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Sri Tanjung : The Women Who Purifies The World  

by on Thursday, 5 March 2009No Comment | 1,083 views

Gde Aryantha SoethamaAlmost every one of us desires holiness. It is like a lamp shining in the darkness of the night that guides our footsteps from going astray, so that we keep on the right path. Holiness is also something bright, or is brightness in itself. The illumination will keep a person away from obscurity; will release his heart from confusion and anxiety. For holiness is to be innocent, pure, calm, cool, and is the resignation of the self. Holiness is something pursued, becoming a purpose in itself. People hope, that through holiness, they will be granted the eternal truth, happiness, wisdom, value, or be able to become examples to others, or leaders. Holy people often become their idols. They become famous, they are worshiped, they become gods. And in addition, they long for spirituality.

Deep forests, isolated seashores, caves, valleys, mountain sides, hill tops, are often visited. Traveler’s rest houses and pasraman, where people come to penetrate the highest wisdoms, are built. Silence becomes the hight of their purpose, for this is the gate to holiness.

Stories of ruwatan, the purification and the sanctification of the self, are also cherished. This adoration has been there since centuries ago, and is an old knowledge, but continues to steal into our life in the present. These stories are about adventures, rich in conflict, filled with considerations in making decisions, and speak of the many tests which must be passed. The tales of ruwatan are guidance’s in one’s search for his identity, an attempt to bring one’s body and soul to the point of emptiness, in order to start everything with purity and calmness. In Bali, for a person to fulfill his call of life by becoming a priest must go through the ruwatan within a process called the ‘mati raga’. The mati raga is the climax of the dwi jati ritual. When this is passed, the candidate will be reborn as a holy man. His sins, mistakes will be wiped out, blank. It is as if, this person, the priest, is a newly born baby without sins. In the Hindu tradition of Bali, ruwatan must always be passed with the ‘mati raga’ ,and artists of Bali, and the Balinese in general, have always been fond of stories of the mati raga and rebirth. This aspect of ruwatan is exactly like philosophy within the Bhagawadgita, of how the last cycle of life is death, and that the end of death is life.

The story of Sri Tanjung which originated in the Hindu kingdom on the tip of East Jawa also narrates holiness, ruwatan, and mati raga in order to attain purity. It is not just similar, but is exactly the same with the convictions of those devoted to the art of literature in Bali. This story is also popular in Bali, and has been narrated and performed repeatedly throughout the times, with the same or different scenes. This story is sacred, in which many spiritualistic values are buried. Those who enjoy this tale feel as if they have been guided to the world of emptiness. The story awakens people to continue their pursuit of holiness.

Holiness is granted through a process which is very long, or it can come by, without being wished for. As how Lubdaka was granted forgiveness because by chance, he had stayed up all night long on the night of Siwaratri. Sri Tanjung was destined to be granted with holiness, for she was murdered but then was purified by Durga to become a holy person. Nevertheless, in this story, why was a woman chosen to be depicted as a holy person? And gives the revelation that holiness is not something to be monopolized by men? The story of Sri Tanjung is not limited to depict the women as objects of pity, to dry out our tears, but to present women as a heroine, a guide, that men who are rough and arrogant with their wives will see themselves as they are.

The tale of Sri Tanjung pictures precisely, the world of women in Bali. For an outsider, tradition will seem as if it is the cause of sorrow for the Balinese women, as well as something which legalizes the men to ‘suppress’ them. However, many women have said that tradition grants them respect, which enables them to appear as a fortunate woman: lucky, happy, ‘sakti (blessed with divine power)’, and ‘kramat (sacred)’. For them, tradition does not only mean a certain time, or a a limited area, but is a soul which guards, a protection, something which makes them different, that gives them a sense uniqueness and a feeling of peace. However, tradition often makes life not easy. For the women in Bali, tradition is also a dilemma. It gives them a place to be a figure and to be their own self, to be honored, yet it is also a domain in which they are forced to subject. Important decisions regarding life in the villages position the role of women to the peripheral. For the scenario of rituals and ceremonies have been more or less engineered by the men.

Balinese women are grateful of this scenario. For them, this engineering of tradition grants them a special role: to make and to offer offerings, for instance, to take care of everything divine. In turn, the Balinese are happy, and are fulfilled when they are presented with stories of women who are able to purify the world, and to sanctify the earth. The lives of women in Bali are unique. Here, people scrutinize not only the physical aspects, but the emotions of the women. Not only of their incapability, but their roles.

Reference :

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