestra. A topeng company numbers eleven persons the dalang, six actors, and four gamelan musicians.

The subjects of the wayang plays are taken from the Kavi poems, from the Panjis, and especially from the chronicles. Some of these plays, or lampahans, are in metre, others are in prose. Both alike consist of summaries of the original poems on which they are based, and are intended for the use of the dalang. It is noticeable, however, that the wayang commands a far wider range of subjects than the theatre.

In the true wayang the figures themselves are not seen, but only their shadows. The dalang places a transparent curtain, stretched over a frame ten feet long by five high, between himself and the audience. He then fixes his figures in the bamboo bar immediately in front of him, and throws their shadows on to the curtain by placing a lamp behind them. At the same time he moves the arms with wires in order to produce the effect of action. The wayang dolls are singularly grotesque. There is an interesting tradition which ascribes this distortion to a deliberate purpose. According to this account, after the Mohammedan conquest and the subsequent conversion of the Javanese to Islamism, it became necessary to reconcile the continued enjoyment of the national pastime with the precept of the new religion which forbade the dramatic representation of the human form. A means of escaping from the dilemma was discovered by the susunan of that day, who ordered the wayang figures to be distorted to their present grotesque shapes. His line of argument was ingenious. The world, he said, would now no longer recognize the figures of the wayang as representations of humanity. The Javanese, however, would recognize the persons whom the figures were intended to reproduce from their knowledge of the national traditions. Even if they should eventually come to forget the nature of the originals good would arise, for they would then believe that it was only since their conversion to the faith of the prophet that their ancestors had assumed a human shape.

There are two forms of the shadow wayang, the purva and the gedog. The subjects of the first are taken from the various mythological works of the Hindu period, and from the Bharata Yuddha. In presenting this wayang, the dalang first recites a few verses in Kavi, and then continues the narrative in a modern Javanese version. This wayang is especially useful as serving to keep alive some knowledge of the literary dialect among the common people. The wayang gedog differs from the former in so far as its subjects belong to a later period, and no Kavi verses are recited. The gamelan also which accompanies the dalang is somewhat different. Pangi is the favourite hero of the wayang gedog, though he is not represented so exclusively as in the theatre. In both of these wayangs the dalang often improvises the dialogue with which the narrative is interspersed.

I have described the wayang klitik in my account of my visit to Tji Wangi. The performance is given without the intervention of a curtain, and the figures in the wayang are slightly smaller and not nearly so skilfully constructed as in the two former. The wayang klitik takes its subjects from the period of the Mohammedan invasion.

The dalangs are held in great respect by the common people, and many of them possess their own sets of wayang puppets. It is customary for the native princes to keep a dalang at their palaces; in this case, of course, the figures and gamelan do not belong to the dalang, but to the prince.