Panji Tales Malay Version

  • What on earth is panji? It is an old Javanese word for 'prince'.
  • Who's the hero? His name is Raden Inu, a crown prince from the fictional kingdom of Kuripan.
  • Who's the heroine? She is Raden Galuh, daughter of King Daha.

The Longest Plot...

...found in "Hikayat Misa Taman Jaya Jayeng Kusuma". It was those old-fashioned days when parents betrothed their children who were still wearing nappies to someone else. That was how Raden Inu got engaged to Raden Galuh without meeting each other.

When Raden Inu was old enough to be interested in girls, he became curious to find out more about his fiancèe. He sent Semar the fat clown to draw a picture of the princess. Semar made a blunder in his mission for he came back with a portrait of the fierce goddess Durga.

Not realising the portrait was not of Raden Galuh's, Raden Inu thought he was engaged to a scary looking woman. Of course he wanted to call off the marriage! Besides, he has seen a most beautiful woman in the world...she was actually Raden Galuh, unbeknownst to him.

Separation and Trials

Before Raden Inu could arrange for their first date, the god Betara Kala kidnapped Raden Galuh and left her in a forest. Thus began the princess' travels to different kingdoms and the smitten Raden Inu's quest to find her.

Here, the storyteller can adjust various episodes of the lovers' adventures to suit his audience. The main part is the gods manipulated situations in such a way that the lovers crossed paths many times including fighting in battles but could not recognize each other because both were disguised. As expected, they were reunited in the end to live in eternal bliss...

Hindu Elements

Hindu gods played a major role in the story. Durga is a Hindu goddess that kills demons. I can only trace Betara Kala to Batara Kala of Javanese origin portraying him as a beastly giant. He bites...the sun and moon causing eclipses and also humans. "Kala" has the meaning of "Kama Sala" referring to his birth as the result of mistaken sexual desire of his divine parents. Ah a god's name related to Karma that works on the principle of reincarnation of a soul.

Reincarnation, meditation, sprinkling of holy water to resurrect the dead, long journeys and disguises are typical in Hindu literature. Personally I think Hindu stories seem to have a big crowd--gods,enemies, siblings, princes and princesses from other states packed around Raden Inu and Raden Galuh.

Perhaps it is the exotic and mythical Hindu elements in a simple storyline that appeal to audiences in Java, Malaysia along with Bali, Cambodia, Thailand, Laoes, the Philipines and Myanmar. Even after Hinduism's influence decline to make way for Islam, Panji tales remained as part of Malay culture.

What's the connection with Bahasa Malaysia?

Panji stories are circulated in two dominant languages namely Javanese and Malay. They are part of a repertoire of Malay shadow play, held in high regard by our great great grandparents at a time before cable TV.

Maybe you have not watched a shadow play or will never have the patience for it. But you know, some people will continue to preserve this "cultural heritage" despite a losing battle against TV.

Hikayat abounds in Bahasa Malaysia. To sort them out without going insane, you should learn to identify the tales they are based on. "Hikayat Pendawa Lebur" and "Hikayat Panji Semirang" are examples of panji tales. There are also traces of the tales found in "Ken Tambuhan", "Kera Nasi","Kera Mas" and the prince Dewa Muda in Mak Yong stories.

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