The legend of Mount Semeru
A hidden story of the highest mountain 3.676masl on the island of Java told about The legend of Mount Semeru East Java reveals interesting story in old Javanese legend about one shaky island and gods’ efforts to fix it.
The Gods and the Shaky Island: The Legend of Mount Semeru
Mount Semeru is one of the most popular mountain destinations in East Java, but not many people know about the legend of Mount Semeru. As a mountain that is surrounded by myths, mysteries and old beliefs, the legend of Semeru has found a place among folktale students, culture scholars, and mystery aficionados. The legend also shows mix between old Javanese and Hindu beliefs (the latter came to Indonesia from India), telling about the gods’ efforts to “fix” the Island of Java that was told to be unstable.
Beside the old legend, Mount Semeru also has reputation as a travel destination that is full of mysteries. These mysteries, legend and popular rural legends surrounding the mountain make the traveling experience to this mountain even richer, especially if you discuss them with the locals and fellow hikers.
How the Gods Help People in the Legend of Mount Semeru
The legend of Mount Semeru tells about how Java Island (“Jawadwipa”) was once unstable and always shaking, and the gods tried to find a way to make it stable and habitable, especially since there were more and more humans living in the island. Bhatara Guru, the highest god, meditated to solve the problem, and later concluded that the island needed some sort of “nails” to keep it in place. Bhatara Guru finally told the other gods to go to India (“Jambudwipa” in old Sanskrit) and take the top of Mount Mandara, which was called the Mahameru to be turned into giant pole that would keep Java Island in place.
Since the gods felt that the tasks were too hard, they decided to work together to bring home the two parts of mountains. Bhatara Brahma, one of the gods, turned into a giant turtle, and asked the other gods to load Mahameru onto his back. The other god, Bhatara Wisnu, turned himself into a giant serpent and tied the Mahameru with his body, securing it on Batara Brahma’s back. However, during the trip home, the gods started to feel tired, because the Mahameru was so massive. The weight of the mountaintop and the efforts to carry it made them so tired and thirsty.
The gods later saw water trickling out of the mountaintop, and since the water looked so fresh and inviting, the tired gods decided to drink it. However, the water turned out to be poisonous, and they died instantly after drinking the water. Bhatara Guru found out what happened and turned the poisonous water into water of life (“Tirta Kamandalu”), and revived the gods with it.
Once they arrived in Java, the gods tried to position Mahameru in several spots, and the mountaintop produced smaller boulders that fell and later turned into new mountains. They later placed the mountaintop on the east side of Java, and the island finally become stable.
Legend of Mount Semeru and Holy Mountains in Java
The legend of Mount Semeru was also believed as the origin of so many mountains in East Java. The gods first had failed attempts in positioning Mahameru, since the wrong positions made the island flipped over or went askew. During the attempts to find the best position, some of Mahameru’s boulders fell and turned into what locals nowadays know as Mount Lawu (Katong), Mount Kelud, Mount Wilis, Mount Arjuno, Mount Kemukus, and Mount Kawi. During the final attempt, the gods also cut half part of Mahameru to make it more balanced, and that piece of mountain is now known as Mount Penanggungan.
The legend not only shows the richness of old Javanese belief, which is colored with Hindu and Indian influences, but also seals Semeru’s reputation as a source of myths and mysteries. Locals believe these mysteries and even advise hikers to be respectful when visiting the mountain, as disrespect and rowdy behaviors could result to disasters or misfortune. Among popular mysteries that surround Semeru are: common possession incidents in Kelik area, the disappearance of hikers who were reported to act disrespectful in the mountain, the female ghost and legendary sacred carps in Lake Ranu Kumbolo, the stories of the late Mbah Dipo (the guardian of Mount Semeru), and many more.
The legend of Mount Semeru
The mysteries of Mount Semeru and its legends are popular stories among hikers, travelers and locals. If you visit the place, you can ask the locals about the legends and mysteries, and improve your knowledge about cultural aspects that surround the mountain. The legend of Mount Semeru proves that Javanese myth is rich with influences, and the old beliefs are still somehow retained by locals even in this modern era.
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