The Legend of Dewi Sri

by Barrie on July 18, 2006

by Barrie | July 18th, 2006  

In Java there are a multitude of myths and legends. The Sudanese in particular have some fascinating legends and none more fascinating that of Dewi Sri.

We have all seen the shrines dedicated to Dewi Sri in the padi fields on Bali as we have travelled through the island. If one wonders about the beginning of padi and how the earth was first organized then the Sundanese have all the stories. One of the myths that is very well known by the Sundanese is Nyi Pohaci Sanghiang Sri. This story about Dewi Sri is written in Wawacan Sulanjana:

Once upon a time in the heavens the Batara Guru commanded all the gods and goddesses to contribute their power in order to build a new palace. Anybody who disobeyed this commandment would lose his or her head.

Upon hearing the Batara Guru’'s commandment, one of the gods, Anta, was very anxious. He didn't have arms or legs and he wasn't sure how he could possibly do the job. Anta was shaped as a snake and he couldn't work. He sought advice from one of his friends but unfortunately his friend was also confused by Anta's bad luck. Anta became very upset and cried.

As he was crying three teardrops fell to the ground.

Amazingly, after touching the ground those teardrops became three eggs. His friend advised him to offer those eggs to the Batara Guru hoping that he would give a fair judgement.

With the three eggs in his mouth Anta went to the Batara Guru's palace. On the way there he was approached by a black bird who asked him a question. He couldn't answer because of the eggs in his mouth but the bird thought that Anta was being arrogant. It became furious and began to attack Anta and as a result one egg was shattered. Anta quickly tried to hide in the bushes but the bird was waiting for him.

The second attack left Anta with only one egg to offer to the Batara Guru.

Finally he arrived at the palace and offered his teardrop (in the shape of an egg) to the Batara Guru. The offer was accepted and the Batara Guru asked him to nest the egg until it hatched. Miraculously the egg hatched into a very beautiful girl. He gave the baby girl to the Batara Guru and his wife.

Nyi Pohi Sanghian Sri was her name and she grew up into a beautiful princess becoming more and more beautiful as the days passed by. As her beauty grew every man who saw her became attracted to her. Even her stepfather the Batara Guru started to feel an attraction toward her.

Seeing the Batara Guru's new attitude toward Nyi Pohaci, all the gods became so worried about the situation that they conspired to separate Nyi Pohaci and the Batara Guru.

To keep the peace in the heavens and to maintain Nyi Pohaci's good name, all the gods planned for her death. She was poisoned and her body buried on earth in a hidden place. But the graveyard was to hold a strange sign, for at the time of her burial, up grew a very useful plant that would forever benefit all human beings.

From her eyes grew the plant that is called padi (rice paddy).

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