Javanese Mythology

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With the establishment of Islam (see Islam) in Indonesia, the indigenous myths of Java and other areas have been retained as folktales rather than as vehicles for religious truth. The first part of one of these tales, that of the hero Jaka Tarub, is reminiscent of the Indian story of Kṛṣṇa (see Kṛṣṇa) and the Gopis (see Gopis).

One evening Jaka Tarub comes across several beautiful maidens or bidadari (angel-like heavenly spirits) swimming in a pond. As the spirits' winged clothes are on the bank of the pool, Jaka Tarub steals one set of them, making it impossible for the spirit Nawangwulan to fly away. Jaka Tarub and Nawangwulan marry and produce a daughter named Nawangsih. Nawangwulan feeds her family by magic, placing one grain of rice in the pot each day that produces more than ample food, but she does so only on the condition that her husband not look into the pot. Of course, when she is away one day he does look into the pot and the magic is immediately dispelled, making it necessary for the family to use rice supplies like everyone else. Disappointed in her husband, the bidadari finds her winged garment and flies off to the other world.

Subjects: Religion.

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