Academic journal article Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

Pangeran Dakar's Error: A Narration of the Events Leading to the Fall of the Sultanate of Banten

Academic journal article Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

Pangeran Dakar's Error: A Narration of the Events Leading to the Fall of the Sultanate of Banten

Article excerpt

In a rather late edition of the Sajarah Banten Kecil (Shorter history of Banten), (1) a curious tale is interwoven with the historical account of a conflict between the Sultan of Banten, Sultan Abdulfatah Ageng Tirtayasa, (2) and his crown prince, Pangeran Banten (the Prince of Banten), (3) about the distribution of power in the Sultanate, and the proper position to take vis-a-vis the Dutch East India Company (VOC). This tale, (4) which on the face of it has little to do with events as they are recounted in standard histories, (5) tells of a sexual encounter between the prince and a spirit, the younger sister of Raja Pandita, the jinn (genie, spirit) who ruled Pulo Putri (Maiden Island). (6) This encounter causes the prince to delay his return to Ban ten from Mecca, and has disastrous consequences. This brief essay takes a closer look at this curious tale, and offers an explanation for its inclusion in the historical account.

The Sajarah Banten (History of Banten), of which there are several editions, is especially known from the 1913 study made of it by Hoesein Djajadiningrat. (7) One major differentiation is between a long version, the Sajarah Banten Besar and a shorter one called Sajarah Banten Kecil. (8) The latter indeed used the former as its source, (9) but focuses primarily on a conflict between Sultan Abdulfatah Ageng and his crown prince, the later Sultan Haji, which was a contributing factor in the Banten Sultanate's defeat by the VOC. (10) Discussions of the content and philology of the various versions of the Sajarah Banten can be found in the above mentioned studies by Djajadiningrat and Pudjiastuti, and do not need to be repeated here. (11) The name of the pujangga (court poet, literary magician) (12) who composed the original work is not mentioned, but the Sajarah Banten Besar seems to have been written between 1660 and 1663, while the Sajarah Banten Kecil was written about fifty years later (1710-1713) or at least prior to 1725. (13) Pudjiastuti writes that many copies of the Sajarah Banten Kecil are undated, and notes that the dates on those that are range from 1827 to 1906. (14) Since it contains an account of the defeat of Sultan Ageng Tirtayasa, it must have been written after 1682. (15) The copy Pudjiastuti used in her 2007 book must be relatively recent, because in the last part (see below), which feels rather tacked on, after recounting the myth we will examine here, it mentions the names of Sultan Muhamad Muhidin and Sultan Ishaq (r. 1801-1802). Between them came Sultan Gemuk, who is not mentioned as such in the genealogies. Sultan Muhamad Muhidin is probably Sultan Muhyiddin Zainussholohin (r. 1799-1801). (16) This would date Pudjiastuti's manuscript to at least the early nineteenth century, some 77 years after the events it purports to discuss.

Encounters between princes and spirit kings and their daughters, usually a naga (17) king and a nagini, are not uncommon in the historical writings of Indonesia and Southeast Asia generally. They are usually associated with the founding of new states by a prince coming from elsewhere: in the Babad Tanah Jawi Prince Susuruh meets the hermit Cemara Tunggal, who predicts his founding of Majapahit. Elsewhere, prior to founding Mataram, Panembahan Senapati visits Nyai Rara Kidul, the Queen of the Southern Ocean, (18) while in Cambodia Prince Kaundinya meets a nagini princess, whose father aids him in establishing the realm of Cambodia. (19) Usually, however, such encounters serve to establish the legitimacy of the state and the ruling house, while in the case discussed here it implicitly leads to the fall of the Sultanate of Banten. What then could have been the reason for the inclusion of this story in this version of the Sajarah Banten?

Narratives

An historical account, Edward H. Carr reminds us, reflects the choices made by the historian concerning the facts that are to be brought to bear on the question being addressed, and the interpretation given them. …

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