Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Dewaruci Mythology: A Wayang Story

The Dewaruci story is drawn from the Indian Mahabharata epics, even though it is entirety Javanese in concept, and is traditionally told in the wayang kulit or shadow puppet theaters. This wayang story is used by all mystical sects in Java to serve as an allegory for potential spiritual transformation in their lives, but it also touches the deepest levels of reality in Javanese day-to-day life and cultural worldview.

The Dewaruci epic influences all classes of Javanese society to some extent, where, as praxis its adherents make the true meaning of the Dewaruci real, which is expressed through their culturally determined worldview, thereby establishing the true spirit of Javanese life. It is because of that, without understanding the Dewaruci story itself, the observer may fail to see the whole point of the Javanese culture and their worldview. Because of the important influences that the Dewaruci story has on the worldview of Javanese society and culture, it requires further analysis of its esoteric messages before relating its connection to the praxis of everyday life in Java.

In its esoteric mystical sense, the story of Dewaruci symbolizes the union of man with god; the spirit of man, represented by the Dewaruci, leads the self and soul of the adherent toward harmony, thus providing spiritual awakening and fulfillment of life in the mystical union with God. For the non-mystics, who recognize that the ultimate goal of union with the divine is for the very few, it represents the satisfaction obtainable by ordering the inner and outer aspects of their lives. The account of Dewaruci revolves around its main character that is named Bima; he is one of five Pandawa brothers whom, accompanied by Krishna, are destined to join battle against their one hundred Kurawa cousins in order to reclaim the lost kingdom of Ngastina, which the Kurawa wrongfully usurped from them.

The story begins with Suyudana, the king of the Kurawa, who plots the death of his enemy Bima. Suyudana enlists Durna, a trusted spiritual guide to both the Pandawa and Kurawa, to send Bima on a difficult journey that will certainly kill him. Durna tells him to search for the water of eternal life in which he must bath, as it will protect him from his enemy Suyudana. Durna instructs Bima that the water of life can be found in the Candramuka Cave at the top of a mountain; however, Durna knows there are two powerful giants that live on the mountain who are sure to kill Bima when he comes to disturb them.

Ignoring the entreaties of his concerned brothers, he sets off to the mountain and inadvertently awakens the two giants from their meditations as he is searching the mountain for the water of life and must fight them. He realizes during the ensuing struggle that he must strike the giant’s heads together in order to kill them. In killing the giants Bima frees the gods Indra and Bayu from Batara Guru’s (a manifestation of Shiva) curse as incarnations of giants and they in turn gratefully inform him that there is no sacred water on the mountain.

Bima then suspiciously returns to Durna who explains that he was only testing his protégé’s resolve before sending him on his real journey to find the water of eternal life. Durna now tells him the water of eternal life is to be found at the bottom of the sea, hoping that sea monsters will surely kill Bima as he searches the depths of the oceans. His brothers again warn him that he should not go, but he ignores their pleadings, he enters the sea and begins his search for the magic water. more? ... here!


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