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The Role of Structural Organisation and Myth in Javanese Historiography

  • Anthony H. Johns


The galaxy of non-indigenous elements confronting the student of Indonesian cultural history has often obscured the fact that, in order to elucidate a valid picture of their role and significance, these elements need to be studied in their own terms, in relation to their own environment and at specific synchronic levels, such levels being but points on the continuum of the historical process. Thus to consider Javanese culture exclusively as a linear (and corrupt) descendant of Indian culture on the one hand, or as perpetually conditioned by a hypothetical indigenous ur-society in the manner of Rassers on the other, leads to a dead end, and has stultified much otherwise useful and impressive research.



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1 An attitude reflected in the works of as great a scholar as H. Kern.

2 Rassers' propagation of the concept of a primeval dualism as determining the structure of virtually every expression of Javanese culture has been particularly harmful. The reader is referred to a collection of his papers in English translation: Panji, the Culture Hero (Den Haag: M. Nijhoff, 1959).

3 Two editions of the Sejarah Melayu are readily accessible—the “Raffles” text edited by R. O. Winstedt in JMBRAS XVI (1938) 1–226, and that by Shellabear (Singapore: Malaya Publishing House, 1960). A complete English translation of the “Raffles” text has been published by Brown, C. C. in JMBRAS XXV (1952) 1276.

4 The text referred to throughout is the 2nd edition by J. L. A. Brandes: Pararaton (Ken Arok) of het Boek der Koningen van Tumapel en van Majapahit (Verhandeling van het Batariaasch Genootschap, LXII, i –xv, Ix–9x, 1–343, 1920). The work includes a full Dutch translation and copious notes.

5 The text referred to throughout is edited by Meinsma, J. J., Babad Tanah Djawi ('s Gravenhage: M. Nijhoff, 1941), with a Dutch translation by Olthof, W. L. in a companion volume.

6 Brandes, Pararaton, pp.3, 4.

7 A man in charge of mandala, probably a religious estate, although there is no indication of its religious nature in the Pararaton.

8 Brandes, Pararaton (Dutch translation), pp.46–63.

9 Berg, C. C., Inleiding tot de Studie van het Oud-Javaansch (Soerakarta: De Bliksem, 1928), p. 135 fn.I

10 The Javanese word is pabajangan, according to Van der Tuuk meaning a graveyard for children who have not yet developed teeth (Brandes Pararaton p.47, fn.7). Dr. H. E. Loofs, a colleague, has suggested that this deposition may be a megalithic practice based on ancestor worship, intended to fortify the child by contact with the spirits of the departed.

11 Djajadiningrat, H., Critische Beschouwing van de Sadjarah Banten (Harlem: Joh. Enschedé en zonen, 1913) p. 28.

12 Meinsma, Babad, p.30. The pair were actually half-brothers; Brawijaya had a son by an ogress who was born in exile after the king had repudiated his mother. The son (unrecognized) won Brawijaya's favour, and was presented with the ruler's Chinese wife, already pregnant by the ruler. After she had borne Brawijaya's son, Radèn Patah, she conceived by her new husband and gave birth to Radèn Husèn—thus grandson of Brawijaya and the ogress.

13 Meinsma, Babad, p.77.

14 vid. Kauffman, Von H. E., “Zu den Steinsetzungen und Graäbern der Naga in Assam,” in Die Wiener Schule der Völkerkunde, Festschrift zum 25 jährigen Bestand 1929–1954, (Horn: Nieder-Oestererreich, 1956), P. 313.

15 C. C. Berg has written many papers on this topic. See, in particular, De zin der tweede Babad Tanah DjawiIndonesia VIII (1955), 361400.

16 This was a long hard struggle against the late Sultan's uncle, who had a far better claim to succeed to the throne than Jaka Tingkir.

17 I am indebted to Professor H. J. Benda of Yale for suggesting this line of enquiry.

The Role of Structural Organisation and Myth in Javanese Historiography

  • Anthony H. Johns


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