Tara and Nyai Lara Kidul: images of the divine feminine in Java

Jordaan, Roy E.

Asian Folklore Studies
Vol.56 No.2 (Oct 1997)

COPYRIGHT 1997 Asian Folklore Studies (Japan)

            In the immediate environs of the provincial capital of Yogyakarta 
            lies the ruin of Candi Kalasan, a Buddhist temple often regarded as 
            one of the most beautiful temples of Central Java. This temple is 
            one of the few Javanese archaeological monuments that can be dated - 
            in an inscription in stone in pre-Nagari script, dated 700 Saka (778 
            C.E.), mention is made of the foundation in the village Kalaga by a 
            ruler of the Sailendra dynasty of a temple with an associated 
            monastery, devoted to the goddess Tara (BRANDES 1886). Although no 
            further concrete details are given about the temple or the goddess 
            Tara, there can be no doubt that it refers to Candi Kalasan: the 
            ruins of the temple and the foundations of what used to be the 
            monastery are located in a village that has been named Kalasan since 
            time immemorial, and moreover, the inscription was found in the 
            immediate neighborhood - "between Prambanan and Kalasan" - before 
            being relocated. 
            In this article I want to focus especially on the question of 
            exactly which Tara the temple at Kalasan was dedicated to, or, in 
            other words, which image of this Buddhist goddess sat on the main 
            throne of Candi Kalasan. In answering this question I use two 
            approaches: historical and iconographic.(1) Beyond this I want to 
            see if Tara has left other traces in Javanese society and whether, 
            with the decline of Buddhism in Central Java, her position may not 
            have been (re)taken by another goddess. 
            Little is known about the origin of the Buddhist goddess Tara, or 
            about the probable time of the origin of her cult or about possible 
            influences on this cult by Hindu and non-Aryan or tribal elements 
            (BLONAY 1895; SHASTRI 1925; SIRCAR 1967; GHOSH 1980). Concerning the 
            rise of her cult in Northeast India, Ghosh posits that "there is no 
            evidence (whether literary or archaeological) of the existence of 
            Tara before the Gupta period," circa the third to fifth centuries 
            C.E. Although a few early expressions of devotion are known from the 
            Indian literature, the Javanese Kalasan inscription of 778 seems to 
            be "the earliest epigraphic reference to her" (GUPTE 1980, 117; cf. 
            SIRCAR 1967, 130). 
            Because the Kalasan inscription is evidently also the earliest dated 
            edict proclaimed by a Sailendra ruler, its interpretation has 
            occupied various scholars in connection with their attempts to 
            reconstruct the role of the Sailendras in the dynastic history of 
            Central Java. The Sailendras are connected with the building of many 
            Buddhist shrines - of which Borobudur is the best known - in Central 
            Java during the late-eighth and the first half of the ninth 
            centuries. Very little is known of this period of nearly a hundred 
            years (known in the literature as the "Sailendra Interregnum") other 
            than the remains of temples and a few inscriptions. Thus the origin 
            of the Sailendras is still a great mystery, even after the countless 
            pages devoted to this subject by scholars, in which the 
            interpretation of the Kalasan inscription, or more accurately its 
            second strophe, has played a crucial role. In BOSCH's early 
            translation this reads as follows: "After the gurus of the Sailendra 
            ruler the great king dyah Pancapana had persuaded the rakryan 
            Panamkarana, they had a splendid Tara temple built" (1928, 60). 
            The controversy here, in brief, concerns whether this passage refers 
            to two rulers or only one - that is, whether there was an unnamed 
            Sailendra ruler who via his guru(s) involved a Javanese king 
            Panamkarana (elsewhere known as Panangkaran) in building the Tara 
            temple, or whether there was a Sailendra ruler who was himself named 
            Champions of the first explanation see Panamkarana as a Javanese 
            vassalking or as a scion of an original non-Javanese dynasty, but 
            are divided on the question of whether he descended from a royal 
            line that directly or indirectly emigrated from, or was driven out 
            of, India, or whether he originated from the kingdom of Srivijaya in 
            South Sumatra or the state of Funan on the Southeast Asian mainland. 
            Proponents of the second interpretation see Panamkarana as the son 
            of a local Hindu ruler who converted to Buddhism and became the 
            ancestor of a separate branch of a bifurcated Javanese Sailendra 
            dynasty, most of whose members were also adherents of Buddhism. 
            About the second half of the ninth century the two branches are 
            thought to have been reunited by the marriage of a Buddhist crown 
            princess to a Hindu prince who, if not himself descended from the 
            second house, was closely allied with it.(2) 
            Since it is beyond the scope of this article to go into the origins 
            of the Sailendra dynasty, let it suffice to make a few comments 
            about the Kalasan inscription that are relevant to the study of the 
            goddess Tara. I want to first of all point out the very real 
            possibility that the guru(s) named in the Kalasan inscription could 
            be identical with the one(s) mentioned in a Kelurak inscription 
            dated four years later as involved in the foundation of Candi Sewu. 
            It is moreover mentioned in the latter inscription that the guru, 
            named Kumaraghosa, came from Gaudidvipa, which has been identified 
            by Bosch as Gauda (Gaudavisaya), one of the names for the state of 
            Bengal (Vangala) ruled by the Pala kings.(3) The involvement of one 
            or more gurus from this area would be a plausible explanation for 
            the long-noted scriptural similarities between the Kalasan 
            inscription and those of the Bengal ruler Devapala (ca. 810-850) and 
            his predecessor Dharmapala (BHANDARKAR 1887, cited in BOSCH 1928, 
            It is known of these Pala rulers that they especially venerated the 
            goddess Tara, who was attributed the role of "savior." This was 
            possibly connected with the vital importance to their state of 
            maritime trade - Tara was to merchants and sailors first of all a 
            goddess of navigation (SIRCAR 1967, 108, 113). The importance of the 
            goddess for Dharmapala is evident from the fact that he carried her 
            effigy in his banner (DASGUPTA 1967, 123; GHOSH 1980, 14). According 
            to SIRCAR, the "Tara of Dharmapala's standard or banner [was] very 
            probably the dynastic emblem of the Palas for their standard or 
            banner just as the Dharmacakra was for their seals" (1967, 131-32). 
            The primacy of Tara is further evident from the temples built in her 
            honor in India, especially in Northeast Indian sites like 
            Candradvipa, Nalanda, and Somapura, which were ruled by the Pala 
            kings (SIRCAR 1967, 113, 128; GHOSH 1980, 9, 30). According to 
            Sircar, Khadiravani-Tara, who because of her green color was also 
            known as Syama-Tara, was probably the Tara worshiped in Candradvipa, 
            and was "one of the most celebrated deities in Bengal during the age 
            of the Palas." Sircar not only calls this image of her the 
            "commonest" representation, but notes that "it also appears that 
            Syama of the green variety is one of the earliest forms of Tara, 
            Syama as the name of the Mother-goddess being still very popular in 
            Bengal" (SIRCAR 1967, 128-30). 
            However important Candradvipa may have been as a Bengal pilgrimage 
            site, in places such as Nepal, Tibet, China, Sumatra, and Java it is 
            Nalanada that is remembered. It was here, for instance, that a 
            Sailendra prince, Balaputra, after having been driven out of Java 
            and enthroned in Srivijaya in Sumatra (Suvarnadvipa), had a 
            monastery built with the aid of king Devapaladeva. In the 
            accompanying edict his father is mentioned as king of Java as well 
            as an "ornament of the Sailendra dynasty." Also interesting is the 
            information about his mother, the queen of that king; named Tara, 
            she was the daughter of the great ruler Dharmasetu (Varmasetu) of 
            the lunar race and was said to resemble the goddess Tara herself 
            (SHASTRI 1925, 32).(4) Moreover, Srivijaya itself was also an 
            important center of learning in the Buddhist world, not only for 
            many Chinese pilgrims who called there on their way to and from 
            India, but also for Indian monks and scholars. One of these was 
            Atisa, who came from Northeast India and who for twelve years 
            (1013-25) lived at the court of Srivijaya. Later he went to Tibet to 
            "renew" Buddhism there and gave a fresh impulse to the veneration of 
            Tara, so that she would develop more or less into "the national 
            goddess of Tibet" (SCHOTERMAN 1986, 23; cf. DAS 1893, 53-83; BOSCH 
            1925, 559). 
            Although Atisa must have been a devotee of Tara long before his 
            sojourn in Sumatra, in Srivijaya he found a kindred soul in his 
            Sumatran teacher, who was no less devoted to the goddess. A Tibetan 
            source puts it as follows: 
            Here in Tibet, five traditions have come down to us.... Among these, 
            the most distinguished is the school of Atisa: both he and his own 
            teacher Dharmakirti of the Golden Isles continually saw the face of 
            the Holy Lady, and upon them was bestowed the tradition. (BEYER 
            1978, 417-18; cf. SCHOTERMAN 1986, 23). 
            According to BEYER, in Tibet Atisa becomes another famed teacher of 
            Mahayana Buddhism (either directly or via Nagarjuna), associated 
            with the so-called Twenty-one Taras and with the green 
            Khadiravani-Tara (1978, 320). 
            TARA IDENTIFIED 
            Undeterred by the absence of concrete indications in the Kalasan 
            inscription, KROM wrote, "There are no further indications which 
            Tara is meant and thus it is undoubtedly Syama Tara, the Tara par 
            excellence" (1923, 1: 257). As far as I know, Krom's thesis has 
            never been explored in the archaeological literature, although 
            BERNET KEMPERS did once suggest that "a large image of the Buddha in 
            bronze seems to have sat enthroned [in the central cella] in former 
            times" (1959, 50), without, however, providing a single argument in 
            support of this proposition. As will be shown, it is likely that 
            Bernet Kemper's suggestion was based primarily on the shape and size 
            of the main throne, from which it can be deduced that it was meant 
            to seat an exceptional figure, which certainly could have been 
            Buddha if this were not contradicted by the Kalasan inscription. 
            The data about Tara's throne come primarily from BRANDES's 
            comparative research into the main thrones in three Buddhist temples 
            in Central lava, namely Candi Sewu, Candi Mendut, and Candi Kalasan 
            (1904). Only the thrones of Candi Mendut and Candi Kalasan are 
            relevant here because these are nearly identical in form and 
            decoration, as is clear from the drawings in Brandes's article. 
            In brief, Brandes maintained that the main throne of Candi Kalasan 
            must have been occupied by a seated statue with its legs hanging 
            down, as is the case with the statue of the Buddha in Candi Mendut 
            [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED]. However, the statue was much 
            larger: "Where the Mendut statue is 'only' 3 meters in height from 
            the soles of its feet to the top of its head, that of Kalasan must 
            have measured 6 meters. Both... are thrones for statues of gods 
            sitting in the European manner" (BRANDES 1904, 162). Later Brandes 
            notes another important difference that became apparent to him not 
            only because of the colossal size of the missing statue but also 
            because of traces of a join in the cushion of the throne, indicating 
            that the Candi Kalasan statue was probably not made of stone but of 
            metal, probably bronze. 
            It seems probable that Bernet Kempers's suggestion regarding a 
            bronze Buddha on the Candi Kalasan throne is based on the 
            combination of the above-mentioned data. The European manner of 
            sitting was possibly the deciding factor, because according to 
            iconographic handbooks this sitting posture, known as 
            pralambapadasana or bhadrasana, is relatively unique, and seems to 
            be especially characteristic of Maitreya, the future, human Buddha 
            (AUBOYER 1937, 90; GORDON 1939, 24; LIEBERT 1976, 216). As was 
            pointed out, the only thing that contradicts this identification is 
            the information in the Kalasan inscription, which speaks explicitly 
            of both a temple and a statue of Tara, information that in my 
            opinion cannot be ignored. 
            Rereading the literature on Buddhist iconography with this 
            assumption, I recalled that there is indeed a Tara characterized by 
            the bhadrasana posture: Vagya-Tara [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 2 
            OMITTED], also known as Vasyadhikara-Tara (BHATTACHARYYA 192528, 
            1:178; KIRFEL 1959, 99; LIEBERT 1976, 36; GUPTE 1980, 140; GHOSH 
            1980, 36). DE MALLMANN too notes that bhadrasana was the seated 
            posture most frequently attributed to Vasyadhikara-Tara, but adds 
            that her admittedly tentative description does not correspond to 
            what would be understood as a European sitting posture (1975, 10). 
            This latter she calls paryanka, which, relying on a secondary Hindu 
            source, she attributes to the form Mahattara Tara. Most authors, 
            however, consider paryanka to be a cross-legged position. 
            That Vasya-Tara is the only Tara explicitly connected with this 
            sitting position is very important, as it gives our identification a 
            degree of certainty. With the other sitting positions this is not 
            the case: not only can other forms of Tara sometimes take these 
            positions, but it also happens that one and the same Tara can take a 
            different position depending on the context. 
            The only Tara whose seated posture is not strictly prescribed is the 
            earlier-mentioned Khadiravani-Tara, which for this reason, if only 
            theoretically, could also be depicted in bhadrasana. As the asana 
            (seating posture) alone is thus not decisive, it becomes useful to 
            look at the iconographic characteristics of Vasya-Tara and 
            Khadiravani-Tara in order to determine their mutual differences and 
            similarities. It then becomes immediately apparent that the two 
            goddesses have much in common. Both have only one head and two hands 
            and both are emanations of the Dhyani Buddha Amoghasiddhi, whose 
            image they bear in their crowns. Their color is green, just like 
            that of their "spiritual sire." They further have in common the 
            "boon-giving" mudra (varadamudra) of their right hands and the blue 
            lotus in their left. According to Ghosh, who studied the development 
            of the Buddhist iconography in which Tara takes a central position, 
            both Vasya(dhikara)-Tara and Khadiravan-Tara belong to the eleven 
            Tara for whom the sacred Taramantra (om Tare tuttara ture svaha) is 
            prescribed and who all bear the utpala as an attribute. All in all 
            the correspondences are so numerous that it should not be wondered 
            that some authors tend to consider the goddesses as identical (e.g., 
            KIRFEL 1959, 99; LIEBERT 1976, 333). 
            However, there is a difference between them: while Vasya-Tara is 
            always presented as standing alone, Khadiravani-Tara is said to be 
            attended by two companions, namely Asokakanta Marici on her left and 
            Ekajata on her right (KIRFEL 1959, 99). BHATTACHARYYA seems to give 
            the unattended status the character of a differentiating criterium 
            when he writes that Vasya-Tara "is described as single and as such 
            is not accompanied by any god or goddess" (1968, 230). Although 
            GHOSH leaves some room for errors in identification, she proposes 
            that "within the limitations of the present state of our knowledge, 
            we may, for practical purposes, ascribe to Khadiravani those images 
            which are not in the paryanka or vajra-paryanka attitude and which 
            are attended by Asokakanta-Marici and Ekajata" (1980, 64). 
            If greater importance is given to the independence of Vasya-Tara 
            than to the indeterminate seated posture of Khadiravani-Tara, this 
            is additional reason for us to think that Vasya-Tara must have been 
            the goddess whose statue was seated on the main throne of Candi 
            Kalasan. That is, in contrast to the other temple-chambers, there 
            was room here for only one statue. BRANDES notes that 
            there is not only room in this temple for a main statue, but in the 
            secondary chapels one always finds 3 altars of which the most 
            important ones, still to the sides of the main seat, show grooves 
            that indicate that two smaller ones stood next to that statue, so 
            that for each of the chapels one is concerned with 5 statues; that 6 
            niches can be found in the antechamber, which gave access to the 
            main chamber, each of which was in turn also intended for a statue." 
            (1904, 166; cf. IJZERMAN 1891, 25, plates 1-4). 
            However, there is insufficient room for attendants on or next to the 
            main throne of Vasya-Tara, while the walls of this temple-chamber 
            also do not contain the niches that were found in the other chambers 
            Unfortunately it is impossible at this point to use the data about 
            Vasya-Tara as a point of departure for a hypothetical reconstruction 
            of the mandala (divine cosmic plan) of Kalasan, that is, the 
            specification of the other goddesses and gods in the pantheon and 
            their distribution on the remaining thrones and in the inner and 
            outer niches.(5) The only thing that can be said is that, aside from 
            the main throne, the total number of spaces is twenty-one, the same 
            number that came up in connection with Atisa's propagation of the 
            twenty-one Taras in Tibet. On the basis of the available data it is 
            impossible to determine whether these twenty-one Taras were also 
            present at Kalasan, but it does not seem very probable, given what 
            is written about them. According to BEYER, the twenty-one were 
            "ordinary" Taras all seated in the same way ("with their right feet 
            extended and their left drawn up"), and distinguishable from each 
            other only on the basis of the colors of the bottles in their hands 
            or the attributes on the lotuses (1978, 333-35,470). This cannot 
            have been the case with Candi Kalasan - there seated statues were 
            located on the thrones and standing ones in the niches. Moreover, 
            not all of the niches were of the same size and decoration, as can 
            be determined from the ones preserved in the antechamber to the main 
            Earlier we mentioned Tara's role as both "savior" and as "goddess of 
            navigation." It is not completely clear how the latter role arose, 
            but it may relate to the etymology of the name Tara. LIEBERT writes 
            this word [Tara] should properly, regarding its etymology, be 
            interpreted as "star, constellation" and may therefore, as the name 
            of a deity, be connected with the Babylonian Istar. But since the 
            word may also be associated with the verb tar- (caus. Tarayati 
            "cause to arrive at, lead over or across, rescue, save"), it is 
            generally understood and translated as "saviouress"; thus especially 
            in Buddhism. (1976, 294-95; cf. DE MALMANN 1975, 368) 
            After examining the evolution of this Buddhist goddess and 
            identifying many notable correspondences between her and the Brahman 
            Devi (Durga), GHOSH concluded that Tara "is conceived essentially as 
            a savioress liberating people from various perils" (1980, 8). For 
            example, one of her well-known forms is Aryashtamahabhaya-Tara, who 
            protects against the eight dangers of the lion, elephant, fire, 
            snake, thief, fetter, water, and demon (GHOSH 1980, 40). It is easy 
            to see why sea-fearing merchants and navigators should emphasize 
            especially her protection on water, and why she became a goddess of 
            navigation for them. Among the Tibetans the idea of deliverance is 
            primary, as is evident from, among other things, the translation of 
            the name as "Unloosener (of difficulties)" (GHOSH 1980, 8). In a 
            similar way, the geographical and climatological differences between 
            Bangladesh, Java, and Sumatra on the one hand and Nepal and Tibet on 
            the other appear to be the most plausible explanation for the fact 
            noted by BEYER that "the various minor goddesses, occasionally 
            assimilated to forms of Tara, who may be grouped together as one or 
            another type of snake goddess (e.g., Janguli, Parnasabari), evoked 
            almost no response in the hearts of any but the most scrupulously 
            studious Tibetans" (1978, xiii). 
            In regard to the symbolic meanings of the above-mentioned attributes 
            of Tara, Ghosh notes that green represents "youthful vigour, 
            freshness, activity, and divine energy," while bhadrasana signifies 
            "sovereignty." The latter seems to correspond with the indication 
            "Vasyadhikara," which means "having authority over the subject 
            ones," as is also the case with VasyadhikaraLokesvara (see LIEBERT 
            1976, 333), but does not fit as well with Liebert's translation of 
            Vasya-Tara as "the tamed, subjected Tara." This translation, 
            however, seems to contradict Liebert's own observation that the 
            pralambapadasana, taken to mean the European way of sitting, 
            symbolizes "authority."(6) "Sovereignty" or "authority" (terms whose 
            meanings overlap considerably) must be taken as the most probable 
            meaning, as is also evident from the fact that sovereignty is 
            precisely the meaning attributed to the ornamentation of the main 
            throne, consisting of a makara, a standing lion or elephant (AUBOYER 
            1937; SAUNDERS 1960, 129). Perhaps the image's unattended status 
            should also be understood in terms of independence and sovereignty. 
            It seems probable in any case that the Vasya-Tara of Kalasan was 
            given the status of a supreme goddess. 
            Finally, I would like to indicate the meaning of one of Vasya-Tara's 
            attributes: the flower utpala (synonymous with nilotpala). The 
            utpala is a water lily or blue lotus that Bhattacharyya calls a 
            "night lotus" and Margaret STUTLEY rather cryptically says is 
            "sacred to the moon" (1985, 102). GHOSH elaborates as follows: 
            The blooming time of utpalas which open at the sunset and close at 
            the sunrise is night and, accordingly, these flowers are associated 
            with the moon, just as the lotus, which opens in the morning and 
            closes by night, is connected with the sun. Both these flowers with 
            their prolonged life symbolize rejuvenation of life. The promise of 
            a prolonged life together with the idea of Tara delivering devotees 
            from the dark elements may be the reason for the preference for this 
            particular flower. (1980, 26) 
            Before we turn to more recent data from the mythology of Java in 
            this examination of the Tara of Kalasan, it must first be asked 
            whether such an approach is valid. Some support is provided by the 
            fact that many historical names still remain from that era, albeit 
            in somewhat corrupted form, despite the passage of over a thousand 
            years and the occurrence of various drastic cultural and historical 
            changes in Javanese society. Kalasan, for example, can only have 
            been derived from the old Kalasa. Other examples include the name of 
            the old state of Mataram, the Hindu-Javanese names of rivers like 
            the Sanjaya, the Serayu, and the Progo, and temple names such as 
            Borubudur, Prambanan, and Ratu Boko. 
            It goes without saying that one has to be far more careful with data 
            relating to former religious ideas and practices than with data 
            relating to old names. Even so, useful points of departure can be 
            found, especially in the mythology surrounding the Central Javanese 
            goddess Ratu Kidul, alias Nyai Lara Kidul. Elsewhere (JORDAN 1984) I 
            have suggested that this mythological figure, which is still 
            venerated as both the spirit queen of the Southern Ocean and the 
            spouse of successive rulers of Central Java, should be understood in 
            relation to the original pan-Indonesian ancestral figures (often 
            with the titles Nyai, Nyi, and Ni) who were connected with natural 
            fertility and the welfare of the land. Their ability to continually 
            rejuvenate themselves, plus their close association with underworld 
            beings, especially the snake, led me to suspect that Nyai Lara Kidul 
            could herself have been a snake goddess (nagini). This made it 
            possible to compare her with similar mythological figures in the 
            area, such as Po Nagar, a goddess who is prominent among the Cham of 
            mainland Southeast Asia and who is likewise closely connected with 
            agricultural fertility. 
            In order to explain the current weakened and veiled connection 
            between Nyai Lara Kidul and agricultural fertility, I proposed, 
            following STUTLEY and STUTLEY's lead (1977, 88, 222), that in the 
            Hindu-Javanese period she must have been subjected to a process of 
            association and identification with Hindu goddesses such as Uma, 
            Durga, and Parvati, which are often considered mother-goddesses. 
            Drawing on the work of SCHRIEKE (1925) and PIGEAUD (1962, 211), I 
            concluded that a connection with Durga and Sridevi (who came to be 
            called Dewi Sri in Java) seemed most likely, because together these 
            two more or less encompassed the original Nyai Lara Kidul's 
            ambiguous, vacillating nature. While Durga primarily represented 
            Nyai Lara Kidul's demonic side, Sridevi, the goddess of welfare, was 
            associated with her benevolent aspect. However, these associations 
            did not everywhere develop in exactly the same way or to the same 
            degree. In large areas of Java, for instance, Sridevi, as Dewi Sri, 
            gained influence at the expense of Lara Kidul and ultimately took 
            over the latter's position as goddess of agriculture, especially in 
            the case of wet rice cultivation. 
            However, for both of these goddesses the dissociation resulted in a 
            mutilation of their original characters. Although Dewi Sri, as rice 
            goddess, never became as ambivalent and capricious as the ancient 
            Indonesian ricespirit (cf. VAN DER WEIJDEN 1981, 225), she did 
            acquire a number of traits that were foreign to her, or at least 
            unusual in the Indian context. These included the ability to change 
            herself into a snake and to have food crops grown from her dead 
            body. The damage to Lara Kidul was greater, however. 
            Presumably, because of the weakening of her connection with 
            fertility, the bond with the vast majority of the agricultural 
            people became increasingly meaningless and loose; in the process her 
            identity finally dissolved into a mysterious demonic power, which 
            was connected with the Southern Ocean. (JORDAAN 1984, 112) 
            In a later article I explored Nyai Lara Kidul's mythological 
            relations with the female ancestral figures of a number of peoples 
            in Eastern Indonesia and beyond (JORDAAN 1987). Here too there 
            existed an associative complex in which recurrent folkloristic 
            elements (such as ever-rejuvenating old women, skin disease, snakes, 
            the underworld, and agricultural fertility) were combined in various 
            ways, supporting the notion of the pre-Hindu origin of Ratu Kidul. 
            Retrospectively, my 1984 article is especially lacking in references 
            to Buddhism and Buddhist goddesses. My current thinking is that 
            mutual relations, both between Hinduism and Buddhism and between 
            these and indigenous beliefs, were probably less exclusive and not 
            as antagonistic as certain influential studies on old Central Java 
            would have us believe. There were cases, for example, in which 
            rulers cooperated in building temples, such as Candi Kalasan, Candi 
            Plaosan, and Candi Prambanan. This could only have taken place on a 
            basis of a mutual understanding of each other's religious 
            conceptions and practices. There may even have existed a drawing 
            together of religions in a process of syncretism, such as the 
            Siva-Buddha cult, where the lines of differentiation were formal 
            rather than real. 
            Although the origin of the Siva-Buddha cult is usually considered an 
            East Javanese development during the period from the tenth to the 
            fifteenth centuries, an earlier dating to the Central Javanese 
            period would provide the most satisfactory explanation for some 
            long-known discoveries that are often disposed of as "stray finds." 
            These include images in various temples from both pantheons, images 
            such as a silver statue of Siva in the temple area of the Buddhist 
            Candi Sewu (ANOM 1992, 68) and a bronze image of the Bodhisattva 
            Vajrapani and (I suspect) the goddess Tara(7) in the "Hindu" temple 
            Candi Sambisari (SUAKA PENINGGALAN n.d.; see also FONTEIN 1990, 
            223). The most striking example is probably a silver statue of Durga 
            with the Buddhist creed "ye dharmma hetupabhaw..." inscribed on its 
            backpiece in the Nagari script, which was closely related with the 
            Buddhist Sailendra dynasty (BRANDES 1887, 24). 
            The above-mentioned data seem to fit well with studies on the 
            development of Mahayana Buddhism and Tantrism oriented more to the 
            Indian subcontinent - WAYMAN's article, with its telling title "The 
            twenty-one praises of Tara, a syncretism of Saivism and Buddhism," 
            comes to mind here (1959). Ghosh, however, in contrast to Wayman and 
            many other authors, does not believe that Tara as supreme goddess 
            began with the Buddhists and was subsequently admitted to the Hindu 
            pantheon; rather, she holds that "the chief inspiration for the 
            Buddhist goddess Tara was derived from the Brahmanical concept of 
            Devi (or Durga)" (GHOSH 1980, 20). As one of the most important 
            factors in this she cites the rise of Brahmanical Hinduism under the 
            Guptas, which, as it were, forced the Buddhists to compromise by 
            expanding their elementary pantheon into a host of gods and 
            goddesses in order to assure the continued existence of their 
            To make their religion attractive and also acceptable to the maximum 
            number of people of various ethnic groups including aboriginal and 
            tribal... the Mahayanists and afterwards the Vajrayanists introduced 
            the Buddhist counterparts of the Brahmanical gods and goddesses and 
            folk-divinities.... [T]he Buddhists did not hesitate, even at the 
            cost of their original precepts, to take over the concepts and even 
            iconography of many of the Brahmanical gods and goddesses and 
            regional ideas and beliefs. (GHOSH 1980, 15)(8) 
            The background Ghosh provides, particularly that relating to the 
            conceptual relationship between Tara and Devi, would have benefited 
            my earlier article. Even so, it would have remained an open question 
            whether Tara was connected directly with Nyai Lara Kidul or 
            indirectly through separate incarnations, to better account for Nyai 
            Lara Kidul's ambiguous character. Just as the epithet "Devi," "the 
            Great Goddess," is applied to a number of Hindu mother-goddesses 
            (like Durga, Parvati, and Uma), so too the deity Tara takes on a 
            variety of forms, such as Parnasabari and Vasudhara, which appear to 
            have rather opposite characters. While Parnasabari shows a striking 
            demonic similarity to Durga (BHATTACHARYYA 1978, 14-18), Vasudhara 
            is in many ways reminiscent of Dewi Sri (CHATTERJI 1960, 91-92); the 
            goddesses could, therefore, be readily connected with the 
            destructive and beneficial aspects of Nyai Lara Kidul. In the 
            meantime interest in Ratu Kidul has increased, not only among 
            ordinary and educated Javanese but also in scholarly circles, which 
            has led to a broadening and, in some areas, a deepening of the 
            research on the subject (e.g., WESSING 1988; BRAKELPAPENHUYZEN 1988; 
            BRAKEL 1995; BOGAERTS 1990; SCHLEHE 1991, 1992; FLORIDA 1992; SUTTON 
            1993; CHANDRA 1995). It might therefore be useful to review some of 
            this recent and ongoing research and compare it with the new data on 
            One recurring point of discussion in the literature concerns the 
            rather confusing number of names that appear in connection with the 
            goddess. These include Nyai Lara Kidul, Kanjeng Ratu Kidul, 
            Nyaigedhe Segarakidul, Ratu Lara Kidul, Mbok Rata Kidul, Raja 
            Angin-angin, and Retna Dewati BOGAERTS 1990, 9). These days Ratu 
            Kidul, literally "Queen of the South," is probably the most common. 
            The name derives from the belief that the goddess, ruler of a host 
            of spirits, nymphs, and other beings from the underworld, has her 
            palace on the bottom of the ocean directly off the south coast of 
            Central Java.(9) Her excursions ashore are said to be accompanied by 
            the occurrence of unusual natural phenomena, such as spring tides. I 
            do not know of any mention of the existence of queens or kings of 
            other oceans or the other cardinal directions, except for Behrend's 
            reference to Kanjeng Sunan Lawu, the ruler of the spirits on Mt 
            Lawu, to the east of Solo (Surakarta). BEHREND writes that 
            Sunan Lawu (east) and Ratu Kidul (south), together with K. Ratu 
            Sekarkedaton, tutelary spirit of Gunung Merapi, the active volcano 
            west of the capital, and Sang Hyang Pramoni (= Durga), resident in 
            the forest Krendawahana north of the city, guard the cardinal 
            directions and receive special veneration in Surakarta. (1982, 88) 
            There is no doubt that Ratu Kidul has the most prominent position in 
            this configuration. 
            In view of the royal features on the main throne of Candi Kalasan, 
            it is obvious that Tara too was venerated as a ruling deity. The 
            fact that she occupied the main temple chamber as an unattended 
            deity indicates that she was a supreme goddess who tolerated no one 
            in her presence. This interpretation is supported by a Tibetan hymn, 
            translated by WAYMAN, that suggests she is capable of making her 
            influence felt everywhere (as when it calls her the "Lady who fills 
            the quarters, intermediate directions and space with the sounds of 
            Tuttara and Hum") (1959). Tara's power is formidable, as may be 
            inferred from expressions like "Lady [who is] able to summon the 
            multitudes of all local genii," "[who is] placed above all by the 
            elementary spirits, vampires, songster spirits, attendants of Siva, 
            and secret folk," "who shatters the seven underworlds with the Hum 
            made by her contracted brows." Tara even appears stronger than 
            death: "So as to defeat Death (Mara [mrtyumara]), she gives life 
            force (prana) to the living beings." 
            Such a superiority over death can also be detected in Nyai Lara 
            Kidul. She is an ever-rejuvenating woman who, as a virgin, marries 
            successive Javanese rulers. In Javanese court circles it is even 
            claimed that the rejuvenation occurs much faster - the late Sultan 
            of Yogyakarta, Hamengku Buwono IX, declared in an interview that her 
            change of form runs more or less parallel with the waxing and waning 
            of the moon (ROEM et al. 1982, 103). Ricklefs cites the Serat Surya 
            Radja to the effect that "she is the queen of the spirits, thousands 
            of years old, but can be either young or old depending on whether 
            the moon is new or old." According to the sultan, who was personally 
            consulted about this passage, the name for Kanjeng Ratu Kidul is 
            Retna Dewati when she is young, that is, during the first half of 
            the lunar month (RICKLEFS 1974, 200). It is relevant here to note 
            that Tara must also have been able to rejuvenate when she developed 
            into an omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient goddess of Buddhism. 
            One of her characteristics is visa-rupa, "having all forms," and in 
            one case at least she seems to have taken the form of an old woman 
            who helped a believer in trouble (GHOSH 1980, 10, 33-34). And, as we 
            noted earlier, connections have been made between Tara and the moon, 
            as in the case of the night-lotus. We will return to this below. 
            The difference between the terms nyai and ratu, both part of the 
            Queen of the South's official titles, has also been a point of 
            discussion in the literature, though the matter has not yet been 
            fully dealt with. KOENTJARANINGRAT suggests that the use of nyai 
            indicates that this deity's place in the category of Javanese 
            Hindu-Buddhist supernatural beings is with the Javanese ones rather 
            than those deriving from Islam: 
            The relationship of man to the Hindu-Buddhist gods, the heroes of 
            the wayang [shadow puppet] epics, the nature deities, the ancestral 
            spirits, and the spirits of local saints is conceived by the 
            Javanese as a relationship to senior but intimate kin, whereas the 
            relationship to the Allah of Islam, to Muhammed, Allah's prophet, 
            and to the other prophets, the walis [proselytizers], and the Muslim 
            saints is considered as one to powerful but distant beings. 
            Consequently the Javanese consistently use the kinship terms hyang 
            [ancestor], eyang [refined term for grandfather or grandmother], 
            kiyai [old man], nyai [old woman], or mbah [ordinary term for 
            grandfather or grandmother] to refer to or address the deities or 
            spirits, and the titles for kings or high officials, such as gusti 
            [Your Highness], kanjeng [My Lord or My Lady], or sunan [Your Grace] 
            to refer to or address Allah, the prophets, and the walis. The 
            supreme eternal spirit of the universe, for instance, is called Sang 
            Hyang Guru; the latter's destructive aspects is called Sang Hyang 
            Batara Kala; the spirit of the ocean is called Eyang Lara Kidul, or 
            Nyai Lara Kidul; the local spirit of a particular area is called 
            Mbah Untung and so on. Allah, on the other hand, is called Gusti 
            Allah, His prophet is called, or addressed as, Kanjeng Nabi 
            Muhammad; the individual walis are called Sunan Kali Jaga, Sunan 
            Bonang, Sunan Giri, Sunan Ngampel, etc. (1980, 132-33) 
            Although this dichotomy is seductive in its simplicity, it must be 
            rejected because it does not conform to the facts. As BOGAERTS 
            rightly points out, the use of Nyai Lara Kidul is not universal, and 
            many Javanese commonly use Ratu Kidul or even Kanjeng Ratu Kidul Sri 
            Kencana (1990, 10).(10) 
            Yet I suspect there is more going on here: that the names Nyai Lara 
            Kidul and Ratu Kidul apply to different matters, with Nyai Lara 
            Kidul referring to the Old Javanese fertility goddess and Ratu Kidul 
            to the indigenous goddess who under Hindu-Buddhist influences was 
            promoted and given a role as the sakti of deified Javanese rulers. 
            While the latter identity is now generally known,(11) the notion of 
            an Old Javanese fertility goddess is apparently too daring for some 
            scholars. SCHLEHE, for instance, is convinced (ganz eindeutig) that 
            Ratu Kidul, simply because she is rarely mentioned as having 
            children, is neither a mother nor a fertility goddess (1991, 199). 
            This conception of a fertility goddess is clearly rather limited, as 
            is further shown by the absence of any reference to the connections 
            earlier researchers have identified between Nyai Lara Kidul and Dewi 
            Sri (e.g., PIGEAUD 1962, 211; SCHRIEKE 1925; JORDAAN 1984). 
            The results of BOGAERTS' recent study considerably strengthen the 
            association between the two goddesses (1990). Where I concluded, on 
            the basis of the information in the Babad Tanah Jawi, that the 
            earlier relationship of Lara Kidul and agriculture had disappeared 
            and could only be recovered indirectly (for example, via the 
            mythological relationship to her "sister" Tisnawati [the goddess of 
            dry rice cultivation] and the religious conceptions of isolated 
            peoples like the Tenggerese), Bogaerts demonstrates that Nyai Lara 
            Kidul's position as fertility goddess - whether or not as an 
            incarnation of Dewi Sri - is clearly evident in the stories of the 
            Panitik Sultan Agungan. She also confirms my suspicion that Nyai 
            Lara Kidul was closely associated with snakes and should maybe even 
            be identified as a snake goddess (BOGAERTS 1990, 113). 
            The only important point upon which Bogaerts and I differ is in 
            what, precisely, constitutes a snake goddess. Bogaerts maintains 
            with SCHLEHE (1991, 198) that there is no indication of Nyai Lara 
            Kidul's having had a "snake-like appearance"; moreover, such an 
            appearance seems to Bogaerts difficult to reconcile with the beauty 
            for which Nyai Lara Kidul is famed. For this reason she thinks it 
            better to speak of a snake queen. This rejection, however, may be 
            somewhat premature, as it ignores the information provided by my 
            Javanese informants,(12) who remembered that in their youth Nyai 
            Lara Kidul was spoken of as a naga, a mythical snake. Nor does her 
            position take cognizance of my 1987 article, which focuses on the 
            close relationship between Nyai Lara Kidul and snakes. Further 
            evidence is provided by Behrend, who discusses Pangung 
            Sangga-Buwana, the twenty-eight-metertall palace-tower, in a 
            top-floor room of which the amorous meetings between the ruler of 
            Surakarta and Ratu Kidul are said to take place. Especially 
            important here is the painting that used to hang in this room. The 
            painting, which depicted a man riding on a flying snake, was 
            recognized by Behrend as a sengkala memet, a Javanese pictographic 
            representation of the founding date of the tower (1782 C.E.). In a 
            note he adds the following: 
            The picture may also be a symbolic depiction of the relationship 
            between the king and Ratu Kidul. "Riding" is a metaphor for sexual 
            intercourse, and the snake may represent the chthonic nature of the 
            Queen, though I am not familiar with any other such likening of the 
            two. (BEHREND 1982, 87, n. 205).(13) 
            Finally, it should be remembered that the Sultan of Yogyakarta would 
            meet with Ratu Kidul in a room in the tower of the so-called Water 
            Palace (Taman Sari), which led me to examine parallel examples on 
            the Southeast Asian mainland, such as the nightly unions in the 
            Phimeanakas, a tower-like structure in the Angkor Thom complex, of 
            Khmer kings with a "serpent goddess" who appeared in the guise of a 
            beautiful woman. The fertility goddess of the Cham could also appear 
            in the form of a naga (JORDAAN 1984, 113 n. 8). 
            More difficult is the discussion about the precise meaning of the 
            term Lara, which is usually translated as "girl" or "maiden," but 
            which, according to some researchers (myself included), ambiguously 
            refers to illness (or which, more precisely, might include a 
            connection with illness in spite of its derivation from rara 
            [girl]). The latter notion, however, is firmly denied by some, 
            despite the claim in some myths that Nyai Lara Kidul suffered of a 
            skin disease before taking up residence in the Southern Ocean. 
            BOGAERTS (1990, 10) argues that there is a tendency in Modern 
            Javanese for two "r" sounds to go ill together when occurring in one 
            word. Through regressive dissimilation in the course of time the Old 
            Javanese rara/rara changed into the New Javanese lara, in which the 
            meaning of "maiden" was retained. The Old Javanese rara developed 
            historically out of the honorific prefix *da+ *DaRa, "maiden." Lara 
            as "unmarried woman" or maiden and lara as "illness" are simply 
            homonyms, she suggests. 
            This argument does not adequately deal with the situation. By 
            concentrating on laws of phonetics,(14) Bogaerts ignores the 
            well-known tendency of the Javanese to use puns and veiled language, 
            especially when mysterious and politically sensitive subjects are 
            concerned. By speaking of "only" homonyms, she not only does 
            violence to the mythological reality but also ignores the fact that 
            mythologies are often purposely vague and ambiguous, which is the 
            source of their power and the reason for their continued 
            It is Nyai Lara Kidul's association with snakes that shows the 
            capacity of the Javanese to connect the various meanings of lara 
            with each other in an ambiguous way. This can be seen with Nyai Lara 
            Kidul's double, Nyi Pohaci Sangyang Sri, the West Javanese rice 
            goddess: Nyi Pohaci, like Dewi Sri, is able to incarnate as a snake, 
            and for this reason the Sundanese use the names of snakes to 
            indicate the various stages in the growth of the rice crop (KERN 
            1948). Nyi Pohaci herself is addressed as "Nagini" in some rice 
            mantras, while mention is repeatedly made of her skin 
            (SUKANDA-TESSIER 1977, 43; ATJA and DANASASMITA 1981, 29). It is 
            obvious that the skin disease mentioned in the myths refers to the 
            shedding of a snake's skin. Comparison with variant myths from 
            elsewhere in the archipelago shows that the skin disease of certain 
            ancestral figures and the shedding of the snake's skin are both 
            related to the ability to rejuvenate (JoRDAAN 1987). 
            This information is important for the interpretation of the Javanese 
            mythological material about Nyai Lara Kidul collected by Bogaerts 
            and others.(16) For example, a popular motif in connection with the 
            beauty of Javanese princesses is their ability to change shape 
            several times a day. With normal princesses one might tend to 
            imagine a change of makeup or clothing, but Nyai Lara Kidul, with 
            nine changes daily, surpasses all ordinary mortals. While the 
            Panitik Agungan makes some rather contradictory comparisons with a 
            white water lily that continually changes color, I was reminded 
            instead of the snake's skin-shedding, the goddess's skin diseases, 
            and the latter's "snake-like appearance." Regrettably it is not yet 
            possible to test this hypothesis, since the other Javanese and 
            Sundanese texts that speak of this change in shape or beauty are 
            known only from Dutch summaries, in which there is no explanation of 
            the terms used in the originals (DJAJADININGRAT 1913, 253). 
            Elsewhere it has been pointed out that a sick princess not only 
            served as the king-maker of the House of Mataram but also 
            contributed to the decline of this dynasty (her capture by the Dutch 
            promoted the ascension of the V. O. C., the Dutch East Indies 
            Company) (JORDAAN and DE JOSSELIN DE JONG 1985, 273, n. 7). A number 
            of Serat Kanda stories concern a princess of Pajajaran who suffered 
            from leprosy.(17) Her marriage to the king of Holland is said to 
            have resulted in the occupation of West Java by the Dutch during the 
            reign of Sultan Agung. The most plausible interpretation of this 
            mythological explanation seems to me to be that in indigenous 
            thought the sick princess in reality represented the goddess of the 
            earth and fertility, just like Nyai Lara Kidul, and that the one who 
            married her - in other words, who became her ally - as a matter of 
            course came into possession of the land and the people.(18) 
            It is not clear from the literature whether the goddess Tara was 
            ever associated with skin disease in any special way. Although there 
            is a Tara who is known as a serpent deity, this being is not an 
            "embodiment of the principle of creation and preservation," but the 
            deity Janguli, a variety of Tara who cures or prevents snakebites 
            (BHATTACHARYA 1967).(19) For the time being I will keep to my 
            previous thesis that skin disease is an attribute of Austronesian 
            chthonic beings. A curious fact in this connection is MACKENZIE's 
            eye-witness report of a leper colony in the neighborhood of Candi 
            Kalasan (1814, 29). Regrettably it can no longer be determined 
            whether this location was chosen accidentally or whether it had 
            something to do with the Tara temple. 
            Now that Nyai Lara Kidul's skin disease has been linked to the 
            attributes of Austronesian chthonic beings, the question arises as 
            to which, if any, of her other aspects are derived from 
            Hindu-Buddhism. One possibility is the color green, which Nyai Lara 
            Kidul and Tara have in common. I hesitate to draw this conclusion, 
            however, because of the fact that Tara's green color is usually 
            attributed to her relationship with Amoghasiddi, her spiritual sire 
            who is the guardian of the north; Nyai Lara Kidul is connected only 
            with the south. It may be that the link between Nyai Lara Kidul and 
            Tara was made in another way - for example, via Tara's statue in the 
            southern chapel of Candi Kalasan, or, somewhat less far-fetched, via 
            the two goddesses' association with the sea (other Indonesian 
            spirits associated with the sea, such as Putri Hijau and Nabi 
            Chidir, are also said to be green). Evidently the notion of a 
            "savioress" was so flexible that Tara was able not only to develop 
            into a guardian of navigators and seafarers, as was the case among 
            the Pala kings, but also take on the identity of a sea goddess in 
            Hindu literature (GUPTE 1980, 117).(20) 
            The last point of correspondence between Tara and Ratu Kidul 
            concerns their use of the night flowers the utpala and the 
            wijayakusurna,(21) respectively. This similarity is difficult to 
            explain, because it is not clear how and why Tara obtained the 
            utpala. According to local belief, Ratu IGdul came into possession 
            of the wijayakusuma by purloining it from Arjuna (VAN HIEN 1994, 
            7-12). The flower gave her immortality, but did not release her from 
            her god-cursed life. 
            In this article I have demonstrated that Vasya-Tara was the Buddhist 
            deity venerated as the supreme goddess in Candi Kalasan. Just as 
            with the Hindu goddesses Durga and Dewi Sri, she was probably 
            associated to the old Javanese fertility goddess, Nyai Lara Kidul. 
            However, because of a lack of information it is not possible to see 
            how this association between Tara and the ambiguous Nyai Lara Kidul 
            developed, whether directly or via a division into polar 
            personalities like Parnasabari and Vasudhara. That Nyai Lara Kidul's 
            dual relationship with the Hindu goddesses Durga and Dewi Sri is 
            still evident is probably due to the decline of Buddhism on Java 
            owing to the disappearance of the Sailendra dynasty and the further 
            development of Hinduism. With the coming of Islam, Durga and Dewi 
            Sri receded somewhat into the background, while Nyai Lara Kidul 
            remained to claim her rights to the Javanese throne. Thus her title 
            Ratu Kidul. 
            I would like to dedicate the present article to the memory of the 
            late G. J. Resink, particularly since it was in connection with our 
            research on the Javanese goddess Nyai Lara Kidul that I first came 
            to know him. 
            1. The contents of this study derive in part from a forthcoming 
            archaeological article about the Tara temple at Kalasan, to be 
            published in the Bulletin de l'Ecole Francaise d'Extreme-Orient. 
            2. For the purpose of this article, the discussion of this long and 
            complex topic has been kept to a minimum. For the interested reader, 
            SARKAR 1985 and CHANDRA 1994 are the most recent publications on the 
            3. DASGUPTA also discusses this issue (1967). Although I agree with 
            his argument, Dasgupta incorrectly posits that the involvement of 
            the guru of Gauda in the building of the Tara temple is mentioned in 
            the Kalasan inscription rather than in the dedication of a Manjusri 
            image, as noted in the Kelurak inscription. He writes, "The 
            information regarding Dharmapala's banner bearing the effigy of Tara 
            when judged in the context of the information regarding the 
            construction of a temple of Tara in Java by the Sailendra guru who 
            hailed from Gauda would show that the cult of Tara migrated from 
            Gauda to the Far Eastern islands" (DASGUPTA 1967, 127; repeated by 
            GHOSH 1980, 14). 
            4. For the time being I do not want to draw conclusions based on the 
            name Tara, since I agree with the chronological and other objections 
            raised by BOSCH (1929, 141) against connecting this queen with the 
            Kalasan Tara, as Stutterheim has done. MOENS, moreover, suggests 
            that this ambiguity could be intentional, since the name of the 
            queen was not so much a reference to the Buddhist goddess as to the 
            Tara who was married simultaneously to both Bali and Sugriva (1937, 
            411). Moens's unorthodox interpretations, however, drew sharp 
            criticism from NILAKANTA SASTRI (1938). 
            5. Much iconographic research remains to be done on the mandalas in 
            which Tara figures (BHATTACHARYYA 1978, 63, 65, n. 108-14; GHOSH 
            1980). All kinds of inconsistencies in the literature, some of which 
            are mentioned in the text, could be analyzed and solved in that way. 
            6. According to LIEBERT, the symbolic meaning of the manner of 
            sitting is that it brings "material wealth" (1976, 36). After 
            checking her references I suspect that she based this opinion on 
            WALKER (1968, 74), without having given sufficient consideration to 
            the fact that Walker's description of this posture does not 
            correspond with the European manner of sitting (see also DE MALLMANN 
            1975, 10, n. 3). 
            7. The small bronze statue is vaguely described as an area wanira 
            (statue of a woman) but might well represent the Buddhist goddess 
            Tara, since it displays the varadamudra in its right hand and holds 
            an utpala (?) flower in its left; both are emblems of Tara par 
            8. Similarly, BHATTACHARYYA writes: "The Vajrayana Buddhists 
            extracted all possible iconic concepts from any explorable source, 
            and incorporated them into their own pantheon so that it looked 
            attractive, and therefore, was accepted by a maximum of people" 
            (1978, 16). 
            9. The usual English rendition of Ratu Kidul - "Queen of the 
            Southern Ocean" or "Queen of the South Seas" - does not seem 
            problematic to me despite the fact that there is no mention of the 
            ocean or sea in her name, since the underworld over which she rules 
            is identified by the Javans as on the floor of the sea. The 
            underworld is situated in the sea among other Indonesian peoples as 
            well. Notions concerning the location of the underworld have not 
            remained unchanged, however, but have in the course of time been 
            influenced by imported ideas, including those of Islam. This has 
            sometimes led to its being situated in the west. 
            10. Confusion and disagreement surround the use and meaning of Nyai 
            Lara Kidul both among some Javanese today and among a number of 
            researchers who base their theories on the current data. Some, e.g., 
            GRONEMAN (1895, 56), SUTTON (1993, 128), and FISCHER (1994, 100), 
            consider Nyai Lara Kidul to be Ratu Kidul's patih or regent, and 
            thus a being separate from her. BIGEON (1982, 121) and SCHLEHE 
            (1991, 198-99) even differentiate a third figure, Mbok Rara Kidul, 
            who assists the queen in the form of an old court servant (abdi 
            dalem). The question is whether this configuration, interpreted by 
            Schlehe as a division of power (Gewaltenteilung), is original, or 
            when and why it arose. I suspect that this conceptual 
            differentiation is a fairly recent one, dating to the nineteenth 
            century - for example, in the Babad Tanah Jawi the name Nyai Lara 
            (Rara) Kidul is consistently used, despite the fact that she is 
            presented as the ruler of countless spirits (BOGAERTS 1990, 11). 
            Moreover, I do not think the different names relate to a division of 
            powers, but rather to the fragmentation of the deity's mythological 
            character resulting from an increasing unfamiliarity with her 
            original identity as the goddess of fertility. This fragmentation is 
            best illustrated by the problem of how the different, apparently 
            contradictory forms of address should be understood. While nyai and 
            mbok can both be used as polite forms of address for an older woman, 
            rara means unmarried girl or virgin. That this problem is only 
            apparent is evident from the mythology itself. 
            11. Some "Hindu" affinities have also been noted by a number of 
            current authors, such as LIND (1974), HOSTETLER (1982), and BRAKEL 
            (1995). In this connection it should be pointed out that Tara, just 
            like Nyai Lara Kidul, is a goddess who is open to all. DASGUPTA 
            reports that "the Tibetans, who also look upon her as the great 
            mother, aver that she can be approached without the help of any 
            intermediary, which is not the case with other divinities of the 
            first rank. This may account for her popularity" (1967, 116; cf. 
            KINSLEY 1986, 167). 
            12. My informants were Pram Sutikno, a social anthropologist and 
            former librarian of the Royal Institute of Linguistics and 
            Anthropology (KITLV) in Leiden (Netherlands), and the late R. M. T. 
            S. Poerbodipoero, a scion of the Pakualaman dynasty of Yogyakarta. 
            13. FISCHER also noted the association of Nyai Lara Kidul with naga 
            in Javanese folk art, but was unable to give a satisfactory 
            explanation for the harmonic relationship as he was unaware of the 
            chthonic nature of the goddess. The relevant part of his description 
            of a batik painting is that "there is an awesome naga (mythical 
            snake) entwined around the throne and she holds a portion of this 
            awesome creature [but all is seemingly in harmony in this depiction 
            of Ratu Kidul's realm]" (1994, 105). 
            14. I wonder why rara developed out of dara if indeed the process of 
            regressive dissimilation is as strong as Bogaerts proposes. In view 
            of what happened to Lara Jonggrang, the old name of the statue of 
            Durga at Candi Prambanan, a reverse development of rara from lara 
            also seems possible, as it is only since the Second World War that 
            the temple complex has come to be known as Candi Rara Jonggrang. 
            15. In LIND's dissertation, with which Bogaerts is in agreement, 
            illness is mentioned next to hotness, impurity, disorderliness, 
            wildness, and ugliness as one of the symbolic elements in the 
            paradigmatic set that are connected with Kala-Durga and thus also 
            with Ratu Kidul (1974, 133). See also JORDAAN and DE JOSSELIN DE 
            JONG 1985, about Indonesian political myths, in which skin disease 
            is discussed as a polyvalent metaphor. 
            16. One of these researchers is FISCHER, who studied likenesses of 
            Ratu Kidul in the folk arts of Java. In one of his descriptions of a 
            batik painting he points out the goddess's speckled skin, which led 
            him to guess about a possible dotting with sea life, but which is 
            "more likely a reference to skin disease" (1994, 101). He also noted 
            that "her skin may or may not show traces of a previous disorder" 
            (1994, 105). 
            17. In other Javanese tales, such as the Serat Baron Sakender, there 
            is a certain princess Tanuraga who suffers from a skin disease but 
            also has a flaming womb (PIGEAUD 1927, 325). Other princesses who 
            were said to have flaming wombs, such as Ken Dedes, appear to act as 
            kingmakers, because every man who has a sexual relationship with 
            them is crowned king. A flaming womb evidently has a symbolic 
            meaning similar to skin disease: where skin disease is connected 
            with the snake as a chthonic being par excellence, the flaming womb 
            could refer to volcanic, earthly powers. (This last suggestion was 
            made to me by Robert Wessing.) 
            18. This may be the reason why the sacred court dance, the Bedaya 
            Ketawang, is only performed at coronations and their annual 
            commemorations. Judging from the prescribed bridal clothing worn by 
            the dancers, one could interpret the annual commemoration as a 
            periodic ritual confirmation of the marriage of the ruling king with 
            Nyai Lara Kidul, who in reality represents the people of Java. 
            19. BRANDES notes the interesting fact that Amoghasiddi, the 
            spiritual sire of Vasya-Tara, has a nimbus that is sometimes crowned 
            and intertwined with snakes, which other Dhyanibuddhas do not show 
            (1886, 253, n. 1). Whether Vasya-Tara herself can be connected with 
            snakes in this way is unclear. 
            20. This development also depends on the notion of the savioress, 
            which, as can be seen in the following citations, can be considered 
            more or less figuratively: "As I help men in crossing the great 
            ocean of peril, people call me Tara" (BHATTACHARYYA 1978, 35), as 
            opposed to, "Tara, the mother who can control the rush of waters, is 
            the chief of those saktis who navigate or guide the boats and have 
            dark complexion [sic]" (GUPTE 1980, 117). 
            21. The identification of this flower is controversial. In spite of 
            its mythological character, which is reminiscent of the Holy Grail, 
            the flower is still of current interest. According to some the 
            flower is the relatively rare Pisonia sylvestis, Teysm. et Binnend 
            (Nyctaginaceae), while others indicate the Epiphyllum oxypetalum. 
            The legendary wijayakusuma seems to have a great attraction, 
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            solemnly collects these flowers, said to bloom on a tree that grows 
            on a couple of rocky islands in the Segara-anakan-(sea). It is 
            believed that this promotes the prosperity of his reign, and that 
            the number of prosperous years is directly related to the number of 
            flowers obtained (OCHSE 1931, 540). It is not known whether this 
            expedition actually results in the finding of any flowers. According 
            to the folklorist van Hien, the wijayakusuma is the flower of a 
            mythical tree on the island Nusa Kembangan off the south coast of 
            Java, and Nyai Lara Kidul herself sees to it that this tree never 
            blooms. This would fit the mysterious nature of the search of the 
            Javanese court servants. It is said that they obtain the flower 
            while meditating underneath the tree at midnight, and that the 
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